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If you want to be an independent trucker, or owner-operator, you must have a truck. It doesn't have to be a fancy big rig; independent truckers are employed to move a load from one place to another, and any type of truck with hauling capacity can earn money. Becoming an independent trucker requires a thorough understanding of the business, from packing loads properly and truck maintenance, to knowing which loads have the best earning potential. Having previous trucking experience is recommended before becoming an independent trucker.
Enroll in a truck driving academy. Truck driving schools are a good way to learn the trade, even if you are already an experienced truck driver. Many school curriculums include classes on the business of truck driving, specifically designed for those going into the independent field. Topics of interest include: documentation and handling of cargo, as well as trip planning and department of transportation (DOT) rules. Truck driving schools are located throughout the country, and you can found them online or in the phone book.
Get your commercial drivers licence, or CDL. All truck drivers are required to have a CDL to operate vehicles with excessive weight. Although each state's laws may be slightly different, they all follow the same general requirements. Testing is thorough, and touches every area of truck driving equipment and safety, and includes a road test. Most States require CDL holders to be 21 years old, but some states, such as Connecticut, allow 18-year-olds to drive within state borders only (Reference 3).
Apply for the proper permits. Being an independent truck driver requires special permits and licenses. A U.S. DOT number is required for all trucks hauling interstate, and each individual state DOT requires a number for trucks licensed within that state's borders. Special permits are required for hauling restricted items, such as hazardous waste and fuels. Contact your state DOT and the U.S. DOT for forms and information. Websites such as Permits Plus offer links and registration services for trucking permits.
Get the proper insurance for your truck. Rates vary on truck insurance, with vehicle size and the type of load carried figuring into the rate. Insurance is vital in the trucking industry, as trucks can cause a lot of damage. Also, bonding may be required to insure loads being carried.
A native of New Haven, Conn., Floyd Drake III began writing in 1984. His work has appeared in the "New Haven Register," Medford's "Mail-Tribune" and the "Ashland Daily Tidings." Drake studied journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. After working as a reporter in Oregon, he is now based back home in New Haven.