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Junior Member
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132 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
I was curious about what type of situations you owner operators were in when you bought your first truck and were just starting out. Where were you living? Any kids? Single? What other debts did you have beside your truck and trailer? Did you have garaging? How much of your repairs did you do yourself? What were your capabilities? I'd really like to hear from the experienced crowd. Sometimes I think it's a bad idea to own my own truck (as much as I think I want to).
 

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Missouri Outlaw
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19 Posts
when i was 22(im 25 now) i paid $9500 for a million mile 96 fld120 freightshaker and $40000 for a 2008 timpte high side hopper trailer...ive grown up in the trucking industry, grew up in a truck since i was 10 months old so i was better off owner operator. ive got my own shop, and do alot of my own work if need be..i drove that truck till last june and bought a 2005 w900 kenworth. last year with the 96 and 05 i grossed over $220,000, im a dying breed of driver tho..

i was single when i bought the shaker, me and my girl freind(soon to be fiance)bought the w9..i pay $400 a month for MY house, $500 a month for MY 05 dodge, $800 for my 2002 flatbed(with roll tite kit) $900 for the w9, and $250 a month for gfs trail blazer,own my 2003 victory motorcycle.. i dont let her have a job( i support her compleatly) so i dont have to worry bout her not bein home when i get through home..i work for Long Haul Trucking outa Albertville,Mn since october ive made an AVERAGE of $20,000 a month...


i never wanted to drive a truck but i figure if this is what im gunna do im gunna do it all out...got my cdl when i was 18 so i could drive out race quad hauler, drove grain trucks for local farmers and when i turned 21 i ran team with my dad for 6 months, didnt get along drivin with him so i went through 3 company jobs then bought my shaker...my w9 had 488,000 miles on it when i bought it for $39500 in june, ive got 561000 on it now...gunna drive this one till soon to be wife tells me differnt.....
 

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Member
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168 Posts
Late 80s married two kids and going broke farming. I had picked up a job at night at a fuel stop out in the middle of nowhere. Met the owner of a small company and told her to hire me and she did. After most of a year of that I sold my equipment for $5000 and bought a tractor for $5500. I drove it all over the midwest two years pulling reefer and van then got a hood. Drove that one around a while and got the current truck. The lady sold her business and I bounced around a while finally settled on short haul stuff and have a van and flatbed and rent a hopper.

If you have a wife be very careful you dont lose her by staying gone too much. If youre going to own your own then keep your eyes open for new opportunities at all times. You never know when your customer will go out of business or change practices. You dont want to be left hanging.
 

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Missouri Outlaw
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19 Posts
I got lucky on the girl friend/wife part, we grew up together, her dad drove for my dad for years..i was driving when we got together...she goes with me alot too..loves gettin away from home from time to time..
 

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Highway to Hell
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1,022 Posts
Got my first "trucking" job at 18 working for UPS. at 20 I was working in construction. 21 Got my CDL to drive dump trucks. bought my own rig in 2005 I was 25 at the time Had my first house lived with my Girl had no kids. I work full time in racing driving all over north America. family had been in trucking from way before I was born so I had a early taste of it . Paid 3K cash for a old mack, flew out to K.C. in the morning, picked the truck up and was back in Chicago by 1 am that night. Got it home and started fixing her up. Im very good with wrenching and have my own tools. I did new brakes, tires, rebushed rears, painted the truck, I did alot of the work myself but had a good friends mack mechanic do some of stuff I had never done before. Such as the brakes and rebush. I paid cash for the jobs but also helped to learn how to do it the right way. this served well as I did the trailer brakes on my own in 2008. In 2007 I had worked a deal to buy a dump trailer. before I had my own trailer I was renting a trailer for the weekends or when I had a few days work. Again good help and deals from friends in the biz. the 2005-2008 years were very good to me. Even tho It was part time work the truck plates and insurance were paid for in a few weeks of hard work. after that it was all profit. I took home an extra 15K for each of those 4 years. not bad for part time weekend work. I had no car payments and little CC debt. I do everthing on my own. Im more of a weekend warrior but clearly see how things have changed. I have been fined, inspected,gotten flat tires out on the road. Its a tuff biz to get into because its always changing and getting cheeper with the rates. All I will say is start with a good used truck that you can work on and have people around you that can help you when you need it. just be ready to help them back when they need you.
 

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Junior Member
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320 Posts
Where were you living? Any kids? Single? What other debts did you have beside your truck and trailer? Did you have garaging? How much of your repairs did you do yourself? What were your capabilities? I'd really like to hear from the experienced crowd. Sometimes I think it's a bad idea to own my own truck (as much as I think I want to).
Well, we (just got married) were renting small apartment and had no debt at all - I bought new Peterbilt and run it like there is no tomorrow. When it was paid off, bought new Utility reefer an run it like before. As of today I wouldn't be able to pull this again, new trucks are way less reliable and there is not enough freight (means less money to make) to justify big payments on anything. Reality is ever changing, now it's all about keeping the costs as low as possible I think.

From what you are saying, your problem may you don't want to be O/O bad enough, it is important to be totally crazy about it as this career path is full of problems and hardships that being just a driver you will never even know of, I'm saying you and your partner need to be totally committed to jump into deep doo-doo. But when you work it out right - you both will be better off having own truck/trailer in the long run. Took us few really hard years but now I stay home whenever I want as long as I want, I don't have to deal with stupid people (bosses, dispatchers etc.) and when I finally leave I work in very comfortable conditions since my rig is loaded with anything I decided to put on.

It's all about working hard today to have better tomorrow, if you fail to fight for better future all you ever get is good past... :goodvsevil
 

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Junior Member
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273 Posts
i'm a third generation owner operator. i'm 27 now, and still have no kids, me and my girlfreind have been together for a fews years now. one of my first trucks was a 1985 cabover pete,witha big cam and i think i made more money with that truck than any of them. but you need to think about something economic and comfortable. i been around trucking all my life, and worked in a alot of truck shops. i been truckin since about 19 and i can say in just those 7 or 8 years, i have seen alot of change. remember, like the others said, KEEP YOUR OVERHEAD COST DOWN.dont jump a-hole deep in debt. esspecially starting out. get a cheap truck.trucking is very unpredictable always keep money back if ya can.if you cant work on it your self for the most part, then dont do it......just my opinion.
 

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Wanna be door swinger
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422 Posts
At the time I had been a company driver hauling iron for the past 6 years and I was looking to make the big switch. I was single and living in my own house at the ripe age of 25. My uncle wanted to buy a newer ride, but didn't like the deal the dealer was giving him on his trade. He offered the truck ('99 Freightliner) to me. All I had to do was pay him so much down ($3000) and take over the payments for the duration (2 years). I had it paid off within 2 years and a decent chunk in the bank. During this time I bought a new Reitinouer flat with a Tarpstop Fastrack system on it. At the time I was hauling machinery (CNC, CMM, and various other high dollar tools) with a occasional normal flatbed load thrown in. Three months later I traded the Freightliner in on a new '06 379 Peterbilt that I am happy to say is almost paid off. I didn't have a garage during any of this time (still don't), got married, had 1 little girl (2nd on on the way), a moved a house trailer onto 2 acres we got as a wedding present. I got a nice borther in-law that has a small 2 car garage where I keep my tools, parts, and various things. I do all of my own work unless it involves major engine work or if I don't have a specialty tool to do the job (this hardly happens anymore).

When I started I had about $4000 in debt thanks to a exgirlfiend with a pretty low credit rating. Since the beginning I have been able to improve my credit rating a little (I'm not to concerned about it at this time) and have started paying cash for everything I need or want. My wife and I have been through a lot like many other o/o families and we are proud to say that we have weathered the bad economy better than a bunch of them.
 

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Junior Member
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132 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Great replies. I should've clarified that I currently own a truck and trailer. It's a '93 379 day cab. 12/44s, 216" wb, 3406C, RTO15715 with a double frame and 2-line wet system. The trailer is a '98 Palmer 26' steel dump with a two-way gate. I've always loved trucks and dreamed of running my own since I was little. I'm doing snow removal with it now, and plowing with my pickup. Right now I'm also in the process of lining up work for the spring (no guarantees). I'm 26, single, and living at home, so I figured I'll only get a chance like this once. I do own both pieces of equip. outright, but I did borrow for working capital, so I am in debt. I can work on the truck, but I'm limited on tools (pricey) and I have no garaging. it keeps me from doing a lot on my own. The most technical repair I did was rebuild the fan clutch, after a friend helped me take it out. he also showed me how to do tires. I changed airlines, fluids/filters, sensors, changed the steering wheel, etc. I'm just not a master mechanic. Couldn't tell you what valve clearances my engine has or anything. Sometimes I just feel deterred due to lack of a place to work on my truck and not knowing how to fix everything. I want it bad, and am just hoping that the nerves and lack of workspace (especially in the winter) disappear in time. I've always loved trucks, but the excitement takes a back seat to nervousness and uncertainty. I hate crying to a mechanic every time I have a problem, but I can't work on this truck in 2 feet of snow! The only two things I've paid to have done, however, were a new rad. with a coolant flush, and the infamous 3406 exhaust manifold leak repair. Were you guys all master mechanics from birth? What are your tips for learning to do repairs on your own?
 

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Junior Member
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51 Posts
Like a lot of the guys on here I grew up in this business. I bought my first truck, a '80 model freightliner and a '95 model 24' hilbilt when I was 20. Its not as easy to get started now as it was then, but very doable since you don't have a lot of bills to pay.

My advice would be to start buying tools as soon as you pay off your loan at the bank. The absolute key to making money in this business IMO as others have touched on, is doing your own mechanic work. That alone makes the difference between just earning enough to get by and really earning a decent living.

Where ever you work that truck whether it be at a crusher or whatever there always seems to be two or three old guys hauling out of there that have been dump trucking for as long as you have been alive. They most likely have everything you need: A shop with tools, knowledge, and customer contacts. I would suggest you befriend one or two of them. Show them absolute respect at all times. Don't run around them trying to be the first to load and all that stuff. I have seen my dad help out a few young guys through the years and most old timers will help out a kid that always says yes sir and no sir and is trying to do the right thing.
 

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Member
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168 Posts
"I would suggest you befriend one or two of them."

NO! Befriend ALL of them. But just because youre friends doesnt mean you have to tell them all your business. Some things should be kept to yourself.

"Show them absolute respect at all times."

Everyone will be more likely to help and teach you if they know you truly value their opinion.
 

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Senior Member
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2,555 Posts
For the most part truck maintainance doesn't need to be done in a shop. keeping a truck and trailers up means doing real pre and post trip/job inspections and looking for any little thing , loose brackets, bolts, clamps hanging wires ETC . look the thing over like you are thinking about buying it.
If you can work close to home you know your fuel, where to get help when you need it. who you can trust to fix thing that you aren't comfortable with. You don't need to be able to do your own engine rebuild or be able to set gear patterns in a diff. And as said above make friends with some older guys they are still in bussiness for a reason, most will tell you that they don't make any money and are broke . look at other guys trucks some guys polish the chrome but let parts fall off, another guys truck might be faded and not so shiney but if the mechanical parts are looked after that is what counts. If you can't make your self lay on frozen ground to grease the U-Joints (a hired driver should never have to do this) you might not have the NEED to be an O/O
 

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Junior Member
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51 Posts
Flying pig makes a good point, its very important to get along with everyone. With that said, I have seen enough guys come and go during the time that I have been doing this to be very selective of who I would choose as a mentor.
Just because a guy owns a truck doesn't mean anything. There always seems to be one or two that have been around forever and are a little more successful than the others. I would look to them for solid time proven advice.
 

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Highway to Hell
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1,022 Posts
Good info from everyone. sounds like were all in the same boat. as far as learning how to do repair jobs. You cant read a book and then go do it. the book well tell you how it comes apart but getting to the part, removeing the part, and knowing what the part does is just a learning experince that you will only understand after you start tinkering with it. The book is a must for learning but its only 1/2 of the puzzel. Myself I have been taking apart lawn mowers, engines, and brakes etc... from as far back as 12 years old. Like everthing you start small and work your way up. I have never torn down a large diesel on my own but have helped many of times. For this when I needed to do injectors or check engine issues I know what to look for. Sounds like you have worked your way to sucess and your makeing your way. I am lucky to have made friends that allow me to use their garage for repairs. It comes at a cost of just helping them or running a load to keep them happy. I may do an oil change on theor rig just to show them Im thankfull for use of the garage. as with anything its the friends you make in the biz that make you or brake you. it can be the people that pay on time or just help with space to work on the truck.
 

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The other guy
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3,936 Posts
Wow this is a cool thread. Good reading and good solid info. Nice job guys!! I have mechs and drivers follow me around now and then to get the feal of things. Doesn't bother me a bit and feels good when they use the info to benefit themselves AND others.
 

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Senior Member
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4,827 Posts
Wow this is a cool thread. Good reading and good solid info. Nice job guys!! I have mechs and drivers follow me around now and then to get the feal of things. Doesn't bother me a bit and feels good when they use the info to benefit themselves AND others.
It was fun to help you put the injectors in my truck and shootin the chit. :happymugs And to watch you work. I'm in your shoes on my end teaching guys at work (including my boss) how to do things. I'm usually on the road, so I've had to explain things over the phone a lot. A O/O buddy of mine calls me all the time for tech support. Saved him a lot of money, too. :)





Started turning wrenches when I was 8 yrs old. 32 now, and it has served me well. Saved my boss 10s of thousands of dollars in repairs over the years. Not to mention, being able to usually repair any break downs I have OTR as well. Changed a water pump on the ISX in the T800 I used to drive in a parking lot in VA (100* on black asphalt) and had to drop the rear driveshaft on that same truck 2 weeks before that when I lost a u-joint in MO. Only 3 of 4 caps got grease. :wtf

Not an O/O myself, but I'm as close to being one as you can get, without actually owning the rig. Finding loads (though, I do have almost 300 contacts in my phone, and 95% are customers and fellow bullhaulers) and the bookwork on the office end (fuel tax reporting, etc) in the office is the only thing I don't do.

Do all the driving, repair work, and do have a pretty good idea what the truck makes on most of the loads when I know what the rate is on the load.

I try to treat the truck and the customers like I own the truck. Made quite a few good friends over the years that way. Had one buyer I used to haul for that had a farmer that always wanted to me to be the guy to haul his cattle when I could. Liked me pretty good. (I'm sure always being 1hr early helped too. ;) ) Especially on the chitty winter days.

I'm just a good ol' boy that loves trucks and driving. :D

Kenny Rogers said "If you have a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life."

I bust my arse, but for the most part it has been true. Just get paid to "play". :D :toytruck Get to run an awesome KW to boot. :D

Would LOVE to have my own rig. :peelout
 

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Junior Member
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114 Posts
Long story short...started at 19 dump trailerin for a small local company here in town, pulled anything between 22' and 39'...even did a stint on a pneumatic tank (hated it). Quit that, went to work for another guy for most of a year.

Decided at 26 that I wanted to buy my own, so I did. The banker was very suprisingly receptive to my aspirations...lol. So I took my new found cash and bought a 1997 Mack CH and a Hilbilt dump. Ran that, swapped the Hilbilt for an air-ride Pitboss. Sold the Mack in the summer of '10 and bought the 2000 378 I've got now.

As anyone full well knows, buying anything, especially used crap is never with out it's merrits-never ending crap to do on it. :gaah

I'll be the first to admit, I'm not the handiest when it comes to working on things, but I try and with some guidance I can do it. I farm with my dad, so there's a smallish shop to work in and a free place to park the truck otherwise.

I'm 30 now, not any smarter...with 2 kids-6yrs and 2yrs.

Only regret maybe is that I should've bought my own sooner.
 

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O'Skool Member
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579 Posts
First and last truck I bought brand new, a '96 FLD. 31 years old single, no rent, no bills. Had GF but lost her, never home. Drove big trucks for 10 years prior. Also had a well rounded assortment of jobs in construction, excavating, welding/machine shop for great experience.

I always took things apart to see how they work as far back as I can remember. Sometimes they didn't go back together.:confused:

One of the first things I did my truck was put on straights and Jake. I had garage to share where I kept my tools but truck was outside. I still have to work in a gravel driveway. My avatar is from last Feb. when I had the trans out for new clutch. Yeh the snow sucked. I had plywood set up to block the wind and snow.

I think all I need besides a roof is a gantry crane and some cylinder pulling tools. My goal after I pay off my trailer (9 more mos.) is to buy a few remote acres and build a nice roomy shop and frame off some living quarters. This renting is costing me a pile of loot.
 

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Member
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410 Posts
Started out 10 years ago at 53 years old. Saved money before I quit my job until I had enough savings to live on for the first year. Needed every bit of it! Bought an older, run down truck (88 Pete) with the right specs, had it inframed right off. Slowly went through it, front to back, as I could afford, to make everything like new. Took 6 years, now I wouldn't trade this truck for a new one. Especially now, with the help of people on this site I can do much more of my own work on the truck. I love being my own boss, even now when business is terrible in this area. The first 8 years business was good and we saved money and paid things off. Went to the Community College in the winters and took welding and auto electric classes on the weekends. Love to weld and fabricate new pieces as well as repair things for myself and other guys in the business. Except the ones who take cheap rates!

The first five years I had my truck/trailer I had no shop. Put up a tarp and worked on it in the gravel, flashlight, rain, etc., Told my wife as soon as the truck was paid for I was going to build a shop. Took 5 years and then built a 2000sq.ft. metal shop with insulation, heating, and lots of lighting.I love that shop!

Live on 10 acres outside of town so no complaints from neighbors and plenty of room to turn around, park trucks. Poured a small concrete pad (one wheelbarrow at a time) to pressure wash on. Good set up for an owner/op. The trees you see behind my truck we planted 22 years ago as seedlings. Put a border all the way around the property. Have two German Shepherds to keep things from disappearing.

I think everyone who complains about their wages or benefits should just quit and work for themselves for a year. End of story!
 
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