The Truck Driver Shortage is a Symptom of a Larger ProblemOwner/Operator vs Company Driver: What's the difference? (2024)

Key Takeaways:

  • Unlike Company Drivers, Owner/Operators are not employees but contract drivers.
  • Owner/Operators take 75% of the profit for a run, while Company Drivers make 25%.
  • Owner/Operators are responsible for all of their costs while Company Drivers have their costs covered by their employer.

Owner/Operator and Company Driver are two terms you’ll hear often when it comes to the trucking industry, but they may not mean much to you if you’re new to this world. So what exactly does it mean to be an Owner/Operator or a Company Driver? What’s the difference between the two roles? Find out in this article about the differences between these trucking professions.

#1: Being in charge
Unlike company drivers, Being an Owner/Operator is a lot like being your own boss, but with some key differences. You’re in charge of how you want to run your business, how much or little you want to work, where and when you want to deliver cargo, and which jobs you’ll accept. But when it comes to being your own boss, you also have the responsibilities of a business owner, meaning it’s your responsibility to take care of the costs of running a business on top of other responsibilities.

#2: Higher pay, more responsibilities
In a nutshell, Owner/Operators are their own business but contract out their services to trucking companies. Unlike a company driver, they supply and maintain their own trucks, insurance, and gas. They typically do not have, or have very limited benefits, from the trucking company they contract with. Company drivers, unlike Owner/Operators, are employees of a trucking company. The trucking company pays all of their costs and provides them with standard employee benefits such as PTO, health insurance, and covering maintenance costs.

One key difference between these two drivers is that Owner/Operators receive 75% of the profits for every run, whereas company drivers receive 25%. This is because Owner/Operators cover their own costs, requiring a higher income to sustain these costs while also paying themselves.

#3: Work on your own terms
Many owner-operators work on their own terms, often driving full-time with one or two weeks off every month. They can also drive part-time and take off as much time as they want. There are many advantages to being an owner-operator or a company driver depending on what a driver wants. If you’re looking for more stability and lower risk, then you might be better suited to working as a Company Driver. If you’re looking for the ability to make your own schedule and be your own boss, then becoming an Owner/Operator may be better suited for you. Whatever route you choose will come with pros and cons; it just depends on what you want in your career.

Working with company drivers and owner/operators
There are many benefits to working with Owner/Operators and Company Drivers, with both being skilled professionals dedicated to delivering your cargo safely and efficiently. When looking for an O/O or a C/D you need to consider if they work in your area, as well as their availability during seasonal rushes such as Christmas. While there are many similarities between the two types of drivers, it’s important to choose which driver is right for your needs.

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The Truck Driver Shortage is a Symptom of a Larger ProblemOwner/Operator vs Company Driver: What's the difference? (2024)


What's the difference between owner-operator and company driver? ›

In a nutshell, Owner/Operators are their own business but contract out their services to trucking companies. Unlike a company driver, they supply and maintain their own trucks, insurance, and gas. They typically do not have, or have very limited benefits, from the trucking company they contract with.

What is the main reason for truck driver shortage? ›

A lack of new drivers coming into the industry – due to the working conditions, low pay, and lack of benefits, many people avoid entering the trucking industry. Drivers leaving the industry – many truck drivers are leaving the industry in search of jobs that offer better pay, working conditions, and benefits.

How do you solve truck driver shortage? ›

How to Solve the Truck Driver Shortage Issue?
  1. Better Working Conditions. Better working conditions for the drivers can help alleviate the truck driver shortage to some extent. ...
  2. Decrease Regulated Driving Age. ...
  3. Increase Workforce Diversity. ...
  4. Autonomous Trucking. ...
  5. Adopt Less Than Truckload Shipping.

What percentage do owner operators get compared to company drivers? ›

Statistics say approximately 10-15% of truckers in the United States are owner operator. That means a majority of truckers are employees of trucking companies. There are some reasons why truckers choose to become owner-operators. The main reason is the potential for higher earnings.

What are the disadvantages of an owner-operator? ›

Extra Costs

While there is the opportunity for significantly higher income as an owner-operator, you will also be responsible for all business expenses. These include maintenance, truck payments, fuel, insurance, taxes, business registration and licensing fees, and so on.

What is the difference between self employed and owner-operator? ›

It's very important to make a distinction between the two because one term (owner operator) is referring to a business owner, while another (independent contractor) is referring to someone that is not an employee and works independently, but in theory they could be leased under an owner operator or larger carrier ...

What is the shortage of truck drivers in the US? ›

Truck driver shortage in the United States 2011-2030

Driver shortage is one of the leading issues in the trucking industry in the United States, with an estimated 80,500 drivers needed in 2021. By 2030, this figure is forecast to reach 162,000.

How bad is the trucker shortage? ›

"Right now, we're in a shortage of 80,000 truck drivers and if we're going to keep going down the same trajectory, by the year 2030, it's expected to be 160,000," said Haley Fenton of Western Pacific Truck School.

What do think are most significant issues contributing to the driver shortage? ›

Churn may be a leading cause of driver shortages. Many drivers don't necessarily leave the industry — they simply switch companies. There can be significant barriers to entering the field, including that drivers often foot the bill for their training and licensing.

Is there a shortage of truck drivers in 2024? ›

3. Driver recruitment challenges. A continuing trend from years past, finding new drivers from the upcoming generation of the workforce still presents a problem. The American Trucking Associations (ATA) projected an over-60,000 driver shortage for 2023, and that number will increase to 82,000 in 2024.

What is the biggest issue in trucking? ›

Top Trucking Issues for Private Fleets in 2023
  1. Operational Costs. ...
  2. Driver Shortage. ...
  3. Truck Parking. ...
  4. The State of the Economy & Supply Chain Crisis. ...
  5. Scheduling Delays. ...
  6. Driver Retention. ...
  7. Equipment Maintenance. ...
  8. Safety/Risk Avoidance for Drivers.
Jan 12, 2023

What companies pay owner-operators the most? ›

Top companies for Owner Operator Drivers in United States
  • Bennett Family of Companies. 3.7 $5,208per week. ...
  • Risinger Brothers Transfer, Inc. 3.5 $4,574per week. ...
  • CRST, The Transportation Solution. 2.9 $4,426per week. ...
  • TRANSWOOD. 2.6 $4,351per week. ...
  • Quality Carriers. 3.0 $3,798per week. ...
  • Show more companies.
Apr 22, 2024

Why do so many owner-operators fail? ›

Not Saving Money for Unexpected Expenses or Downtime

Without a financial savings cushion, unexpected expenses can quickly put your business in financial trouble, and unexpected downtime can lead to lost revenue. Budgeting for repairs and maintenance is one way to prepare for the costs of running a trucking company.

What do most owner-operators make per mile? ›

How much does an owner-operator truck driver make? The owner-operator pay per mile is around $1.50 to $2.50. Whereas the average rate per mile for owner-operators in 2023 is around $2.51.

What makes you an owner-operator? ›

An owner-operator truck driver is someone who owns their own truck driving business. As the sole decision-maker of their independent business, owner-operators have the freedom to choose: What loads they want to haul. Whether they lease or buy a truck.

What is the difference between lease and company driver? ›

The main difference is that owner-operators own their truck outright, so they do not have to make lease payments. Unlike company drivers, in either role, you have to cover maintenance costs, fuel, and insurance for your vehicles.

Is it smart to become a owner-operator? ›

The biggest benefits of being an owner-operator are by far the freedom with time, work location, and finances. Provided your business is successful, you can be in full control of your time, where you spend that time, and how much you make when you work.

What does it mean to be a owner-operator in trucking? ›

An owner-operator is a self-employed truck driver who owns and operates their own commercial trucking rig. Owner-operators are independent contractors who can be their own boss and set their own hours. Most owner-operators start as company drivers for trucking companies first to gain experience.

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