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Fleet Driving vs. Owner Operator: A Detailed Comparison

When it comes to truck driving jobs, there are two primary ones that you can take. Either you can work for a carrier fleet as a company driver, or you can own and operate your own rig. There are benefits and downsides to both, so if you’re interested in entering the industry, it’s imperative that you understand the ins and outs of each kind of job. Fortunately, we are going to run through all of the details for you right now.

In many cases, what happens is that truck drivers’ move between operating a company vehicle to owning their own rig. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that it’s better to get trained by a corporation first before jumping into becoming an owner/operator. Also, some fleets allow you to lease your rig so that you can still get work without having to scrounge for jobs yourself. Here is a breakdown of the differences between these two career options:


  • Fleet: The nice thing about being a company driver is that you start and end at the truck terminal. Once you leave the keys in the ignition, your responsibilities are over. This is why it’s a perfect starting position as you don’t have to worry about truck maintenance or extra costs.

  • Owner/Operator: Everything is paid for by you, including fuel and other expenses. If anything breaks down, you’re the one that has to fix it. As such, you’ll spend a lot of your downtime working on the truck.


  • Fleet: Considering that there is a shortage of truck driver jobs in the US, many fleets offer extensive paid training for their new drivers. So, you can earn money when cutting your teeth on the road, which is a huge bonus.

  • Owner/Operator: Hopefully, you will have a few years of driving under your belt before becoming an owner so that you can see what it’s like. But, if you want to drive for yourself, things like booking jobs and negotiating rates are all up to you to learn on your own.


  • Fleet: With a company job, your paycheck is all your own. Hence, it can go towards all of your home bills and such, rather than having to reinvest it back into your truck. Also, if your rig breaks down or has problems, you don’t have to cover the costs out of your own pocket.

  • Owner/Operator: As we mentioned, you have to pay for everything that goes into the truck, including any repairs or upgrades. This will come out of your pay, so you have to budget for things like that. Nonetheless, owners usually make a lot more than fleet drivers since they are paid for everything, including waiting.

Changing Jobs

  • Fleet: Since you haven’t put up a huge investment in a truck, you can easily switch between companies as you like, or leave the industry altogether if you decide to go that route. Again, due to driver shortages, you should have your pick of the litter when choosing a carrier fleet.

  • Owner/Operator: if you want to get a new rig or you’re tired of driving altogether, then hopefully you’ve paid everything off, and you can find a buyer. In some cases, you might be able to sell it back to a carrier fleet for a nominal price, but if you still owe money, you’re kind of stuck.

Work Hours

  • Fleet: When you drive for a fleet, you experience something called forced dispatch. This means that the company sets your route and your deadline regardless of your input or how you feel. Because it’s more cost-effective to have trucks run at all hours of the day, you should plan on being on the road almost as much (if not more) than you’re off of it.

  • Owner/Operator: You choose your own schedule, so you can avoid nights and weekends if you don’t want them. Usually, owners can still make enough money while picking a decent schedule. You can also take time off easily.

Pay Rate

  • Fleet: One of the most significant downsides is that fleets only pay by mileage. That means that all of your time spent waiting in transit centers or taking breaks is unpaid. Also, you’ll have to take longer trips to earn more money, which means longer hours. Usually, truckers will spend anywhere from 15 to 25 hours waiting per week, all of which is unpaid.

  • Owner/Operator: You negotiate your own rates, so you can get paid for waiting and load times as well as mileage. This is why most drivers switch to ownership because the overall pay rate is much more (although still less than you deserve).

Slip Seating

  • Fleet: Since it costs more money to clean the trucks between drivers, most of the time you have to pull into a rig that was just vacated by the last guy inside without any inspection or clean up. This can be a hazard if the previous driver was a slob, and if there’s any damage that wasn’t reported, you have to take care of it on your shift.

  • Owner/Operators: You never have to worry about this since you’re the only one driving in your rig.


  • Fleet: Company drivers have to accept whatever option they’re given. Most fleet vehicles are barebones rigs, meaning that you will have to bring some extra equipment with you, such as seat covers, food, and other essentials.

  • Owner/Operators: As you earn more money you can invest into your truck by upgrading things like seats and climate control. Also, you can typically bring passengers with you while you drive, which can make the experience even more enjoyable.

Bottom Line

  • Fleet: For those who want to earn a paycheck without investing a lot of money, driving for a company is worthwhile. Although you do have to work longer hours and you wind up making less than an owner, it can still be a lucrative career option. This is the best way to start your career, even if you plan on becoming an owner in the future.

  • Owner/Operator: Any truck driver that plans on driving for the long term will most likely become an owner since it offers more freedom. Overall, if you’re settled on truck driving as being your career of choice, being an owner is the best way to go.

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