Because the United States has such a strong infrastructure of major roads and highways, trucking is still the primary means of transportation for freight. In fact, truckers haul approximately 70% of the nation's freight. For anyone who owns a trucking business or is thinking about starting one, this is good news.
Below you'll find steps and tips for starting a trucking business. You will also find frequently asked questions about the industry, so read on to learn more.
How to Start a Trucking Business:
A step-by-step guide on how to start a trucking business.
Create a business plan.
Create an outline.
In the trucking industry, there are many moving parts (no pun intended). Managing drivers, vehicles, deadlines, delicate goods, and various other logistical challenges can be difficult.
Writing a business plan will help you create an operational strategy to refer to when your business is up and running.
Your trucking company business plan should include the following elements:
- Executive Summary.
- Company Summary.
- Market Analysis.
- Operational Strategy.
- Management Summary.
- Financial Plan and Forecast.
Writing a business plan for your trucking company will force you to address important questions that you need to have answers to before everything is up and running.
Write an executive summary.
An executive summary contains a brief explanation of why you are forming a business and what it will do.
It should include a concise description of the following items:
- Products or services.
- Potential customers.
- Company ownership.
- Company future and projections.
- Financial Plan and Forecast.
Prepare a mission statement.
A mission statement articulates what the business does, how it operates, and why the business does what it does. In addition to the mission statement, you should also define your company philosophy or guiding principles.
Define company goals and objectives.
Create clearly defined goals and objectives. Include specific metrics, such as annual revenue targets and the number of customers, that can be used to measure the progress and success of your business at a later stage.
Do market research.
In your business plan, you should describe who your target market is and provide a clear picture of what the competitive market looks like. This will help you identify what your competitive advantage is and develop a plan to maintain and enhance your competitive edge.
Outline your financial plan.
Your financial plan should contain a current balance sheet, your cash flow budget for one year, and break-even analysis. It should also describe how much financing you need and how it will be spent.
Name your business.
Choose a business name.
Do some research and brainstorm a few name ideas for your business. Start by making a list of keywords that reflect your business values and the character of your business and then combine words to create name ideas or use a name generator like NameSnack.
See our article on How to Name a Trucking Company for a detailed step-by-step guide.
Trademark the name.
Search the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) trademark database to see if any of your top choices and similar names are already trademarked. If it is available, register it as a trademark at www.uspto.gov.
See our article on How to Trademark a Name for more information.
Depending on the business structure you choose, you may consider selling equity in your business. The advantage of funding your business through investors also referred to as venture capitalists, is that you do not have to pay the money back as you would have to when taking a loan. The primary disadvantage is that it involves sharing ownership, which means you will have to consult with your investors before making business decisions.
Apply for a loan.
There are many different loan products to choose from. Have a look at and compare a variety of lenders and their products, carefully assessing the terms and conditions they offer.
Take care of legal requirements.
Open a business bank account.
Apply for a small business account and a business credit card and use this account when applying for licenses, permits, taxes, and insurance.
Form a legal entity.
As with any new business, you need to determine what kind of legal/tax structure your new trucking company will have. Generally speaking, the four options are:
- Sole Proprietorship.
- Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).
Most entrepreneurs choose to start their trucking business as an LLC. The advantage of creating an LLC is that it can be used to shift liability to your business while allowing you to retain personal assets that may be used for business purposes. The tax structure of an LLC is also more efficient than a sole proprietorship.
To form an LLC for your trucking business, all you need to do is appoint a registered agent - someone who is the State's official contact person for the business. This can be you, the business owner, or someone else who will be working with you.
As an LLC, you'll also need an Employer Identification Number, which you can obtain by filling out the application form on IRS.gov.
Comply with industry regulations and standards.
As you can imagine, the trucking industry is highly regulated because there are so many safety concerns. To own and operate a trucking business, the following industry standards are required:
- US DOT Number: A number from the US Department of Transportation that identifies your business.
- CDL: A CDL is a commercial driver's license. All of your drivers must have a CDL to operate one of your vehicles.
- Motor Carrier Operating Authority Number: Registration number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to companies that transport passengers or commodities.
- International Registration Plan and Fuel Tax Agreement: Necessary for trucking companies operating in multiple states/countries.
Without these certifications in place, you run the risk of being fined or having your trucking business shut down, so make sure that you have all of them before your trucks hit the road.
Research suppliers of vehicles and equipment that meet your business needs and the type of cargo you intend on transporting. For example, if your business will be transporting perishable items, you may require vehicles with a refrigerated compartment.
Transport trucks are expensive, but they are a must if you want to offer transportation services to suppliers and distributors. Perhaps you are going to start with one truck and build up from there, or maybe part of your plan is to purchase a small fleet right away and recoup the cost over time.
You can purchase new or used trucks, just remember that you want equipment that is safe and will have minimal maintenance costs. It may be tempting to buy an older truck, but in the long run, you may spend just as much money on repairs.
A truck will cost you anywhere between $15,000.00 and $175,000.00, but you can secure a small business loan if you need financing. With financing, a down payment of between $1,000.00 and $15,000.00 will usually still be required.
Purchase insurance for your fleet.
Trucking companies usually purchase a variety of insurance coverage options, including:
- Auto insurance.
- Liability insurance.
Of course, you hope that an accident never happens, but if it does, you should have the right coverage in place to protect your business.
Identify and define positions you need to fill.
Unless you intend to be the sole owner/operator of your trucking business, you will need to hire some employees. Positions that you may want to add within your trucking business include:
- Payroll Manager.
- Logistics Coordinator.
- Dispatch Operator.
You can post job advertisements on industry job boards, reach out to colleagues in the trucking industry for recommendations, or employ a recruitment agency to help you find suitable candidates.
When hiring employees, it is important to verify their employment history and qualifications, especially when you are hiring drivers.
Truck drivers must be qualified. Make sure that they have a Commercial Driver's License and that they have all of the necessary safety training to operate a transport truck. Trucking companies can run into serious liability issues in the event of an accident, so you want drivers who are well qualified to do the job.
Market your business and find loads.
Set your rates.
Determine what rate per mile you will charge to haul a load. Keep in mind that it should be high enough to cover your operating costs and give you a reasonable profit. Refer to the financial plan and budgets you outlined in your business plan to determine what your operating costs are.
Launch a website.
Build a compelling website that provides clients with detailed information about your business and services. This should include the type of services you offer, in which area you operate, a description of your fleet, and your contact details (phone, email, address, and contact form).
Create marketing materials.
There are several different tools you can use to market your business. You will need to create marketing materials, including a great logo and information brochures that outline the services you offer. You should also create a mailing list to connect with your clients and consider running print and online ads in industry publications.
Use load boards.
You can find loads by using online freight-matching services. With a multitude of online load boards available, you'll want to have a good look around and compare services and pricing.
Top load boards to consider include:
Develop business relationships.
Start building relationships with prospective clients by attending networking events and tradeshows. It's a good idea to join an industry association or chamber of commerce. Don't forget to be proactive and reach out to local shippers and set up meetings to introduce your business and services.
Cost of Starting a Trucking Business:
$15,000.00 to $175,000.00
US DOT Number
$10,000.00 per truck per year
International Registration Plan
Varies by state/province
Motor Carrier Operating Authority Number
Why is it important to have a good trucking business plan?
With a good business plan, you'll already have a clear sense of how your company will function, what your staffing needs are, how much money you need to raise, what your projected profits are, and so on. Investors and business partners will need all of this information as well if they are going to get on board with your idea.
How much does it cost to start a trucking company?
Costs can vary greatly based on the scale of your business, but it is likely that it will cost you between $10,000.00 and $20,000.00 to start a trucking company. This includes the downpayment on a truck, insurance, State and Federal registration, and other fees.
What permits are needed to start a trucking company?
- IRS Tax ID.
- State business registration.
- US DOT number.
- Commercial liability insurance.
- State transportation permits.
How much do trucking companies make?
Many owner/operators have gross earnings of $185,000.00 per year, but their profits may only be $40,000.00 to $50,000.00 after expenses. However, owners of larger trucking companies with major fleets could earn millions if they have a large enough profit margin.
How do I start a trucking company LLC?
- Create a business plan.
- Form a legal entity.
- Obtain business licenses and permits
- Purchase/lease equipment.
- Get business insurance.
- Meet industry requirements.
- Hire employees.
- Find loads and grow your business.
How do I write a trucking company business plan?
A good business plan will give you a clear idea of how your trucking company will function, what your staffing needs are, how much money you need to raise, and what your projected profits are. A trucking company business plan must include:
- Executive Summary.
- Company Summary.
- Market Analysis.
- Operational Strategy.
- Management Summary.
- Financial Plan and Forecast.
How much does it cost to get a trucking authority?
There is a one-time, flat fee of between $500.00 and $1,000.00 if you apply for interstate authority through DOTAuthority.com.
How much does a DOT number cost?
It costs $300.00 to file for a DOT number with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. A Department of Transportation number is mandatory for all trucking companies.
How much does an 18-wheeler cost?
An 18-wheeler has two parts: the cab and the trailer. A new cab costs between $130,000.00 to $180,000.00, while a new trailer costs between $30,000.00 and $80,000.00.
How much does a dump truck owner/operator make a year?
Maintenance costs for dump trucks are high, but dump truck services are always in high demand. Calculate your hourly costs for using the truck (fuel, insurance, registration, etc.) and then make sure you are charging more per hour than it is costing you to operate. This way, you are guaranteed to be profitable as long as you have customers who want to pay for your service.
Can I start a trucking company with one truck?
If you are wondering how to start a trucking company with one truck, the steps are exactly the same as the ones in this article. Even a business with only one truck needs to comply with all of the industry standards and regulations. You can use the same steps listed above if you want to know how to start a small trucking business.
How do I start a trucking business as an owner/operator?
An owner/operator is someone who owns his or her own truck and drives it themselves. Other companies pay an owner/operator to transport goods. An owner/operator is still essentially a small business owner, so becoming an owner/operator involves all of the same steps that you would take when setting up a trucking company. The primary difference is that you have only one truck and no employees.
How can I start a trucking business with no money?
Transport trucks are expensive, so you need an alternative cash source if you don't have the money to purchase a truck. Many entrepreneurs use a startup loan) to cover their initial costs.
What is the highest paying truck driving job?
The highest paying truck driving jobs are usually with private fleets. For example, big companies like UPS and Wal-Mart have their own trucking fleets. Companies like this pay their drivers generous annual salaries of $70,000.00 to $85,000.00.
How do I start a successful trucking business?
A successful trucking business requires careful planning and good financial management. You can follow our detailed guide to learn how to start your own trucking business from scratch.
What is the profit margin for a trucking company?
Trucking companies in the United States have an average profit margin of approximately 6%, according to NameSnack research.
How long does it take to get operating authority?
If all of your documents are in order, operating authority is usually granted within 20 days of your initial application. However, you still need a State registration before you start trucking, and this could take 2–3 weeks
How do I start a trucking broker?
- Register your business.
- Write a business plan for your brokerage.
- Create agreements with carriers.
- Obtain a US DOT number and Freight Broker License.
- Buy a Freight Broker Bond from the government.
- Purchase cargo and liability insurance.
- Designate process agents in any state where you do business.
Where can I find a "starting a trucking business" checklist?
You can use our step-by-step guide, which includes a free downloadable checklist and a free downloadable business plan template, when starting your trucking business.
How can I start my own trucking business?
You will need to research the industry to ensure that there is a market for your trucking business. Your research should also include what your start-up costs would be, what legal requirements you need to take care of, and how you can market your business to gain customers.
What are the steps to starting a trucking business?
Do I need a business license for a trucking company?
A trucking company needs a U.S. DOT Number U.S. Department of Transportation that identifies your business, a commercial driver's license for each driver, a Motor Carrier Operating Authority Number issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Administration to companies that transport passengers or commodities, and an International Registration Plan and Fuel Tax Agreement for trucking companies operating in multiple states/countries.
Where can I find start-up business loans for trucking?
You can apply for small business funding for your trucking business from companies like Lendio, SmartBiz, and Fundbox.