Trucking is all about living the dream. The open highway as your workplace, with scenic vistas instead of office walls. And if you’re an Owner/Operator or independent, you’re the boss: king or queen of that road.
But there are pitfalls. Huge ones for Owner/Operators with expenses like fuel, tires, insurance, repairs, and the truck payments themselves. It’s not uncommon for O/Os to lose sleep over making ends meet. Whether you’re considering making the leap from company driver, upgrading an existing rig or adding to your fleet, it’s important to understand the risks in order to make the best decisions. Here are the five biggest joy killers you must understand and recognize in order to avoid them:
1. Undervaluing Time
When you’re looking at purchasing a new or used truck and/or trailer, delays can be costly. For every week spent waiting for the bank and jumping through endless hoops, you could be losing $10,000 in business. Working with a quicker and more flexible financing partner—especially one who knows your industry well—can save you more than any interest rate differential in just a few days.
2. The Shiny & New Trap
If you’re looking at buying a truck, especially for the first time, consider a used one. Unless you’ve got a substantial down payment, a shiny, brand-new truck can sometimes bring more stress than it’s worth. As you learn to build efficiencies and pay off the first, you can enjoy stepping up to something newer. As a startup, it can be wise to let someone else pay for the depreciation. And buying used need not be risky. Be sure to avoid skeletons in the closet by using a program like Patron West’s BuySafe, which includes searches on the truck, legal claims against the seller, writs from the CRA, as well as intelligence on accidents and liens.
All that said, buying new has advantages: the latest technology, full warranty, roadside assistance and reduced likelihood of downtime. It’s about doing what is best for the business within your cash flow. Always balance your needs with real-world numbers—we can help with that too, and provide competitive financing on new truck purchases.
3. The Cash Vacuum
When you make a major purchase like a truck or trailer, beware the cash vacuum and be prepared. Money down, taxes, insurance, registration, salaries for an additional driver and operating costs start adding up immediately, but it can take from 30 to 90 days before you get paid. Factor these things into your business plan and always keep a reserve for unexpected things like repairs, tires, and parts.
4. The Key Man Nightmare
If you’re an Owner/Operator or independent, your biggest risk factor can be yourself. What may seem a simple injury to your leg or back can take you out of commission completely and freeze your income. When your livelihood (and your family’s future) is dependent on your business, be sure to carry the right amount of disability insurance to get you through potential downtime, whether it’s brief or long-term. My team and I are well-versed at the options and can help you determine the coverage you need.
5. Sacrificing Retirement
If you’re a company driver, you may be lucky enough to have a pension to look forward to, but Owner/Operators and independents must usually create their own retirement plan, and that’s one of the best reason to consider building a business. Selling a single used truck can provide a little retirement spending money, but not nearly enough to live on. Selling a successful, bankable freight enterprise, on the other hand, can deliver a nest egg worth working towards. Think about your long-term goals and exit strategy (through the lens of your strengths and limitations), and calculate what it will take to get you there. Then work backward from retirement to today. Whether you’re looking at buying your first truck or your twenty-first, the Patron West team has the experience and know-how to make the journey as enjoyable and profitable as it can be for you.
Taking these important steps for your future can be a little daunting, but with the right support, you can achieve those dreams. I’m always happy to discuss financing programs that can better your chances of success and profits, including options with no money down, equity building payments, seasonal payments and other smart ways to reduce risk.