Every product on a store shelf or that is sold to consumers spent at least a portion of its life on a truck. The trucking business is booming and it can be a very lucrative enterprise. However, the competition is steep. Deciding to start your trucking company could turn you into a successful entrepreneur but you must first lay a solid foundation. This brief checklist will help you get started and find the independence of owning your business.
Determine your trucking business structure
There are several ways you can structure your trucking business. You can buy a truck and become an owner-operator under your company name, you can start a company and bring in other owner-operators, or you can purchase a fleet and hire drivers. The beauty of trucking is that you can start with just yourself and a truck, but grow your company to the point where you own a fleet. You have to start somewhere though, so decide where the most economically feasible place is for you to begin and go from there.
Find your niche in trucking
Truck driving is a highly competitive business, so when you are just starting you need all the help you can get. If you know a particular industry well, such as concrete, cattle or produce, you can use it to get an edge in obtaining initial business. This will also help you determine the lanes you’ll be running, which will allow you to plan more effectively for the rules and regulations of each state within the industry.
Create a budget
Oftentimes, the budget is the first thing that you create since it will guide your business choices. Truck driving is almost always best suited for full-time, exclusive work — especially if you are going over the road. You need to be available 24/7, at least in the beginning, making holding a day job almost impossible. It is wise to add several months of personal expenses like mortgage, food and bills to your budget so that you can keep your head above water on the homefront while getting your company off the ground.
Determine overhead, operational costs, salaries, insurance and marketing. Take special care with truck maintenance and repair costs, because that is what will keep you on the road. If you are in a building and need to downsize, you can take that hit. If your truck is out of commission and you don’t have room in your budget to make the necessary repairs, you are out of business. You may have to return to the drawing board several times before you have something you can work with, but try to be as realistic as possible throughout the process.
Develop a business plan
Your business plan will be the blueprint for your company. You will need it to get loans, to seek investors or partners, and to guide you through establishing your business. There is software that is available that will take you through the process. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also has some great resources for writing a business plan including real business owners who will sit with you and help direct you.
Purchase your equipment
The equipment you will need depends on your business’s structure. If you are going to be an owner-operator then you will need a truck. Sometimes you can start like trucking-business owner Ethan Young: with a van. You can also gradually grow your business until you can purchase a big rig. There is some flexibility in this business so you can start small and scale up when needed.
Get the necessary permits for operating a trucking business in your area
In order to operate as a business you will need to meet certain federal and state requirements. You have permits, licenses and taxes that are based on regulations specific to trucking. What you need will depend on the type of company you will have. If you will employ drivers, then they’ll be required to obtain certain licenses and permits, too. The SBA has some very good information on this as well as other great advice on starting a trucking business. The Federal Highway Administration has a list of State Transportation Web Sites where you can get the requirements that are specific to your state of operation.
Buy insurance for your new company
The trucking industry carries certain risks and because of this, the insurance requirements for trucking businesses are very strict. The responsibility of owning and overseeing commercial vehicles means that you will have more insurance requirements — and your insurance costs will be higher. Talk to an insurance specialist in your state to find out what the requirements are in your area and to get the best coverage for your business.
Construct a solid marketing strategy
In order to get customers you will need to do a little marketing. It is very easy for a business, especially a new one, to either undercut its marketing budget and miss out on acquiring new clients, or to overextend its budget and find itself in a financial hole. Plan your marketing strategy carefully and don’t be afraid to enlist the services of a marketing expert.
A clearly defined plan should include branding such as the creation of a high-quality logo. You will also want to get business cards to hand to clients as well as good signage on your vehicle. Other marketing efforts that could pay off might include print advertising, a website, email marketing and B2B outreach. Utilizing social media to reach out to potential business is a cost-effective way to connect with existing clients and a great venue to recruit potential drivers. A solid strategy will help your company grow, so don’t gloss over this vital part of your business startup.
Don’t be afraid to seek advice from experts
Starting a trucking company — or any company — is an exciting endeavor. Sometimes though, despite all your research, you may find yourself uncertain about some things. Don’t ever be afraid to seek the advice of experts. Score offers business mentoring where you can talk face to face with experts. It allows you to sit with someone and ask the questions that are specific to your business or that you can’t find answers to elsewhere.
Taking a step-by-step approach and covering all of your bases will certainly increase your chances of having a successful business. You have the passion, now get the know-how — and take the time to do it right.
Scott Van Beek has over 15 years of experience at Raney’s, specifically working for the service center. He has been in the hydraulics industry for almost 40 years.