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There are over 3.5 million truckers in America, and 3.5 million great trucking stories. This one is about Bojan, check it out!
“Freedom and money.”
That is how trucker Bojan Sinanovic answers the question, “What do you like best about being an owner operator?”
It sounds pretty enticing. Who wouldn’t like their job to offer not one but both of these elusive qualities?
But Bojan would be the first person to caution that not everyone is cut out for this particular trucking lifestyle. “You have to be responsible, smart, and careful,” he says. “You have to be good with deadlines, taxes, planning, and communication.” And all of this is in addition to learning to drive and maintain your truck.
As it turns out, Bojan has these qualities, so it didn’t take him long to discover his ideal career.A Move To The U.S.—And Into Trucking
Originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bojan, 38, moved to the U.S. with his family when he was about 18. He attended college, then worked several years as a telecommunications specialist at AT&T. Eventually, Bojan couldn’t help but notice his cousin and some friends who were truckers made a lot more money than he did in his 9-to-5, in-the-office gig.
“I went on the road with them a couple of times,” and liked it so much, he says, “I took a four-hour truck-driving class on a Thursday, passed the certification test the following Saturday, and started driving on Monday.”
That’s a pretty quick turnaround, but Bojan explains, “trucking was second nature to me from the get-go. Not everyone is like that, and not everyone is lucky enough to start as an owner operator without any experience right away. But I was one of the lucky ones.”
Indeed. He immediately bought a 2006 Volvo and signed a contract with a small, local company—thus putting both his truck and career in high gear. Sure, he knew he could land a company driving job anytime, “but on average, as an owner operator, you make twice as much as company drivers do,” he says. “Plus, you make your schedule, choose your routes—local, regional, or over-the-road (OTR)—and choose your free time. It’s that simple.”
It was that simple for him because he understood the tradeoffs. He knew that to make top dollar, he would be away from home a good amount of time, at least at first. He knew he would have to pay for everything—health insurance, truck maintenance, vacation time, the whole gamut.
“None of these elements came as a surprise to me,” he says. “I did my research. I knew the risks, and I took them with a clear understanding and acceptance.
“Most of the time, I really like my job.”Settled Into The Owner Operator Life
Bojan now has a contract with a regional trucking company in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he works a combination of regional and occasional OTR runs.
The company finds his loads and takes a percentage out of every paycheck for that service, he says, “which works perfectly fine for me. I have the freedom to choose the loads I want, and freedom to reject the ones I don’t. I can take a vacation or sick time any time I need or want. Being an owner operator certainly gives you that freedom.”
Still, as you likely heard at one point in your life from parents, bosses, teachers, or that older brother, freedom comes with responsibility—which brings us back to insurance, truck repair, and vacation. Sure, Bojan says, “you can take 25 vacations a year if you want to, but no one will reimburse you for your truck maintenance, health issues, or any other expenses.”
About six years ago, Bojan did work as a company driver for a short time, due to various family challenges that required him to sell his truck and switch to the less-free trucking lifestyle.
One benefit of being a company driver is that the company handles all the details, he admits. “All you have to do is drive.” But after about a year, he was able to return to his former trucking freedom, so he bought a 2007 Volvo, “and there I was again: ‘Captain’ of my own truck.”
And Captain of his schedule again, which his wife likely applauded as well.Even Owner Operators Can’t Have It Perfect
As for the business of trucking in general, Bojan remarks that Hours of Service (HOS) regulations could use revision, and that the trucking industry in general is one of the most regulated in the U.S.
Staying in good shape also can be a challenge. “Yes, you can cook,” he says, “and you can bring precooked meals from home, as I do regularly, but if you’re on the road more than six days at a time, you will run out of healthy options.
“Truck stops should make changes to accommodate truckers with healthier food choices.”Considering Your Own Truck?
If you’re considering becoming an individual owner operator, Bojan has some advice:
First, he says, “know what you want and have realistic expectations. If you want to earn a lot of money and get experience right away, OTR is probably the best option. If you want to work local and be home every day, that’s fine too, but you’ll make less money.
Next, “do your research about everything: the company, the lease, if you decide to go down that path, and about the industry itself. Learn some basics about mechanics and the trucks. Listen to every noise, recognize any difference, and don’t let mechanics take advantage of your ignorance.”
One common misconception is that owner operators spend most of their money on truck repairs. “Yes, you are responsible for these costs,” Bojan says, “but if you maintain your truck well and don’t let little issues develop into monstrosities, you’ll make a great living.”
Finally, and perhaps most important: “Don’t buy a brand new truck,” he says. “They have lots of issues with DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) and electronics. Try to involve someone you know who has knowledge and experience about buying a vehicle.
“Once again, knowledge is power.”
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