CDL Driving Choices: Being a Company Driver or an Owner/Operator (O/O)

CDL Driving Choices: Being a Company Driver or an Owner/Operator (O/O)

Let me talk you out of buying a tractor. (The power unit of a big truck is called a “tractor.”)

The Easy Start

Freshly graduated from driving school, finding an Over The Road (OTR) job will be easy.

The company will:

  • provide you with a tractor
  • assign you loads
  • take care of maintenance issues
  • replace tires
  • pay for fuel
  • contract with shippers for loads
  • dispatch a repair crew to your location, if you break down
  • pay to keep the tractor running
  • take care of all the paperwork
  • file the taxes on the equipment
  • pay you promptly
  • arrange for certificates and permits
  • contract with the state for authority to operate

If you are an Owner/Operator (O/O), you take care of all this stuff yourself.

Finance Company Pitches

When you are just starting as a professional driver, there will be a lot of opportunities to buy a tractor. Finance companies make everything sound so easy and wonderful. They have glossy brochures filled with rosy profit predictions. Just sign your name, and drive a brand new tractor off the lot.

Don’t fall for it.

Lease Here/Work Here

Never lease a tractor from the company that is providing your loads. I explain why not in a blog called

Bad Trucking Idea #2: Lease Here/Work Here.

Just Starting Out

If you have been driving professionally for less than 2 years, do not buy a tractor. When you have virtually no experience, you won’t know what you are looking at. You won’t know what you are getting into. You won’t know what sort of tractor you need.

Buying a Tractor Is a Million-Mile Commitment

A tractor is good for 1,000,000 miles. If you drive 10,000 miles a month (which is very easy to do), that is 100 months, or about 8 years. If you keep the tractor for 500,000 miles before selling it (which is normal), it is still a 4-year commitment—a commitment to something that you are still learning how to do.

Also, you might decide that you hate driving and want to stop after 12 months. If you own a tractor, you are stuck. You own a piece of equipment that needs to keep moving.

Pros and Cons of Being an O/O


  • You will make more money as an O/O—potentially a lot more money.
  • You have a lot more control over what sort of loads you carry.
  • You can fit out the tractor a lot nicer than what a company will pay for.


  • There is more paperwork.
  • A tractor costs money, even if it sits unused.
  • You have to keep the tractor moving all the time.
  • Finding the loads is up to you.
  • You will spend a lot of your “off time” working on the phone and working on the computer.

Final Advice

Be patient. Think about what you want in a tractor. Spend a couple of years learning how to be a driver, before learning how to be a business owner.

Still want to do it? Have a couple of years of driving experience? Then go for it.

Keep Reading