What Is an Independent Contractor?

Once you begin your truck driving career, you’ll want to decide whether you’d like to be a company driver or independent contractor.

  • Company drivers typically get paid on a cents-per-mile basis. At Prime, company driver pay is based on whether you drive in the refrigerated, flatbed, tanker, or intermodal division along with the route type (over-the-road, dedicated, or regional).
  • Independent contractors, also called owner-operators, typically earn a percentage of the freight bill for every load. You get to be your own boss and lease the truck of your choice.

If you have an entrepreneurial spirit and are drawn to the desire to manage your own business, you will probably choose the independent contractor route. Let’s take a look at some factors to consider in deciding whether this is the right move for you.

Advantages of Becoming an Independent Contractor

Greater earnings potential and freedom are some of the primary advantages of working as an independent contractor.

  • Earn more money. Owner operator earning potential is higher than that of company drivers. In addition, you may be able to enjoy some of the tax advantages of running your own business.
  • Choose your equipment. As an owner-operator, you get to select from a wide inventory of trucks, with a variety of colors, decals and features to choose from.
  • Be your own boss. Becoming an owner operator give you a greater say in the types of loads you run.
  • Time off. Want to attend that family wedding? Don’t want to miss your child’s graduation?  Want to take that Caribbean cruise you’ve been dreaming about for years? As an independent contractor, you have greater flexibility in terms of deciding when to take time off and how long you can afford to take off.

Independent Contractor Responsibilities

Along with greater freedom and earnings potential comes the added responsibilities that go with being your own boss. Here are some of the challenges you’ll want to prepare for if you’re ready to become an owner operator truck driver.

  • More decisions to make. As a business owner, you’re now responsible for more than just hauling cargo. You’ve got to handle financial, accounting, legal and marketing decisions.
  • Choosing the right trucking company. You want to work with a reputable carrier who will give you a strong freight network, customer base, and support team to run a profitable enterprise. When comparing owner operator trucking companies, look for competitive pay and incentives for independent contractors.
  • Time management. While you do get more flexibility to decide when to be off the road, you may need to spend some of that time on business-related matters, such as maintenance, repair, and record-keeping. Better yet, find a carrier that will offer assistance in those business-related matters to optimize your time and efforts.
  • Dealing with the unknown. You have to be prepared to deal with unexpected developments that may affect your business, like breakdowns, health issues, etc.

How Do You Become an Independent Contractor with Prime?

If you’re interested in becoming an independent contractor, here are some things you’ll need to know as you get started.

  • What are the minimum qualifications? To join Prime as an independent contractor, you must meet the following criteria:
    • At least 21 years of age
    • A valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) from your state of permanent domicile
    • A valid United States driver’s license for at least the past 12 months
    • Meet Homeland Security/Transportation Administration requirements
    • Able to obtain a US passport
    • Stable work history and good references
    • No record of abandoned trucks at previous employers
    • This is not a complete list of Prime’s qualifications. Apply online or contact Recruiting to see if you qualify.
  • What training is required? You must have a valid CDL and at least 6 months of recent driving experience before moving up to independent contractor status. If you don’t yet have your CDL, you can obtain one after completing the Prime Student Driver program. If you do have a CDL plus the required driving experience, you can start working right away. Prime guarantees at least $1,000 a week for your first 3 weeks on the job for experienced drivers.
  • How much money do you make? Prime pays independent contractors a percentage of each freight bill based on your driving division. Refrigerated and flatbed drivers each get 72% of the freight bill (the amount the customer pays Prime to haul the load), while tanker drivers earn 71%.
  • Are there any other perks? Prime offers many special incentives to help independent contractors become successful.
    • No money down, no credit check leasing option. Buying a semi-truck is expensive, especially for the independent contractor who is just starting his or her business. Prime lets you lease the truck of your choice through our Success Leasing standard lease program with no money down.
    • Customized trucks. Drive a truck in your favorite color, and choose from a range of decals to show off your personality while you’re out on the highway carrying loads. Prime offers Freightliner and Peterbilt truck model options. Create your own design for your truck by working with Stripes and Stuff in Springfield, MO.
    • State-of-the-art equipment. Prime offers quality trucks in excellent condition. Vehicles come packed with advanced technology, safety features and comfort. Features include sensor tracs, lane deviation warning systems, trailer tracs and more. All truck models are 2015 and newer. The average of Prime’s trucks is 1.5 years old.
    • Retention and Rewards Program. Prime Inc. and Success Leasing invest in your future by contributing $1,500 to your R&R account for each year you stay with Prime. Once you lease with Prime for 10 years, your money is vested through the program.
    • Fuel, tire and service discounts. Prime helps you manage the costs of keeping your truck fueled up and in good condition. Get access to special discounts at fuel stops and repair shops throughout the United States along with Prime’s 3 main terminals in Utah, Missouri, and Pennsylvania..
    • CDL instructor and trainer. Want to help new drivers launch their own careers and earn additional incentives? Owner-operators have the opportunity to become instructors or trainers and help mentor and train new drivers in the Prime’s Student Driver program.
  • How can you lease your first truck? When you’re ready to lease, your first stop is the Success Leasing office.
    • You’ll put your name on a list for a truck and browse through our available inventory.
    • Our Leasing Office will give you maintenance records for the truck you’re interested in and let you test drive it around the yard.
    • Once you’ve selected your truck, complete a truck inspection and submit it to the Maintenance Department, where our technicians will correct any issues that need addressing before the truck is cleared to drive.
    • Prime will draw up a contract for you to review and sign. Then you’re ready to hit the road as an independent contractor!
    • Once you have completed 4-6 weeks of leasing with Prime, sign up for the ACE (Associate Career Enhancement) 2 Class. This class is designed to help lease operators review and understand what it takes to be the most profitable and successful while hauling freight for Prime as an independent contractor.  


Do you want to learn more about becoming an independent contractor?

Contact Prime today to speak with a recruiter. We’ll answer your questions and help you launch your own exciting career in the trucking industry.

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