Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a multi-part series about how owner operators can get the most from their business.
Jeff Clark is the owner of Clark Trucking, based in Kewaunee, Wis. He has had a CDL trucking job since 1988 and has been an owner operator for the last 15 years. A member of the owner operator group Team Run Smart, Clark talks with Drive My Way about how people with owner operator trucking jobs can maximize their profits. Here are his top five tips for how to get the most from your business.
1. Be business smart
Run your business like a business. A lot of times it’s about picking your routes wisely. Think about which routes pay something. Truck drivers like to drive, and they like scenic routes. Sometimes you gotta bite the bullet and take a route that’s not as scenic but will pay more. Drive for maximum profitability, for whatever’s going to help you keep more in your own pocket and net the most for you. We concentrate too much on the gross. We need to focus more on the net. How much money you have in the bank matters.
2. Be truck smart
It’s important to get the right truck for your operation. That includes the drive train and the aerodynamics. It’s also important to have a good relationship with your mechanic. It’s better to over-maintain than under-maintain. I don’t want my fuel filters to get clogged up, otherwise I’m going to be sitting on the side of the road. Anytime you’re sitting on the side of the road, you’re not only not making money, you’re also going to have to get a hotel, so you’ll be spending money, too.
3. Be fuel smart
The cost of fuel is coming down, but fuel is still your biggest expense next to paying yourself. Do what you can to conserve fuel. Why drive faster when you can drive slower?
4. Be health smart
Nothing can tank an owner operator faster than a health problem that comes up. I try to hit the gym twice a week, and I run or walk every day. I try to do a minimum of two miles a day.
5. Do the math
I see a lot of people go out of business because they don’t put money aside for their taxes. You have to plan your cash flow. Budget for tires, budget for repairs. You’ll get somebody with a $10,000 repair bill, but they only got $2,000. Use spreadsheets. I don’t like the business end so much, but it’s a necessity. By using spreadsheets, I can see which lanes are paying well and which aren’t. I can see where I’m making money and where I’m not, and it helps me become more fiscally responsible in the long run.
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