To say that owning a fleet of trucks is a tough business is an understatement. Every day, you’ll be dealing with tight timelines, traffic, road conditions outside your control, and exhausted drivers. The last is particularly challenging to address because your industry demands work harder than usual. But compromising the health of your drivers can also compromise the efficiency of your operations.
Though these challenges will be present all year round, you’ll experience the peak of them around your first year. But that shouldn’t discourage you because any business always meets its biggest obstacle within the first year. Trucking happens to have industry-specific challenges, so you’re going to need a lot of help to overcome them.
Hence, note these crucial pointers before starting your trucking business:
1. Get Familiar With Your Fleet
Whether you’re a driver or an owner-operator, familiarize yourself with your fleet. It’ll give you the time to test out your driving skills and road-use knowledge. Plus, you’d get an initial glimpse of the new lifestyle you’d be leading. Truck-driving isn’t like a desk job that relies on a fixed schedule and a fixed set of tasks. Drivers are constantly chasing a deadline or meeting a quota. Operators are equally burdened to maintain their clients’ trust; they need the drivers to perform as expected.
2. Experience Doesn’t Guarantee a Smooth First Year
Truck drivers must have millions of mileage under their belts. But their extensive experience doesn’t guarantee a smooth first year of transporting cargo. Some clients have hard-to-locate drop-off areas, forcing truck drivers to spend a good amount of time just finding the place in their GPS devices. Sometimes, drivers might also need to maneuver their trucks into underdeveloped areas with poor-quality roads.
A trucker’s GPS system may accurately pin a specific location, but not all systems can warn about low bridges and other less-than-ideal roads. So it would be best if you prepared for such situations before accepting cargo.
3. Get Seat Time
Seat time is a period wherein new truck drivers drive around with a trainer. This can be challenging because some trainers are good, while some can use improvement. But no matter which one they’ve got, drivers need to develop a workable dynamic with their trainer.
Drivers and trainers will be together all the time. They’d share a small truck space, eat meals together, and share the same sleeper bunk. Hence, if you’re entering the trucking industry as a new driver, expect this scenario, and prepare to make necessary, including uncomfortable, adjustments.
4. Don’t Expect Fast Money
Trucking is a profitable business, but no trucker gets rich overnight. Drivers, especially, take a while before earning a satisfactory amount. But the wait will be worth it. Drivers who hone their skills, meet their deadlines, and have minimal absenteeism can boost their credentials, giving them the qualifications needed for higher pay.
But the journey toward that higher pay may not be sweet. Junior truck drivers tend to get the shorter end of the stick when it comes to job assignments. They usually begin as freight movers, which is the most strenuous and financially straining job. Indeed, working on the road triggers thirst, hunger, and stress, so freight movers often have to spend money to replenish their energies.
5. File Taxes on Time
Many drivers and owner-operators are guilty of not filing their taxes. While this won’t land you in prison, it’ll make your business the target of the IRS’s scrutiny.
Truckers miss filing their taxes because the demands of their job leaves them no time for it. But that’s not an excuse. Delaying tax returns causes you to miss out on numerous deductions. Below are the categories drivers and owner-operators can claim deductions for:
- Cellphone Plans and Internet Fees
- Medical Exams
- Licensing Fees
- Food on the road (owner-operators only)
- Truck Repair and Maintenance
- Association Dues
- Personal Products
- Fuel and Travel Costs (different deductions for drivers and owner-operators)
- Non-trucking Standard Deductions
A tax preparation professional for truckers can assist you in filing taxes. You shouldn’t miss the tax filing season because the longer you delay paying, the bigger the deductions you miss.
6. Invest in Your Fleet
Owner-operators must invest in the regular maintenance of their fleet. If they need better fuel economy, they should purchase appropriate aerodynamic enhancements. These include wheel covers and trailer side skirts. They should also test out various fuel efficiency methods to find out which one provides the highest ROI.
Drivers, meanwhile, should ensure that their practices are sustainable and healthy. If they drive for numerous hours straight without resting, they should squeeze in a rest stop at appropriate intervals. They should inspect their trucks as well for possible maintenance issues.
Noting these pointers can ensure a smooth first year, with fewer chances of safety and labor-related risks. You may be overwhelmed initially, but as time passes, you’ll get the hang of it. Stay consistent with the strategies that work, and your trucking business will thrive all year round.