The Trucker’s Ultimate Cheat Sheet to Starting and Running Your Own Business
You applied for your motor carrier operating authority, now what? You’ve got a lot invested already, but you know there’s more road ahead to cover in a short amount of time. So, let’s get started!
This is a quick list based on the most frequently asked questions to help you know what to expect when starting your own trucking business.
Do I need other registrations and/or licenses?
You’ll need to apply for a business license. It’s best to check with your local city and state offices about the licenses, permits and registrations you must obtain as a business owner because local government requirements vary. Truck drivers owning one tractor or more often choose to form a company or a limited liability company (LLC) to protect their assets.
Do I need a business bank account?
Setting up a business banking account is a smart move. You’ll be establishing a banking relationship that can potentially extend a line of credit or a loan. No matter where you turn for funding, most lenders want to see your business banking history, not personal bank accounts.
Additionally, having a business bank account further protects your assets by demonstrating a clean line between your personal finances and business finances in cases where you have established a corporation or limited liability company.
Is a business plan necessary?
Getting a new truck or trailer is often on the minds of owner-operators in the first few years in business. Having a business plan is important because you’ll need one when you go to secure traditional financing. Be sure to estimate your operating expenses, expected cash flow and your plans to expand. You’ll be ahead of the game especially when you demonstrate industry knowledge and experience.
What do I look for when purchasing business insurance?
Before the FMCSA will issue your authority, they will require proof of insurance. Look for an insurance policy that covers your truck as well as liability coverages for typical damages that occur when hauling. Also, find an insurance partner that has the ability to serve your business needs as you grow. Your insurance needs will increase as your assets do.
You have up to 90 days to provide proof of insurance. Don’t treat this waiting period as “down-time.” Make the most of it by lining up work, find initial loads, and talk to brokers you may want to work with. There’s plenty to do while you’re waiting on proof of insurance.
Finance Tip: It’s wise to set up an invoice factoring relationship during this time. If your clients take 30, 60 or 90 days to pay an invoice, you’ll be prepared to handle the cash flow gap. You can get paid on those outstanding invoices fast, freeing you to buy fuel, haul your next load, make repairs, etc.
Brokers won’t look at me because I’m just starting out, what do I do?
Unfortunately, it is a well-known fact in the trucking industry that brokers don’t often take clients during the first several months in business, sometimes up to six months. You’re not out of luck because there are many options out there to find loads. If you have trucking experience, try reaching out to those you have previously worked for or call companies that may need freight shipped. Talk to other truckers because word-of-mouth referrals are one of the most reliable sources for new business. Also, building relationships with direct shippers may help you get in the door sooner rather than later and you will typically earn more revenue working for direct shippers. It’s a win-win!
Finance Tip: Using load boards is a very popular way to build your business. eCapital gives a free month of service with our load board partner. We can walk you through the load board, show you how to use it, and make your life a little easier. When getting started, truckers prefer freight boards to find loads and minimize deadhead miles. You’ll make connections and create relationships for the long haul.
Do I need a budget the first 30, 60, 90 days?
Let’s cut to the chase. YES! You need a budget and it doesn’t have to be complicated. You will want to consider your fixed costs like a truck or lease payment, your insurance down payment and monthly fee, your variable costs like fuel, and semi-variable costs such as salaries which may be fixed but fluctuate based on volume. Plus, do not forget the unexpected expenses such as a blown tire or mechanical failures.
A budget will help you track cash going in and out of your business and project how much revenue you need to keep your business going. At the end of the month, will you have anything left to pay yourself? Think about it… a budget is your financial roadmap to where you want to go.
Finance Tip: The SBA recommends checking with industry associations, bankers or accountants to help you determine if you’re making the right profit from your business. Drafting your budget and keeping it current will certainly help you on your way to profitability, after all, you’re in business to make money.
What should I know about taxes?
Nothing can be more confusing or frustrating than figuring out the abundance of federal and state tax regulations. You do need to keep up with your business’ tax requirements, otherwise you may face penalties from the IRS such as a lien on your accounts receivables. Besides income tax, there are employment, road and fuel taxes, vehicle and state use taxes that you need to be aware of. Select a trusted tax advisor who can give you sound advice and help you stay on top of your tax obligations.
There’s so much more than getting your authority when you start your own trucking company. With so much to think about, it’s important to have experienced business connections that can guide you through the process.
eCapital understands what it takes to keep your business rolling. That’s why we eliminate the wait and uncertainty of getting paid by purchasing your invoices and paying you in 24 hours. Smart businesses are using their working capital to:
- Get immediate cash for operating expenses and upfront business costs
- Secure higher-paying jobs
- Expand their business
- Get free back office support
Why not get a free, no obligation quote? Call us at 760.456.3762 or fill out a quick quote form now.