December 15, 2020
Success comes from hard work, and some of the hardest work -- and biggest success -- in trucking happens when people become owner-operators. I suspect that most truckers at some point consider becoming their own bosses -- if so, you should begin thinking about it early in your trucking career.
In this case, “early” means during your first week at your CDL training school in Tacoma -- or wherever you live. While being an owner of a small business -- which is what an OO is -- is not for everyone, if you think you might want to follow that route, you have to start early.
Don’t hesitate to ask your instructors about being an owner-operator. Include the information in your memory bank, and use what you learn to keep your eyes open during your first years of your trucking career -- you won’t move to owner-operator for some time.
During those first years, also, keep an eye open for potential niches for your trucking business when you open it. Niche markets and business are the clear, fast road to success.
A niche market is simply a specialized market. People in niche markets have very specific needs and expectations, and frequently there’s not a high demand for the niche.
Many industries have niche markets. In every mall or downtown, you’ll see a variety of retail stores catering to niche markets. If you walk by “Country Florist”, you won’t expect to see children’s toys in the window. They’re in a niche market.
Trucking niche markets are generally created, not found. You will have to find what seems to be an underserved speciality to make it happen.
One example of a niche truck market is delivering logs from a logging company in one state to a port in another. Assuming you and your vehicle are cleared for port access, you might be able to make multiple deliveries in this niche each week, and spend most of the nights at home.
As I said, you’ll probably need to create your market -- you don’t want to be “all things to all people”. It’s just not possible. So you should think through the following ideas as you observe the trucking industry while planning your move to owner-operator. They’ll guide you into your niche.
Having port access to the ports near you is important. Each port will have its own rules, but if you are able to deliver and load at the port, you have access to more possible niches. Remember they need you as much as you need them -- perhaps more. Having the ability to cross the border into Canada opens up opportunities to create niches. Your broker will be able to find you more loads, in both directions -- as will you if you’re operating under your own authority. Add endorsements to your CDL. HazMat, tanker, and double/triple combinations are all endorsements which increase your flexibility and therefore the niches in which you can find success. Locating the significant rail yards and the shippers who work with those yards can bring you success. Many, of course, are served by many truckers, but they can provide a lot of business if you impress them with your diligence and effort.
What are some examples of trucking niches?
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box as you’re developing your business plan. Here are some ideas for you to ponder.
You can’t be all things for all people. I know that during your early years, you’ll be hauling for anyone, to anywhere. But during this time, you should keep your eyes open -- find possible niches whether you want to be an owner-operator or not, but especially if you do. Your training for your CDL should help you
Even if you don’t want to be an owner-operator, looking for niches can work for you. Some companies may be in a niche which works for you, and you’ll get many of the same benefits a niche market brings you.
Your niche can lead you into a very happy and successful career in trucking. Finding a niche is crucial for owner-operators, and as you’re developing your plan to become one, think through the niche you can create for yourself.