- Owner-operator truck drivers make 5% more per hour on average compared to company drivers, controlling for demographic factors, and tend to work longer hours, according to new research from digital freight broker Convoy.
- This pay difference amounts to about $1,900 per year, but there is a wide spread for owner-operators. "The very best owner-operators have the potential to earn a lot more per hour — and the worst owner-operators risk earning a lot less per hour — compared to company drivers," Aaron Terrazas, Convoy's director of economic research, wrote in a blog post.
- Owner-operators tend to work an extra 1.1 hours per week. This might not be the case going forward with the electronic logging device mandate in place closely tracking hours of service, Terrazas said.
Perhaps the most important reason owner-operators make more money is because they have the ability to pick the best routes and loads, Terrazas said.
The autonomy does come with risk, though. "The self-employed assume the risks of business investment, so when the business climate sours, their personal assets can be on the line," Terrazas wrote. "Owner-operators are more exposed to the ups and downs of the business cycle."
Owner-operators can be hit especially hard during recessions. Other costs for an owner-operator include the upkeep and maintenance of their truck.
The American Transportation Research Institute found average costs for the trucking industry increased more than 6% between 2016 and 2017 as a result of higher vehicle cost and rebounding fuel prices. Labor cost was also up, but this would affect larger carriers more than owner-operators.
The trend of owner-operators out earning company drivers has been evident over the last decade, according to Terrazas. But high earnings in "recent data reflect the tight freight market of the past few years," he said.