I’ve been a trucker since 2006 and an owner-operator since 2011. My father was a truck driver, but that’s not what drew me to trucking.
Before I owned and operated my trucking business, I joined the Marine Corps and when I got out, I wanted to be a police officer. But then I discovered the entire process took a long time. It involved waiting to get in, completing the police academy training, and passing a test. I told myself, “I need to start working now.”
I’ve always been a goal-oriented person and making money is my way to accomplish goals.
So, I turned to the newspaper to look for work. (In 2006, we still used newspapers to find jobs in Kentucky.) The papers were filled with ads for trucking jobs that were paying sign-on bonuses. I’ve always been a hard worker, and it seemed like so much more money could be made driving a truck as opposed to getting a job that paid by the hour. I took out a loan to go to a CDL school and became a trucker.
Three years into driving for a local trucking company, I suffered a severe knee and neck injury that resulted in two surgeries and left me unable to do my job. There I was, unable to perform the work I had done before. I told myself, “This is not me; this is not who I am.”
At the time, I thought about going out on my own as an owner-operator, but there was (and still is) so much negative talk out there about buying your own truck and starting your own company. It kind of scared me. You don’t take such risky ventures when you have a family.
Hitting rock bottom
Due to my injuries, I ended up having to go on short-term disability. After six months, I went into long-term disability. When I was finally ready to go back to work, I was terminated. It was my rock-bottom moment, but I did what I could to survive, financially and mentally.
I put my family’s house up for sale (when houses weren’t selling), and I couldn’t sell it, so I rented it out. I moved my Japanese wife and two newborn children back to Japan while I lived in one of those cheap, rent-by-the-week motels. During this time, I was going back and forth to therapy every day.
I took a chance and bought a truck
I went from being a leader to nobody in a very short period of time. It couldn’t get any worse. I had to do something to get my life and my family back.
Thoughts of buying my own truck continued to consume my thoughts. I walked myself through the worst-case scenario — I buy a truck, and if I don’t make any money as an owner-operator, I can still get a job driving for someone else.
I looked at leasing, but I still had my good name and good credit, so after I found a truck in the paper, I went about finding a way to pay for it. It’s a whole different ball game to get a bank loan for a truck instead of a car.
Although I wouldn’t recommend this route, I applied for four new credit cards and bought my truck for $35,000. I maxed out all four credit cards. I sold it seven years later for $15,000.
Read more: The best ways to fund the purchase of your truck.
Hitting rock bottom forced me to think differently and take risks because I figured I had nothing left to lose. It’s never an ideal situation to start a business with maxed-out credit cards and no money in the bank!
Got my own authority and I’m not looking back
I decided to apply for my own authority, and within three weeks, I had my own company.
Truth be told, if my truck hadn’t come with fuel in it, I probably wouldn’t have made it, since I literally used that fuel to pull my first load. I calculated what was in there and knew that I’d need to use all of it to get paid before I could take on another load.
After running hard and earning some money, I brought my wife and kids back from Japan and vowed never to let myself be in that position again. I remember feeling like I could breathe again, knowing my family would never need to move away due to financial hardship.
Read more: How to become a successful owner-operator.
What I learned on the road to becoming an owner-operator
If I were to go back to being a company driver now, it would sicken me to go down the road knowing how much more money I could be making if I had my own truck.
In this industry, you’re around a lot of people who have gotten their own truck but didn’t make it. It’s really hard for the new guy, but in my opinion, it’s worth it.
Hopefully, you’re in a better position than I was to start your own authority. My situation involved a lot of decisions based on desperation, sweat equity, and a whole lot of determination.
Today, I help other owner-operators understand how to use data to set themselves up for the best rates for loads through my Facebook group, Rate Per Mile Masters. If you liked my story or are interested in getting your own authority, join my group and reach out to me.