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  • Madeline Eby

What is the difference between owner-operator and authority?

In the world of trucking, there are terminologies that can sometimes cause confusion, especially for newcomers to the industry. Two commonly used terms are "owner-operator" and "authority." While they are related, they refer to distinct aspects of running a trucking business. In this blog post, we'll explore the difference between being an owner-operator and having authority in the trucking industry.


Being an owner-operator refers to an individual who owns and operates their own trucking equipment as an independent contractor. In this role, the owner-operator typically owns or leases their truck and assumes the responsibility for its maintenance, fuel, insurance, and other related expenses. They can work as independent drivers or hire additional drivers to operate their trucks under their authority.

Owner-operators have more control over their work and business decisions compared to company drivers. They have the freedom to select the loads they haul, negotiate rates with brokers or shippers, and determine their own schedules. This level of independence allows owner-operators to have a greater potential for higher earnings and the flexibility to tailor their business to their preferences and goals.

The Pros and Cons of Being an Owner-Operator

Pros of Owner-Operator

Independence and Control

As an owner-operator, you have the freedom to make business decisions and control the direction of your trucking business. You can choose the routes, loads, and schedules that align with your preferences and goals.

Increased Earning Potential

Owner-operators have the potential to earn higher incomes compared to company drivers. They can negotiate rates directly with brokers or shippers and benefit from any increases in demand or freight rates. With efficient business management, owner-operators can maximize profitability.

Tax Benefits

Operating as an owner-operator offers various tax advantages. You can deduct business-related expenses such as fuel, maintenance, insurance, and equipment depreciation, which can significantly lower your taxable income and result in potential savings during tax season.

Investment in Your Own Business

Becoming an owner-operator means investing in your own trucking business. While it involves an upfront expense to purchase or lease a truck, it is an investment in an asset that holds value and potential for long-term growth. As your business thrives, you can consider expanding your fleet, hiring additional drivers, or diversifying your operations.

Cons of Owner-Operator

Financial Risks and Expenses

Owner-operators bear the responsibility of covering various expenses, including truck maintenance, fuel, insurance, permits, and licensing fees. Additionally, there may be periods of slower business or unforeseen repairs that can impact cash flow. It's crucial to plan for these expenses and maintain a financial safety net to mitigate potential risks.

Administrative and Operational Responsibilities

As an owner-operator, you must handle administrative tasks such as bookkeeping, invoicing, record keeping, and compliance with regulations. Additionally, you'll be responsible for managing schedules, finding loads, and maintaining relationships with brokers and shippers. These added responsibilities can be time-consuming and require strong organizational and managerial skills.

Limited Time Off and Work-Life Balance

Running your own trucking business demands dedication and commitment, which can result in limited personal time and strain on work-life balance. Long hours on the road may impact family and personal life. It's essential to strike a healthy equilibrium and prioritize self-care and family time amidst the demands of your business.


Trucking authority, on the other hand, refers to the legal permission or authorization granted by the government to operate as a motor carrier or freight broker. Obtaining authority involves registering with the relevant regulatory bodies and complying with federal and state regulations.

Motor carrier authority grants permission to transport goods or passengers commercially. It involves obtaining a Motor Carrier (MC) number, which identifies the carrier in various official documents. It also requires compliance with safety regulations, such as maintaining proper insurance coverage, having a registered agent, and adhering to the Department of Transportation (DOT) rules.

On the other hand, freight broker authority allows individuals or companies to act as intermediaries between shippers and carriers. Freight brokers facilitate the connection between the two parties, arranging for the transportation of goods. They must obtain a Freight Broker (MC) number and fulfill specific requirements, such as obtaining a surety bond or trust fund to protect shippers and carriers.

While having authority is not exclusive to owner-operators, it is necessary for those who wish to operate as independent carriers or brokers. It enables them to legally engage in commercial transportation, negotiate contracts, and provide services to customers.

The Pros and Cons of Being an Authority Owner

Pros of Authority Owner

Expanded Business Opportunities

Having authority as a motor carrier or freight broker opens up additional business opportunities. With authority, you can contract directly with shippers and brokers, expanding your customer base and potentially increasing revenue.

Increased Flexibility

Authority allows you to have more control over the types of loads you haul and the locations you serve. It provides the freedom to make strategic decisions regarding the direction and growth of your business.

Potential for Higher Profits

Operating with authority can potentially lead to higher profits as you have the ability to negotiate rates directly with shippers and brokers. By building strong relationships and offering quality services, you can position your business for increased profitability.

Cons of Authority

Regulatory Compliance

Operating with authority requires adherence to various regulations imposed by governmental agencies, such as the Department of Transportation (DOT). Compliance can involve paperwork, safety standards, insurance requirements, and periodic inspections. Failure to comply with regulations can result in penalties or the suspension of your authority.

Administrative Burden

Obtaining and maintaining authority involves administrative tasks such as paperwork, licensing, and ensuring compliance. This administrative burden can be time-consuming and may require specialized knowledge or the assistance of professionals.

Increased Liability

With authority comes increased liability. As a motor carrier, you are responsible for the safe transportation of goods, maintaining proper insurance coverage, and ensuring compliance with safety regulations. Any accidents, damages, or liabilities can have significant financial and legal consequences.

Becoming an owner-operator in the trucking industry offers a unique blend of freedom, control, and potential financial rewards. However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges and risks. It's essential to carefully consider your personal circumstances, financial readiness, and entrepreneurial mindset before venturing into this path. By embracing the advantages and proactively managing the disadvantages, you can thrive as an owner-operator.

In summary, the key distinction between being an owner-operator and having authority lies in their respective focuses. Being an owner-operator primarily refers to the role of owning and operating a trucking business independently, whether as a driver or by hiring additional drivers. On the other hand, authority pertains to the legal authorization required to operate as a motor carrier or freight broker, ensuring compliance with governmental regulations.

Understanding the difference between owner-operator and authority is crucial for individuals considering a career in the trucking industry. By grasping these concepts, aspiring professionals can make informed decisions about their desired level of involvement, responsibilities, and the necessary steps to establish a successful and legally compliant trucking business.

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