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How to Become an Owner-Operator of a Flatbed
Owner-operators can work with a variety of trucks and equipment such as flatbed trucks and trucks designed for long hauls or other road work. Flatbed trucks are most often used for short hauls that require quick loading or unloading, for carrying heavy or unusually sized objects, and in conjunction with railroad transportation. Becoming an owner-operator of a flatbed requires access to a flatbed truck. Whether you obtain one through rental, lease, or purchase, you also need to obtain the proper licenses. You also need the work experience that is required to obtain jobs from transportation companies that contract delivery services.
Learn how to operate a commercial vehicle. You can get training from a certified training school, consider individual training sessions or gain on-the-job training with a trucking company. Your training should focus on how to handle a flatbed truck in addition to standard semi-truck training.
Obtain your commercial drivers license (CDL). After your training is completed, apply and register to take your written and practical examinations. These are required for CDL certification.
Get commercial driving experience. Most contracting companies have minimum experience requirements for owner-operators. Often the requirement is 1 year of general trucking experience. For high-risk loads, however, some companies may require more than 1 year of specifically working with flatbed trucks.
Gain access to a flatbed truck. Some contracting companies provide flatbed trailers and require owner-operators to provide the truck; other companies require that you have both your own trailer and truck. You can obtain a truck and a flatbed trailer by purchasing new or used equipment, using short-term rentals or long-term lease agreements.
Establish your business. Being a flatbed owner-operator has inherent risks due to the nature of the work. Protect your personal assets and limit your liability by formally establishing your company. Consider incorporating as an S-corporation or other legal entity that will provide protection and may offer tax advantages. Obtain insurance on your trucking equipment, business liability insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. You will also need to set up a basic accounting system, business bank account, and a records management system.
Get flatbed trucking assignments. You can work with a single company that provides owner-operator contract work, companies that assign loads on an as-needed basis, or you can work with a freight broker who locates jobs for you. If you have time and the inclination, you can become your own freight broker. You can find loads yourself through industry contacts or online at websites such as FreightFinder.com and GetLoaded.com.