How to Become an Owner Operator Truck Driver

Updated February 21, 2017

An owner operator trucker is a truck driver who owns her own truck and uses it to haul loads as an independent contractor. The owner operator, often called an "owner op" or "OO," work for a variety of truck lines and companies. Her "rig," which is their tractor-trailer, is driven to a site where the load is attached and then driven across the country. The job has rewards that include high pay (as much as £42,250 a year or more in some cases) and a sense of freedom, but the challenges include managing your own schedule and finding loads to haul.

Get your CDL license endorsement. This is an endorsement that is added to your existing driver's license. It must be obtained in the state where you reside and where your current license is held. To obtain the endorsement, you must take and pass a knowledge exam and a skills test. Both are administered by your state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Gain experience in driving a truck for a variety of companies. Most owner operators have over-the-road experience before they ever think about heading out on their own. It is important to learn the business by being a part of it, with hands-on experience.

Lease a truck. Apply for a loan for a tractor-trailer through a bank or a lease purchase program. Bank loans require a substantial down payment, because tractor-trailers can cost upward of £32,500. The payments on your lease will be part of your expenses in the business, so include this in your estimates when you consider if becoming an owner operator is for you.

Secure loads through a trucking company. As an independent contractor, you have the freedom to choose who you want to work for and when. Consider the flexibility of the company and its reputation. Working for a disreputable company can harm your business, earning power and reputation, because missed loads and poor communication cost you as the operator.

Research the available jobs in your area and find out which permits are required to carry them. For instance, there may be steady loads for those with double trailer experience and permits. Or, there may be loads for those with a hazardous waste endorsement. If so, take the required tests to obtain these permits and add them to your credentials and resume.

Continue to network with other truckers and business owners to find and secure loads for your business. The more you network, the more loads you will be able to haul.


Factor in the cost of additional expenses with your purchase lease programs and in your business plan to ensure you are charging the proper rates.


Always gain experience before you become an "OO." Many companies won't hire inexperienced owner operators to haul their loads.

Things You'll Need

  • CDL license endorsement
  • Truck
  • Experience
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About the Author

Steve Smith has published articles on a wide range of topics including cars, travel, lifestyle, business, golf, weddings and careers. His articles, features and news stories have appeared in newspapers, consumer magazines and on various websites. Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from University of New Hampshire Durham.