Before you lease your truck

After years of being a company truck driver, you are considering buying a truck and leasing it to a company. Before you lease your truck with any company, you should consider a lot of factors. This brief review is just that – a brief review. I will provide expanded details in other sections for most of this issues and why you may want them.

I strongly recommend that before you even talk to any company about being one of their haulers – you research the company. Research should more then anything else include talking to multiple Owner/Operators who are already signed on with the company. Regardless of what the recruiters tell you – people in the field will tell you the rest of the story. And it is also important to talk to multiple because you can guarantee that at a few are not going to be unhappy – and generally these people are always unhappy about everything. Want to spot a driver that will give you a balanced review, look for the guy or girl with a great looking truck: clean and well maintained.

Just like the day you decided to be a truck driver in the first place, there are 100s of little decisions that you will need to consider as a possible Owner/Operator. In no special order, lets review some of the things you should consider.

Type of freight

Most drivers will stay with what they have most experience with. Few drivers will want to jump from van to flat bed or bulk to reefer without a strong reason. And the reason should not be a recruiter or magazine ad that boasts of the amount money the driver can make.

Area of Operation

Hate big city driving – pay close attention to the operating areas of the company. If you hate Northeast traffic, be certain the company does not haul there. Lots of companies will have hiring areas in the midwest or central south – but that does not mean their traffic is mostly with in those areas.

Truck Liability Insurance

Insurance companies, as you know from your personal auto experience, are weird companies. You might have 10 years experience as a driver but being a new truck owner, you might find some companies will not provide you with your bob-tail or truck base liability insurance or will jack your premiums extra high.

Weekly Settlements

Every week you will be spending a lot on money on operating expenses. You will have (likely) daily fuel purchases, meals, showers, (maybe) parking and tolls. The longer it takes to get paid, the money you will have spent out of your pocket and the longer you family has no income.

Direct Deposit/Payment Settlements

It will do you no good to have $1,000s in checks sitting in the mailbox at home while you are on the road. Even if you have a spouse or family member receiving your checks and depositing them for you, the delay of the mail (2-3 days) then any delay (2-3) days for the person to make it to the bank to deposit, you have another week or so before you money is available.

Base Plates

Your truck will have to ‘base plated’ in the state where it is registered. Some companies offer base plate programs that allow you to base your truck in states with better (lower) registration fees.

Fuel Surcharge Payments

Most companies keep their freight rates flat, at least on an annual basis. However, fuel prices change constantly. As a result, shippers often pay a fuel surcharge as fuel prices increase. You want to make sure you get all the fuel surcharge since you are paying for the fuel.

Trailer Rental Fees

If you are required to provide the trailer, you may want to check to see if the company has a trailer program. It might (MIGHT) be cheaper if they provide trailers with plates and maintenance rather then you having to do it.

Freight/Cargo Insurance

Who pays for cargo or freight insurance is a big issue. Signing on and then finding out you have to pay this could put you out of business.

Bobtail Mileage Payments

It is important to know if the company will pay you bob-tail or trailer miles when you have to drop a trailer in one location and then drive substantial distances to get another trailer, you may want to be paid for it.

Toll Road Fees

More and more states are installing sections of toll roads and those with them are increasing fees. One trip thru Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York and you will understand why you will want the company to pay tolls.


The time and fuel spent every year exiting the interstate to cross the scales and pull right back out add up. Using Prepass to motor on down the highway can save you 15-20 minutes effectively every time you pass the scales. That can add up to several driveable hours every week.

Detention/Layover Pay

Being forced to wait to load and unload will happen often. If you are where you are suppose to be when you are suppose to be there and the shipper/consignee is not ready, who pays for all waiting? Sitting for 6 hours because of no fault of yours is costing you money unless you paid Detent Time.

Qualcomm or Satellite Fees

Nearly every company now uses some form of satellite tracking system. You should know who pays for the equipment, the installation, any required maintenance and the monthly fees.


As I stated, this is just a listing of the things you should consider. Look for detailed information on each section to learn more about how different programs/services work and can affect you – the new Trucking Company Owner.

Happy Trucking, John

TripPak – Load Submission Program

Owner Operator Extras

Companies that use a large number of Owner/Operators (O/O) may provide their contractors will programs and extras to assist them in being successful. Like a broken record, I have to repeat the statement, every company does thing differently and it is important to get in writing all matters and to make sure you understand them before signing your truck up to work with any company.

Qualcomm or Satellite Service

With so much freight being sent Delivery Just In Time or Time Sensitive, many shippers and consignees want instant access to the status and location of their shipments. The flagship of satellite tracking is Qualcomm. The cost of installation of the units and the monthly maintenance fees care an added expense for Owner/Operators. As a part of recruiting, companies may offer to pay for either the installation cost, which can easily be $500 or more depending on circumstances and also the monthly service fees. A consideration regarding the satellite equipment is that companies may charge you a deposit out of your settlement checks and when (if) you terminate your agreement with them, they will hold the deposit (which could be $1,000s of dollars) until you return the equipment in good condition. If the equipment is damaged, they may deduct money from your deposit or final settlement. If at all possible, it is recommended that you personally deliver your removed unit to prove no damage or have it removed by an authorized installer for the original company.

Fuel Purchase

Fuel is the largest single expense of operating a truck. Anything that you can do to lower this expense is critical. Some companies offer fuel purchase programs that allow drivers to fuel up at selected locations/sources for a discount. This may be done by enrolling the O/O with a fuel card such as Fleet-One, Fuelman, etc., or with a fuel network (Pacific Pride, CFN, etc). While individual trucks can enroll in these programs, a company that enrolls 100s of trucks may be able to achieve better rates and discounts. Companies that provide refrigerated services may also arrange for discounts on used for the trailer reefer fuel, which is not always included in discount programs.

Maintenance Programs

Tires and routine maintenance (Oil/Lube/PM) expenses are always on the truck owner’s mind. These little expenses add up over the course of a year. Larger companies will try to establish discount programs thru nationwide or regional maintenance companies such as Blue Beacon, Speedco or Wingfoot.


The availability of benefits such as medical, dental, disability and life insurance at group rates can make them much more affordable. Even under Obamacare, group plans can be a much better bargain.

Truck Insurance

Your truck liability insurance is of course a substantial annual expense where you can benefit from 10% to 20% in group discounts. This could be more important if you are newer driver with less then 5 years of experience. Even if the company does not advertise this being available, check with the recruiter to see it is available. It is also important to know if you have to provide freight insurance or if the company is providing it. If you are required to provide it, does the company have a program that allows you to obtain it at group rates.

License Plates

Another one of those programs that may save the Owner/Operator money is when the company provides base plates. However, consider if the plate will be in another state then where you live so that you do not encounter both states charging you income taxes. Check with a tax professional before you plate your truck in a different state then then your residence.

Fuel Tax Filings

You will be required to file IFTA reports and pay appropriate fuel taxes regardless of where you plate your truck and where you run. Some truck owners are comfortable filing their own IFTA reports. while others would prefer not to do the actual paperwork. Some companies will prepare the filings for free. Some companies require that you use their services.

Trailer rentals

Sometimes Owner/Operators are required to provide their own trailer. Not all owners have already purchased a trailer. They may have been working for a company that provided trailers or they may be changing from vans to reefer or flatbed. To assist new lessees, companies may have contracts with trailer sales companies with lower initial payments or better interest rates on the lease. It is important to shop around if you will be needing to obtain new equipment. If you have a relationship with your local credit union or dealer where you purchased your truck, you may be able to get a better deal.

Loaner Truck

breakdown coverage
Truck breakdowns happen. When that happens you sidelined for a few hours to a few days to a few weeks on more serious events. The company you contract with may offer some form of Loaner Truck program allowing you to continue to work while yours is in the shop. Do not jump on this without checking with the company performing the maintenance about their programs. Some dealers either have trucks available for short term use or have arrangements with leasing companies. While a loaner truck program may be available, it will not be free and may not be a good deal. The primary purpose of offering loaner trucks is so that the freight will be moved – not your daily operating costs.

Settlement to bank account

Unless you have a spouse, friend or family member that can receive your mail and deposit your checks every week, you may want to make sure that what ever company you sign on with can deposit your payments direct to bank or a payment card. Smaller companies may not offer this as the banks like to charge excessive fees for such services. Unless the company is large enough to muscle the banks into better deals, they may not want to offer direct deposit services. Luckily, several non-bank financial services companies are starting to provide direct money transfer services.

Factoring of Load Payments

Cash flow can be important to all businesses – especially 1 or 2 truck owner operators. Depending on your lease arrangements you might have to wait 1 or 2 weeks for payment for delivered freight. A few sudden maintenance bills or even personal expenses might require you to get your money fast. Freight Factoring is a service where for a fee, a company will pay you sooner for your outstanding invoices. This service could also be very important if you are a new leaser and need to buy fuel. Be very careful when using freight factoring because it is not expensive and over the course of a year could become a large annual operating expense.