How to Find High Paying Truck Loads

There is more to running a trucking company than simply owning some big rigs and scheduling loads. In truth, the trucking industry is incredibly competitive today. In order to survive in this industry, owners must be capable of performing an ongoing juggling act that involves maintenance and upkeep of vehicles, driver training, satisfaction and review, changing government regulations and ever-changing client needs. Each of these facets must be run well or the entire company might suffer. One way that companies can ease some of the burden is to carefully consider the type of freight they haul, as higher-paying loads and a healthy bottom line can lead to less stress overall.

What is a Basic Rate for Freight?

There is no such thing as a basic rate for the freight that trucking companies haul. This is because the nation’s economy is ever-changing. With each rise of fuel prices, prediction of driver shortage or new government regulation which must be followed, freight rates change. For instance, many companies incurred a new cost recently as they were required to forego paper logbooks for drivers, which have been standard in the industry for man years, and instead put computerized log systems, also known as ELDs, into each truck they own.

According to the FMCSA, the average cost per year for these systems will hover near $495 for each truck they are installed in. In January of 2018, the average rate for a refrigerated load had climbed by 18 cents making it to $2.66 per mile. Flatbed rate was a little lower at $2.39 per mile while spot vans were averaging only $2.26 per load. These rates alone mean little until they are compared to the average cost of running a truck or a trucking company.

Costs to Owners

Once again, the cost of owning and running a trucking company is not a simple thing. Fixed costs include things such as truck payments and insurance, office space, health insurance, and permits. Variable costs include items such as fuel, repairs, tires, taxes and lodging for drivers.

In 2018, the overall cost of owning a semi is said to be about $1.38 per mile. In short, it costs around $180,000 to own and operate a commercial truck each year. And when you really look at all these numbers, it is easy to see that getting top-dollar loads is important in order to stay in the industry.

Different Rates for Different Freights

So, is there a trick to finding the highest paying truck loads? The answer seems to be in qualifications and training. Those types of loads that are more difficult, hazardous or require special upgrades to the driver license frequently tend to pay more.

For instance, hauling materials that are considered hazardous, carrying livestock or even pulling a multi-level trailer full of new vehicles may pay more than a normal, everyday reefer load. Drivers who are qualified to pull flatbed trailers also tend to earn more, as the drivers must often help to tarp, chain or strap these large loads so that the items do not shift in traffic. Oversize flatbed loads requiring pilot cars to help move large items from place to place increase in difficulty, necessary skill level and also in rate of pay.

The location of a trucking company and where it is willing to deliver to may also have some impact on how much a load pays. For instance, most companies know that heading into a congested downtown city for pickup or delivery takes considerably more time and effort than delivery in a city that is less congested. Businesses in difficult or congested areas typically pay more per mile so that truck companies will be willing to deal with the hassle.

Find a System that Works

There are many kinds of load boards that help trucking companies match their drivers and equipment to appropriate loads.  Some of these are paid boards while others are free. In most of these systems, a trucking company can search for loads based on trailer type, load destination, pay per mile rate or even by specialty qualifications such as hazmat endorsement.

Some of these boards are set up to draw large trucking companies, while others are built to help find truck loads for owner-operators.  Finding a system that works best for your company, whether it is large or small, is imperative to your business’s success.

With so many of these load boards available, there is simply no reason to settle for the lowest pay on loads. Instead, figure out how you can set your company apart from others on the road. Offer incentives to drivers who are willing to get extra license endorsements, drivers who don’t mind climbing atop a load to properly secure and tarp it, drivers who have the patience to deal with inner-city traffic. Because once the word gets out that a trucking company is willing to go the extra mile for their clients – those higher paying loads tend to become more frequent and may even lead to long-term contracts in the future.

Tax Deductions for Owner Operator Truck Drivers

Tax deductions for owner operators reduce the amount of self-employment tax and income tax associated with the income reported to the IRS. Self-employed or statutory employees generally file tax deductible business expenses on Schedule C with reported income. Drivers should keep good records and receipts to substantiate any deductions taken.

What Type of Expense Can Be Deducted?

Expenses related to your business are typically tax deductible if you are self-employed. Here is a list of some of the items you might be able to deduct:

  • Vehicle expenses, such as tolls, parking, maintenance, fuel, registration fees, tires and insurance
  • Trade association dues or subscriptions to trade magazines
  • Flat-rate taxes
  • Travel expenses, if incurred while being away from your tax base
  • Licenses and regulatory fees
  • Specialized work gear, such as goggles, boots or protective gloves
  • Electronic devices, if only used for work
  • Sleeper berth equipment, such as an alarm clock, bedding, curtains, cooking equipment and first aid supplies
  • Work related fees for drug testing, DOT physical and a sleep apnea test (If required for work)
  • Fees paid to a dispatch service
  • Leasing costs

Don’t forget the standard deductions available to anyone, such as child and dependent care, lifetime leaning credits and the child tax credit.

Know Your Tax Home

To claim travel expenses, you must be traveling away from home. Typically, local drivers aren’t going to be able to deduct travel expenses, but it depends on a few factors. You should determine your tax home to calculate whether you’re traveling away from it or not.

Your tax home is the city or general area where you work, according to the IRS. For self-employed drivers, this is generally the base or dispatch center where you get assignments, not where you live.

The tax home includes the entire city or general area where the work is located, not just a zip code or neighborhood. A tax home is also the main place of business. If the nature of your business means that you don’t have a regular place of business, your tax home may be where you live.

For most drivers, the tax home is typically where a trip is begun and ended. If you are using a residence as your tax home, make sure that you can show you help maintain the property while you’re away from home. If you don’t maintain a home, you are considered a transient, which means you have no tax home.

To reiterate, you must substantiate your expenses. Keep your receipts and log book to validate the purposes of each travel expense. Back up your log books to ensure you have the information at your fingertips if you need it. Documentation requires time, date and place for each travel day.

Per Diem Expenses

While you can track each expense while you’re on the road, you may also use a per diem, which eliminates the need to prove the actual costs of your expenses when you’re away from home. However, you do need to prove you are working away from your tax base. The most current rates are listed in the IRS Publication 1542, Per Diem Rates. To claim the per diem rate, drivers must:

  • Itemize their tax deductions.
  • Have a tax home.
  • Be subject to HOS regulations.
  • Meet the overnight rule. Essentially, this means that a driver cannot complete a trip within a single day.
  • Maintain documents that they were away from home for every day a per diem is claimed.

Per diem covers meal expenses and incidentals, such as tips and fees. You should still keep receipts for hotels, showers, laundry and other costs. These expenses are deductible.

Maintaining Good Records

Self-employed truck driver tax deductions are a great way to help reduce your tax bill, but you do need to substantiate these expenses. Here are some suggestions to help you stay organized through the year:

  • Keep a file to sort receipts by month or by trip. Don’t just put all your receipts into a folder and expect to sort them out in January. Spend a few minutes each week organizing your information to be ready at tax season.
  • Store log books in the Cloud and on a hard drive. Dropbox and Google Drive are just two secure places to store your information.
  • Use an app to maintain receipts and trip information or make notes on each receipt to help you stay organized in case your filing system becomes messy.

Tax Rules Fluctuate From Year to Year

Be sure to check the rules at the start of the tax year to know the requirements and deductions you can take. This can help you get organized and not miss out on any tax breaks. For more owner operator tax tips, ask your tax professional to review your accounts.

Owner Operator Semi-Truck Financing

Getting a loan on a commercial vehicle can be a complex process. Lenders tend to be more lenient with semi truck loans, because the vehicle possesses high collateral value and is typically only used for business purposes. However, getting semi truck financing isn’t going to be a walk in the park either. You will need to show the commercial lender that you can make loan payments. Here are six things you can do to improve your chances of getting commercial truck financing:

1. Have a registered business.

Most states require an LLC or corporation to register through the Secretary of State. If  you are a sole proprietor, you should be able to show business income through your taxes. As a new sole proprietor, you may want to get an employer identification number (EIN) or have a doing business as (DBA) name. Your lender may also want you to have a CDL, a Motor Carrier (MC) number and USDOT number. Some lenders want to see some experience, at least two years, in the industry.

2. Work on your personal credit.

For new owner operator financing, you may need to have a personal credit score of 600 or more to qualify for financing. If you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you may have a little more leeway. As a sole proprietor, you are probably relying more on your personal credit than your business credit. The higher your score, the better chances you have to qualify for a loan and for a lower down payment.

If you have a lower credit score, you may want to find a co-signer or work on your credit score before applying for a loan. If you are behind on child support, have had a recent bankruptcy or repossession or have a tax lien, the lender may refuse financing. Take care of your finances before applying for a commercial loan.

3. Find a good truck to buy.

The lender may have specific requirements about the truck, for example, it may need to be less than 10 years old, or have less than 700k miles on it. This is to protect their investment as well as your business. Older trucks break down more frequently. The collateral value isn’t as high. However, provided the truck is in good condition, it’s easier today to purchase the truck through a private party or even an auction. Generally, you will need this information

  • Make, model, year and mileage
  • Serial number
  • Pictures of the truck
  • Condition report
  • Specifications of the sale, the seller, new or used truck, etc.
  • Check with the lender for everything you need to finalize the purchase

4. You will need money for a down payment and cash reserves.

Most of the time, you won’t qualify for 100 percent financing. Having a down payment of 10 to 30 percent will reduce your loan payment quite a bit and make the lender feel more confident in your ability to repay the loan. Your lender may also want to see a cash reserve of one to three months to cover repairs, insurance and expenses in case you have a slow month. It makes good business sense to have a little extra in the bank. You never know when you may have to wait for payment or have to take time off because you have the flu. Unexpected things can often upset your finances more than you realize.

5. Have insurance lined up.

Generally, you will need insurance to cover the truck before lender releases the money to pay for the truck. The type of insurance your business requires will depend on many factors, as does the cost of insurance. Make sure you have a policy lined up while you’re working with lenders.

6. Work with your lender.

Traditionally, owner operator loans were only available through financial institutions, such as banks or credit unions, but there are many more lenders in the marketplace today. Many online lenders have almost instant credit decisions, allowing you to have more options for commercial truck loans.

You may want to consider each company carefully before applying. First, lenders may have different qualification requirements. They may also specialize in different types of loans or only work with certain leases. Every lease application can affect your personal credit. Do your research first. Don’t just take the first approval you get. Read all the terms and conditions of the loan application before signing.

Enjoy Financial Freedom

Owning any type of business doesn’t mean that you will be free from responsibilities. You may not have a boss looking over your shoulder any longer, but your stakeholders will be expecting you to make payments on time. However, when you purchase your own new or used semi truck, you are on track to having financial independence. It will take hard work, but you can do it. Just make sure you take the time to understand the requirements of owning your own truck.