trucking industry in USA

Expert Tips How To Start a Successful Trucking Business

Trucking business is a big cake and you want piece of it. Your determination is great, but unfortunately not nearly enough.

There are many things to be considered before starting your own trucking company. Dealing with competition, costs and cash flow is something you’ll get on regularly basis. Other struggles will come along the way.

Can you manage all this and is it worth it?


But firstly, increase your knowledge about the industry, legal issues, and some other bits and pieces.

Let’s begin.

Trucking industry in USA

Shipping industry is huge. The extract from ATA reports for 2014 will give you the idea:

  • In USA, more than 68,8 % of all freight transportation, is done through motor carriers
  • Almost 10 billions tons of freight are transported by trucks
  • Motor carriers got 80% From all transport mode revenue, which is around $700 billion

To get the wider picture, look at the snippet of uShip’s infographic about trucking industry in USA referring to 2013.

Trucking Industry in USA

American Truckers Association’s Truck Tonnage Index is probably the best measure for shipping activity. It shows gross tonnage of goods or cargo shipped through motor carriers.

ATA Truck Tonnage Index

You can see that growth is mostly slower in first half of the year, but in third and especially in last quarter it’s rapidly increasing. It’s the case in most of the seasons.

Expect rising in coming years.

Last year, ATA Senior Vice President and Chief Economist Bob Costello said:

“We continue to see growth for the entire freight economy – but we also see that trucking will maintain its position as the nation’s dominant mode of freight transportation”

GE Capital’s survey from june 2015, is showing that more than a half of trucking business leaders were expecting industry expand.

According to ATA “U.S. Freight Transportation Forecast to 2025”, the overall freight tonnage will grow more than 23 percent from 2013 to 2025.

Total U.S. Freight Tonnage Will Grow

More ATA’s predictions include:

  • Trucking’s share of freight tonnage will grow from 69.1% in 2013 to 71.4% in 2025;
  • Truckload volume will grow 3.5% a year through 2019, then 1.2% annually from 2020 to 2025. Truckload carriers will make greater use of intermodal rail for intermediate and long-distance hauls.
  • Rail intermodal tonnage will grow 5.5% annually through 2019 and 5.1% a year through 2025.
  • Railroad market share will, however, shrink from 14.5% of all tonnage in 2013 to 13.8% in 2025.
  • Regional breakdowns of where freight moves in the United States.


In USA, every state has a website about commercial transportation, with updated information about licences, taxes, safety and other requirements. So visiting your state’s transportation website is a must-do activity.

Also, FMCSA offices will help you to meet the regulations.

Depending on your type of trucking business, SBA are highlighting these regulations as especially important:

One other thing to have in mind is a written contractual agreement . With it you should especially consider terms that can have more than one meaning. Define them and discuss with your customers before you sign anything.

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Finally, compliance professional is the best option for meeting all requirements

How to operate

Basically, two most commonly used ways are:

  • subcontracted drivers
  • privately owned drivers

In first option, instead of employing drivers you have subcontractors. It’s a much cheaper considering cutting down insurance costs, required equipment etc. However, you’ll have very little control over the drivers.

On the other hand, with your own equipment and employed drivers, you are running your business and have full control over the operations. Investments are required, but final results will depend mostly on your work.

Getting the right equipment

This is where you will invest the most. Very soon, you’ll get yourself into one standard dilemma: to buy or to lease the truck.

It’s hard to tell what is better alternative. It really depends on your position. Maybe, this brief comparison will help you in making decision.

Buying vs Leasing trucks:

  • Buying is simple. Leasing is more complicated
  • Buying requires higher payments. With leasing you avoid high costs.
  • If you are using loan for buying, truck stays yours after last payment. In some leasing options, you are using equipment as long as you are paying fee for it.

So, what should you do?

If you are still undecided, get help from CPA/PFS. In fact, this is probably the best way to reduce risk of making wrong choice. Their services costs, but it will cost you much more if you pick an alternative which you can’t deal with.

Insurance in trucking business

Every year you will be selecting the company and the policy to insure your vehicle. Narrow your choice to companies specialized for truck insurance, and if possible find specialists for your niche.

Once you’ve selected few options, compare them using reports from National rating agencies like The AM Best Company, Standard & Poor, Weiss Research and others.

What about coverage?


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Basic coverage include collision coverage (covers the costs of other vehicle from accident caused by your fault) and comprehensive insurance (covering the costs of repairs on your vehicle)

Specialized Coverage means choosing coverage for various of scenarios that could involve your vehicle.

Cargo insurance cost depends on the value of the property.

Securing workplaces

First of all, truckers have right to work safe. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulate workplaces where truckers deliver goods. Employers have to provide safe and healthful workplace.

For any doubts and questions, you can find and contact OSHA Offices in every state, or simply call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).

OSHA Offices by State

Getting started and finding first loads

Now that you have made up your mind, it’s time to start your own trucking company.



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