white and blue truck on road during daytime

If you are reading this article, it means that you have a desire to start your own business in cargo transportation. We are glad to see the future owner-operator! But we understand how much uncertainty hides behind private entrepreneurship. Where to start? What documents are needed? Do you need to buy a truck? Where to look for the first routes?

All this can frighten an interested person. To make it clear to you what to expect, this article has been written. We present you with a step-by-step guide to starting your own trucking business.

Step 1: Business Plan

Any business starts with a detailed description of your idea. Since cargo transportation isn’t only a truck, cargo, and road. It is a complex and multi-structured business that requires financial investments. And where there is money, there is a risk. To minimize it, you should write a business plan. What is there to write about?

  • about what you plan to do, what services to provide, what kind of truck, and in which states;
  • about how you differ from competitors, and what your services will benefit customers;
  • about how many people you will work with, what equipment and programs they need;
  • about what the cargo transportation market looks like now and how you plan to receive/increase your income;
  • about how you plan to promote your services in the market;
  • about how much money you will invest in the business, what is your starting capital and how long it should pay off.

Step 2: Company Registration

You need to choose the form of your entrepreneurial activity. There are many types of them, but most owner-operators choose a limited liability company. In this form, you differentiate between debt obligations and personal funds/real estate. If you have chosen an LLC, then you will need a registered agent who will be your connection with the state, payment of taxes, etc.

After choosing the form of entrepreneurial activity, you need to get an identification number (EIN) to open a bank account.

Another important step is to complete your trucking authority. To do this, you need to come up with the name of your company and send it to your state. Fill out an application for a permit to transport goods to FMCSA and submit it.

After that, you can choose your process agent, who will be your representative when filing court documents. The FMCSA requirement is to have a process agent in each state in which you work.

Step 3: Licenses and Permissions 

On your state’s website, you can find a list of permissions that you must have as an owner-operator. They are very different in different states, so each case is individual.

In addition to permissions, you need:

  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL);
  • USDOT number;
  • MC number;
  • Submission of the BOC-3 form.

You may also need business financings, such as loans or investors. To apply, you need to fulfill all the requirements above and contact banks, credit unions, and investors. Make sure that your business plan is clear and interesting.

Step 4: Truck

It can be bought or rented. Which is more profitable? In the long run, buy a truck. Within a few years, you will pay for the rent as much as the truck itself costs. But if you aren’t completely confident in your career as an owner-operator or don’t have large start-up capital, it is better to rent a car for the first time.

Step 5: Insurance 

Contact insurance companies and find out what business insurance they offer and at what price. The most basic insurance that you need: for yourself and your health, for a truck, for cargo, for passengers.

Step 6: Accounting

Accounting should be a key priority for any business. It depends on how much taxes you will pay, whether you will have fines, whether you will pay salary and whether there will be money for fuel. We advise you to hire a professional, buy him accounting software and figure out accounting yourself. Yes, as an owner-operator, you should understand figures, taxes, and invoices at least at a minimum level.

For example, you should deal with truck factoring, as experts advise here. This is a very useful financial service that will keep the business afloat. Factoring allows you to receive money for the service immediately, rather than waiting for money on the invoice in 30-90 days.

Step 7: Cargo for transportation

Loading board. It is there that you will find orders from the first customers. You should also advertise your services so that as many potential customers as possible find out about you and use your services.

We advise you to hire a dispatcher who will search for cargo for you. Thus, you will only need to drive a truck and manage your company as an owner-operator. Leave all other worries to the professionals.

Step 8: Staff

You may immediately need employees in your business to develop and build a company. Depending on your needs and capabilities, you can hire an accountant, dispatcher, marketer, logistician, or secretary. You can use the help of outsourcing companies or start forming your staff.

Step 9: Control

Don’t forget that you need to keep track of a lot of things yourself. For example, for tax returns, the validity of CDL, new laws on cargo transportation, requirements, rights, and obligations. Make sure that you know, understand, and practice the Hours of service (HOS) regulations, OSHA safety regulations, inspection, repair, and maintenance logs.


You have to learn a lot in the process, we can’t tell all the subtleties in one article. But you should understand that it is important to monitor all innovations in laws and regulations. Check your CDL and USDOT number. Find out if you can use the IFTA tax. Such vigilance will save money and prolong the life of your business.

Owners-operators are very important cogs in the entire logistics sector in the USA. It depends on you whether the goods will arrive at the right place at the right time. Do your job responsibly and with pleasure. Good luck!