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Is being an owner operator in 2021 worth it?

By 02.10.21November 29th, 2021No Comments
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Last year proved to be a significant year for the trucking industry as the entire globe faced the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Trucking was declared an essential service for the delivery of food and water, but more importantly, for the distribution of vital medical supplies. While some trucking companies performed well during this period, others struggled just to survive. As vaccines begin to roll out and the economy regains strength in the pandemic’s aftermath, 2021 is predicted to be a transitional year for the industry. The year is starting off with positive trends – January produced growing demand for capacity and good freight rates. This creates the ideal environment for trucking businesses to start, grow and profit.

Is 2021 a good year to go into business on your own?

Yes, but only if you are prepared and disciplined to manage being your own boss. The predictions for  ahead sets the stage for lots of freight at good rates, but it takes more than knowing the industry to succeed in business. As the owner of a trucking company, you have to be good at management as well. A lack of business skills is one of the leading contributors to failure as an independent owner operator.

First and foremost, start with a business plan. If you can’t put on paper what your strategic goals are and how you are going to achieve them, you will probably never get there! The list of needs, details to consider and systems to implement is long:

  • Financing
  • Equipment and technology
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Customer management
  • Sourcing freight
  • Setting goals
  • Monitoring expenses
  • Contingency planning
  • Safety and compliance
  • etc., etc.

Before you jump headfirst into the deep waters of being an entrepreneur, make sure you are well prepared. Speak to other owners, research everything and learn to be as good at business as you are at trucking. To help with research, to stay informed of industry developments and to access helpful management tools, eCapital provides The Truckers’ Hub. This online resource center is designed specifically for truck company owners. Features of The Truckers’ Hub include a “Let Us Help” directory, your portal to invaluable information articles and online tools:

Find Loads

How Truckers Make Money

Starting a Trucking Company

Business Success Tips

Cash Flow Tips

Trucking Company Tools

And much more!

Visit this site often, it has all the resources you need to grow your trucking business in one spot.

Can you be profitable working for yourself?

Yes, but only if you are prepared and disciplined to manage being your own boss. This may sound repetitive, but it’s appropriate! As an independent owner operator, you no longer receive a regular paycheck to draw on and all expenses come out of your pocket. The big takeaway here is:

1

Know your cost per mile.

2

Ensure You Have A Competitive Rate.

3

Drive As Many Loaded
Miles As Possible.

Know your cost per mile.

By definition, being profitable is to cover ALL the costs of providing your service and having a financial gain at the end of the day, end of the month, and end of the year. Sounds simple right? But this is where too many startup companies set themselves up for failure. Knowing all your costs means having a disciplined approach to identifying, tracking and recording every single expense related to delivering your service. Even the cost of the coffee you buy when on the road needs to be accounted for.

Manufacturers produce goods and products, retailers sell merchandise, trucking produces loaded miles. In trucking, total operating expenses is expressed as “cost per mile,” the cost your trucking company expends on every mile driven. Know how to calculate your cost per mile and perform the calculation often to keep track of expenses.

Ensure you have a competitive rate.

Once you have determined your cost per mile, you now need to produce a freight rate that is:

  • Higher than your cost per mile
  • Low enough to be competitive

Do your research; monitor the competition’s rates, speak to brokers, customers and other trucking companies to understand who is charging what and in which regions for the type of freight that you haul. 

Drive as many loaded miles as possible.

This is where your experience as a road warrior comes into play. Know how to get loads and keep your truck(s) hauling profitable freight as much as possible. If you increase revenues using a freight rate higher than your cost per mile you will be profitable.

This is your year to start, grow and make good profits

2021 is gearing up to be a great year in trucking. If this is your year to start a trucking company as an independent owner operator, then congratulations – it’s a good market to get your first year under your belt. Remember to start with a business plan and track your progression to ensure you stay on track. Monitor your company’s KPIs regularly to evaluate progression toward your strategic goals.

If you need financing to get your business up and running, consider freight factoring. Factoring freight bills is the easiest, fastest and most reliable means for new and established trucking companies to immediately access working capital.

For more information about how to run a trucking company, to better understand freight factoring or to learn how to participate in cost-saving programs such as purchasing fuel at a discount, visit eCapital.com.

Providing payment terms to customers is common practice in the trucking industry. Failure to do so will undoubtedly lead to a dramatic loss of business. Shippers expect at least net 30 and are inclined to want more. During trucking’s recent boom years of 2017 and 2018 when capacity was low and freight rates were high, big shippers began to push back against the rising cost of transportation with demands for even longer credit terms.

Your trucking company is extending credit every time you take on a load and issue an invoice with payment terms. Terms, such as net 30, are a form of short-term credit by which trucking companies extend time, interest free, for the payment of freight bills. This is a great tactic for staying competitive, but it must be supported by strong healthy cash flow in order to be a successful long-term strategy. Avoiding bad debt and maintaining positive cash flow is of the utmost importance. This is where a freight factoring company can be of tremendous help with credit risk assessment and cash flow solutions.

Managing your trucking company’s credit risk

Unfortunately, the trucking industry is well known for having customers that stretch out payments as a common business practice. Taking on new clients and freight from load boards without proper due diligence can catch up with you and leave your trucking company in a difficult position. The following example illustrates this point;

The Opportunity:  XYZ Trucking has just secured a new customer that will keep three trucks on the road each week with long haul to Los Angeles, California. A steady demand for fresh produce covers the back haul. This is an excellent opportunity for any trucking company. XYZ Trucking assigns its best equipment and drivers to the lane committing all resources to ensure the reliable and safe delivery of each load.

The Problem: For the next three months, deliveries are made, invoices are issued and drivers are paid from the company’s cash reserves. The challenge is the new customer has yet to pay any of its invoices, resulting in a major cash flow shortage. The issue is not that the new customer will not pay, they are just notoriously slow payers despite XYZ’s ongoing efforts to collect.

The Solution: Make informed decisions — know who you are hauling for before you pick up freight. Perform both upfront and ongoing credit checks using easily accessible and relevant information.

How to assess credit risk of a company

Late payments, invoice disputes and non-payment list high as the accounting nightmares that keep truck company owners awake at night. To minimize the stress, take precautions prior to committing to new business and evaluate the customer’s credit worthiness.

Credit Applications and References

When taking on new customers, it is highly recommended to collect credit applications and references to verify the customer’s payment history and ability to pay. Make sure you follow up and call the references to confirm information. If your customer has trouble providing these references, it may be an early sign that the company has a poor credit history.

Credit Search Tool

With the coronavirus crisis, too many companies were facing the threat of insolvency. Add in the ongoing hazards of hauling for unknown customers who post freight on load boards, and you have a minefield full of credit risk to manage. The most effective way to expose credit risk is to run credit searches prior to hauling loads. There are several fee-based options available providing different information at varying costs. Select a service that best meets your needs and budget.

Freight factoring companies provide free credit checks

The best credit search tools for trucking are free! One of the many advantages of working with an established factoring company for trucking includes access to their database of credit information on shippers and brokers. eCapital, a leading invoice factoring company for the trucking industry, have amassed thousands of businesses in their database. The information is constantly growing and updating. Conduct unlimited searches free of charge using their online credit search tool to view the potential customer’s payment history, their ability to pay and the business credit rating.

Invoice factoring improves cash flow

To keep hauling while providing credit terms to customers, your trucking company needs steady reliable cash flow. But how do you achieve healthy positive cash flow when trucking customers are typically slow to pay and non-payment is always a threat?

Invoice factoring companies convert invoice receivables into immediate cash within 24 hours. Freight factoring is a specialized form of invoice factoring designed specifically for the trucking industry. It is now considered a mainstream financial strategy to ensure steady reliable funding for transportation companies that work with slow paying customers. Freight factoring companies like eCapital pay invoices fast, or even in advance of issuing an invoice.

Why is freight factoring good for trucking companies?

The chase for freight is so urgent, especially on the backhaul, that trucking companies grab the first available load that fits their itinerary with little to no due diligence and no security. The customer’s ability to pay is rarely considered prior to accepting the load. The result is higher incidence of non-payment and unpredictable cash flow. This is where the risk factor increases substantially, often threatening the trucking company’s ability to support sustainable growth.

Freight factoring solves all these problems with:

  • cost-free credit analysis
  • risk mitigating tools and advice
  • professional collection services included
  • invoices paid in hours, not days or months

Ongoing protection

Getting paid for freight delivered is the whole purpose of your trucking company, make sure you minimize risk with ongoing protection. Gathering information and tracking your customers credit rating is not just something you do at the onset of a relationship. Ongoing monitoring will alert you of potential problems that may affect your customer’s ability to pay and help you avoid getting burned. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, this is truer today than ever.

To learn more on how a factoring company can help reduce risk and improve your cash flow, contact eCapital today.