For the foreseeable future, people will continue to rely on trucks to transport nearly everything—making it a reliable industry in which to start a business. Whether you’re interested in starting a small operation and doing all the driving yourself or you want to launch an international trucking corporation with thousands of drivers, it all starts with the right business plan, and a specific sequence of initial steps.
Writing Your Business Plan
The first step of starting any business is formally writing a business plan. Your business plan will serve as the blueprint for your company, outlining your goals, describing your business environment, and detailing how you’re going to make money. During this process, you’ll identify your top competitors, your key strengths and weaknesses, and both your long-term and short-term goals. In the course of writing this document, you’ll be forced to research many different areas, including business expenses, competition in your area, and potential customers—all of which will eventually help you succeed.
Getting Your CDL
If you plan on doing any driving yourself, you’ll need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The requirements for getting a CDL will vary by state, but typically, you’ll need to meet a minimum age requirement, get a learner’s permit, pass written CDL endorsement tests, and take a CDL skills test. This test may include things like pre-journey safety inspections, as well as road tests and maneuverability tests.
Investing in Fleet Maintenance Software
If you plan on managing more than one vehicle, it’s important to invest in the right fleet maintenance software. Fleet maintenance software is designed to help you keep better track of your company’s vehicles, maintaining them and inspecting them on a regular basis. Once in place, you’ll have a much easier time scheduling, launching, and documenting your vehicle maintenance—and you’ll be able to track your expenses and inventory as well.
Legally Establishing Your Company
Once you’re ready to make your business official, you can legally establish your company. Depending on your goals, you may want to start a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation. Either way, you’ll need to get a federal tax ID number (aka an employer identification number, or EIN). Once you have the paperwork in place, you’ll be able to open a business bank account, take out a business loan, and undertake other efforts on behalf of your business.
Acquiring Other Licenses and Permits
Hopefully, you’ve already got a CDL for yourself, but you may need additional licenses, permits, and credentials before you can operate your trucking business. Note that each state and each local area around the country may have an independent set of requirements for trucking and transportation, and you’ll need to do your research to determine your exact needs.
However, there are some federal-level requirements that almost every trucking company will need, such as:
- USDOT Number. First, you’ll need to have a USDOT number, which you’ll provide for inspections, audits, investigations, and other official matters related to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
- International Registration Plan (IRP) registration. Once registered, you’ll be able to place IRP insignia on your trucks.
- Motor Carrier Operating Authority (MC) Number. You may also need multiple MC numbers, depending on how you operate.
- International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) registration. You’ll also need to get IFTA decals for all your trucks.
Purchasing Your Equipment
At some point, you’ll need to purchase your equipment, including your trucks, warehouses, and workshops. You’ll need to choose whether to buy or lease your equipment, and whether to buy new or used. If you’re struggling with a tight budget, you may need to seek funding or financing from an outside source.
Also, don’t forget about insurance—it’s vital if you want to remain legally compliant and protect your investments.
Good businesses keep strict accounting practices, both to manage profitability and to prepare for taxes. If you’re not familiar with accounting best practices, or if your operation is suitably large, you’ll need to hire an accountant to help you here.
Growing Your Business
From there, you’ll probably want to grow your business.
- New customers. Use marketing and networking to find new prospects and bring them on board as clients. You can also expand your range of potential customers, seeking new types of partners.
- New hires. You can also expand operations by increasing your total volume. To do this, you’ll need to hire new drivers and invest in new equipment.
- New areas of operation. You may also be able to explore new areas of operation, such as transporting goods in other ways.
Starting a successful trucking company isn’t easy, but if you take your time and do your research, you can significantly increase your chances of making a profit. With so many options for your trucking company, and no sign of falling demand, the odds are on your side.