If you are looking to start a trucking business, but don't know where to begin, you are in the right place.
In this article, we are going to discuss the best trucking businesses to start. We will group these businesses based on different kinds of trucks, including semi-trucks, box trucks, dump trucks, and vans (both cargo and passenger vans). I will include key information about the business, such as how much it costs to start, how much money you might make, and what you need to do to get started.
So whether you want to go big and start a long haul transportation business with your semi or a open up a local delivery business with your cargo van (or anything in between), we've got you covered.
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The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not a recommendation to buy or invest, and it is not financial, investment, legal, or tax advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified professional before making any investment or other decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
What is a Trucking Business?
Before we dive into the various types of trucking businesses, I think it's helpful to understand what a trucking business is (including its various forms). A trucking business is basically a transportation business that you operate with a truck. This includes any business that delivers goods (freight) or passengers from one location to another.
Some trucks are better suited to transport cargo while others are perfect for delivering groups of passengers. You should make sure you get the right truck for the type of business you want to run. Of course, we'll cover that too.
Without further ado, let's get into it.
Semi-trucks are the largest, most expensive, and most challenging types of trucks to operate. You have certainly seen these on the road, so I won't go into great detail on what they are. Semi-trucks require a commercial driver's license (CDL) to operate and are almost exclusively used for long distance hauls.
How Much Do Semis Cost?
A new semi-truck can run you between $130,000 to $200,000. A used semi-truck is much cheaper and can be purchased for as little as $30,000 (but even used semi-trucks can be priced as high as $180,000, depending on the year, make and model). Source
But buying is not your only option – if you qualify, you can also lease a semi, which can be an attractive option if you don't have a lot of money to begin. By the way, leasing is an option for all of the vehicles we discuss in this article.
There are some powerful advantages of leasing, including lower start up costs, fewer repair and maintenance costs, and greater ability to scale your business.
Speaking of maintenance and repairs, you will want to keep in mind that fixing and maintaining semi-trucks can be expensive (much more so than they would be on a standard car or truck, for example). It's definitely something you should budget for when planning your business.
How Much Money Can a Long Haul Trucking Business Make?
A long haul trucking business can be profitable if managed correctly.
According to CTA Trucking (a long haul transportation company), the average gross of most of their trucks is between $4,000-$10,000+.
They state that an owner operator may take home around $2000-$5000+ weekly. That translates to between $104,000 – $260,000 if you work all 52 weeks.
What Type of Trucking Business Can I Run with a Semi-Truck?
Generally speaking, semi-trucks are used to haul freight across sizable distances. When most people think of a trucking business, a fleet of semi-trucks transporting long hauls is what typically comes to mind.
Long Haul Trucking Business
Long haul trucking (also known as “over-the-road” or “OTR” trucking) is a business where your trucks deliver freight over long distances (usually 250 miles or more). The payment for delivering these types of loads is typically higher than for shorter distance jobs.
That's the upside.
The downside is that OTR trucking can require drivers to be on the road for weeks. That can be exhausting, isolating and sometimes dangerous for drivers. This can make finding good, safe and reliable drivers a challenge because they will be in short supply and high demand.
You can, of course, become an owner-operator of a semi-truck and make the deliveries yourself. In order to do this, you will need a CDL (if you don't already have one) and will also need to meet various legal requirements.
If you want your own trucking authority (which you will need if you operate a semi and want to engage in interstate transport), you will need to apply to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for a Motor Carrier (MC) Number. It costs around $300 and they have a 21 day vetting process.
You will need to make sure you have appropriate insurance in place and file a BOC-3 form, which basically appoints a service of process agent in the states in which you will operate.
You will also need a Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) if you are transporting cargo across state lines. Additionally, if you operate across state lines and meet certain other requirements, you may need a US DOT number and an International Registration Plan (IRP).
It's a lot of paperwork to be sure (and getting your own truck in the first place is no easy thing), but the rewards can be worth it.
Remember that this is not uncharted territory. Plenty of drivers and entrepreneurs have taken the plunge to start their own trucking business and been successful, growing their trucking business from one truck to a fleet of trucks in a relatively short amount of time.
Short Haul Trucking Business
If long haul trucking isn't for you, you can start a short haul trucking business.
This type of business generally focuses on shorter routes (150 miles or less). Although you generally may not make as much as a long haul business, the more manageable distances allow you (or your drivers) to come home every night. That's a huge selling point if you want to recruit drivers and it can also make things simpler for you if you are an owner-operator.
How to Get Started
If you want to learn more about starting a trucking business with your semi, check out my article on how to start a trucking business with just one truck. It's perfect for anyone who wants a step-by-step guide on how to start a semi-trucking business. We talk about how to set up your business entity, the best way to get loads, and much more.
Box Truck Businesses
If you want to start with something a little less intimidating (and less expensive), a box truck business may be the right type of trucking business for you.
What is a Box Truck?
A box truck (also known as a straight truck, box van or cube van) is a truck that consists of a chassis cab truck with an enclosed rectangular cargo area. Box trucks are usually 10–26 feet long and can range from Class 3 to Class 7 (12,500 lb. to 33,000 lb. gross vehicle weight rating). Source.
They often have a roll-up door (similar to a garage door) at the back that gives you access to the cargo area. If you've ever rented a decent sized U-Haul or Penske, you have driven a box truck.
How Much Do Box Trucks Cost?
New box trucks range between $25,000 to $45,000 for a light duty class 2 or 3 truck. But if you buy a larger box truck, you will need to pay more.
Below is a breakdown of new box truck costs by size.
|Box Truck Size||Box Truck Price Range|
|Light duty class 2 and 3||$25,000-$45,000|
|Medium duty class 4||$35,000-$50,000|
|Medium duty class 5||$45,000-$70,000|
|Medium duty class 6||$50,000-$90,000|
Of course, there are far cheaper options.
If you want to stick with buying your own truck, you can buy a used one at a big discount. Used box trucks with 200,000 miles can go for as little as $5,000 – $10,000. Of course, newer, lower-mileage trucks will cost more, with prices ranging between $10,000 – $40,000, depending on age, mileage and condition. Source.
How Much Money Can a Box Truck Business Make?
According to Ziprecruiter, the national average pay for a box truck owner-operator is $110,275 per year, which translates to around $53 per hour. But the range can be from as low as $23,500 to as high as $293,000!
How much you make will vary based on a lot of factors, including how many loads you deliver, how well you manage your expenses, and where you operate.
What Type of Trucking Business Can I Run with a Box Truck?
Box trucks are ideal if you want to cover the “less than truckload” sector, which has been expanding with the expansion of e-commerce.
They can deliver packages, furniture, bulk food items, and other cargo that needs local delivery. Box trucks are perfect for these tasks because they are designed to navigate urban areas but have enough cargo space to handle relatively large shipments.
Unlike a semi, you can operate a box truck (if you choose the right type), without a CDL.
Here are some businesses you can easily start with a box truck:
This one is self-explanatory, so I won't get into it. Many moving companies use box trucks for local moves. You will need at least one other person to help you move items and will need to look into state and local rules around operating this business.
Local Delivery Business
There are plenty of companies and manufacturers that need local deliveries made all of the time. Whether it's supplies, medical equipment, or appliances, you can certainly fill that need with your box truck. Sites like GoShare can connect you to people or businesses that may need these types of deliveries.
Regional Trucking Business
If you own a larger box truck capable of handling big loads, you can operate a freight transport business specializing in regional deliveries.
Box Truck Rental Business
This is a bit of a twist on your standard trucking business. You can rent out your truck to companies or individuals that need it. Check out Fetch – they are an online platform where you can rent out your box truck (it must be under 12 feet in length and less than 10 years old).
There are other great strategies for renting out your box truck (as well as other types of vehicles). If you want to explore this topic in more detail, check out my full article on How to Rent Out Your Truck For Profit.
Mobile Billboards Business
This strategy is a bit off the beaten path, but if you buy a box truck that is suitable for mobile advertising, you can get contracts from companies that want to advertise on the side of your box truck.
After all, it's a huge amount of space that gets a lot of visibility, especially if you drive around during peak hours on busy roads. Plus, most people ignore or gloss over static billboards, but mobile billboards are still new enough that they draw eyeballs.
If you want to learn more about this mobile billboard strategy, including a step by step guide to start this type of business, check out my article on the topic.
Did you know that you could buy a FedEx delivery route that covers a designated territory?
This means that you will make money for each delivery made within that territory. The best part is that you don't have to worry about getting contracts for your box trucks. FedEx handles all of that because they give you packages every single day – all you have to do is make sure they all get delivered on time.
It can be a highly profitable business and, if you structure it right, it can run itself. Once you have a manager and reliable drivers, the day-to-day operations of this business can be run without your involvement.
If you want to learn how to buy a FedEx route in 5 easy steps, check out my article on the topic here.
How to Get Started
If you want a complete guide to starting a box truck business, check out my article that takes you step-by-step through the whole process.
Dump Truck Businesses
Another great trucking business that allows you to come home each night is a dump truck business. What I like about this business is its versatility – you can service a variety of industries with your dump truck.
How Much Do Dump Truck Costs?
A new dump truck starts at roughly $100,000, but can often cost around $150,000. Higher-end models (e.g., Kenworth) can start at $180,000 or more. Source
A used dump truck will be much cheaper, with prices ranging from as low as $15,000 to $100,000. Source
How Much Money Can a Dump Truck Business Make?
According to Payscale, a dump truck owner-operator can make between $39,000 to $200,000, with the average base compensation landing at $97,174.
That's a large range and there are many factors that impact how much you make, including the location you service (some regions are more suited to dump truck businesses, such as those located close to mining operations, areas that are experiencing a boom in construction activities, etc.)
What Types of Businesses Can I Start with a Dump Truck?
Service the Construction Industry
You can focus on providing dump truck services to the construction industry. You can reach out to construction companies and developers, landscapers, and other businesses that need raw materials, gravel, dirt and other items delivered to and from work sites.
Snow and Waste Removal
You can also provide snow and waste removal services. You can offer these services to local governments, companies and individuals. For example, HOAs always need snow removal services during the winter and these jobs can be very lucrative.
Junk Removal For the Retail Sector
You can also offer your dump truck services to homeowners and house flippers who need to dispose of a lot of junk from residences. It's a bit of a different business model because you are going to be marketing to the general public, but it can be a great way to build up your dump truck business.
How to Get Started
For full step-by-step instructions on how to start a dump truck business, check out my beginner's guide on how to start a dump truck business.
Now let's turn to vans. You are really looking at two types of businesses when it comes to vans: (i) cargo transport and (ii) passenger transport.
If you want to deliver goods, you will need a cargo van. Cargo vans are perfect vehicles to transport goods around urban centers. They are easy to drive, easy to park, and can fit a fair amount of cargo. They can also be ideal for small moving jobs.
If you want to transport people, you will be getting a passenger van.
Passenger vans share many of the same characteristics of cargo vans (similar in price, size, drivability, etc.), but they come with several rows of seats, which allow you to transport people in comfort. You see passenger vans often operating in group taxi or bus charter services.
Passenger vans are common for “shared ride” passengers who are going to (or coming home from) the airport. These vans drive groups of unrelated people who are going in the same general direction. Because you ride with a bunch of other people, you often wind up paying less than if you took a private taxi or Uber.
We'll talk about both types of vehicles and the various businesses that you can start with each of them.
How Much Do Vans Cost?
According to Truecar, new cargo vans run between $25,000-$35,000. Source
As you can imagine, buying a used cargo van is going to save you a lot of money. I looked at used cargo vans on Edmunds and found ones starting as low as $2,500 (although I also saw some that ran well over $50,000 – for almost-new Mercedes cargo vans).
According to Truecar, new passenger vans run between $28,000-$43,000. Source
Just like with cargo vans, buying a used passenger van is going to be much cheaper. I looked at used passenger vans on Edmunds and found ones starting slightly under $2,000 (although they can run well over $50,000).
How Much Money Can a Van Transport Business Make?
A van business can be profitable. The average owner-operator of a van business in the U.S. makes around $98,660 per year, according to Ziprecruiter. This is almost double the national median income.
Of course, in business, nothing is guaranteed.
The actual amount you make may vary depending on where you operate, what type of transportation business you are in (cargo or passenger), how much you charge, how well you manage your expenses, how skilled you are at marketing, and a host of other factors.
What Types of Businesses Can I Start with a Van?
Cargo Van Businesses
You can deliver food for restaurants, catering companies, and any other type of food company. Of course, Door Dash, Uber Eats, Instacart and many others can provide you a steady flow of food delivery jobs.
You can even buy a bread route and operate one for a nice profit.
What is a bread route? These are routes where you get a dedicated territory from a bread company, like Arnold's or Pepperidge Farm and get a commission for each sale you make to stores in that territory. You will be using your cargo van to make the deliveries, of course.
If you want to learn more about this strategy, check out my article on how to buy a bread route.
Deliver Retail Goods
There are plenty of companies, and manufacturers, that need deliveries made all of the time. Whether it's supplies, medical equipment, or appliances, you can certainly fill that need with your cargo van. As we mentioned in connection with box trucks, you can use sites like GoShare to connect with people or businesses that may need these types of deliveries.
Deliver Furniture (Or Offer Moving Services)
As I mentioned earlier, you can also offer to move items for companies or individuals. In the industry, it's known as a “Man with a Van.” Whether its helping a person move out of their small apartment, or helping a small office relocate, your cargo van may be the perfect choice for these types of jobs. You can get these types of jobs on sites like Taskrabbit, Thumbtack, and similar sites.
I used to own a florist, so I understand the need for good delivery drivers.
If you offer a safe and reliable service at a fair price, you can definitely satisfy that need. Start by just calling local florists in your area. The great thing is that cargo vans have the perfect amount of space to handle even the largest flower delivery orders (which is really important on days like Valentine's day or Mother's Day when the volume of orders is through the roof).
Rent Out Your Cargo Van
On slow days, you can even rent out your cargo van to movers or other companies or individuals who may need it. Not a bad way to make some nice passive income with your cargo van. As mentioned before, you can use platforms like Fetch (if it's available in your area) to list your cargo van for rent.
You can take advantage of the booming e-commerce wave by becoming a driver for companies like Amazon. Cargo vans are perfect for this task. If you want to learn more, check out Amazon Flex. They aren't available in all cities, but there is pretty good coverage nationwide already.
Mobile Car Wash
Another great business opportunity is starting a mobile car wash business. Once you have your cargo van, the rest of the materials and equipment is pretty cheap. If you are interested in this option, check out my article on how to start a mobile car wash business for less than $250.
Gutter Cleaning Services
Finally, you can start a gutter cleaning business with your cargo van because it can carry the very tall ladder (on the top of the van) that is required to operate this type of business. It can also easily fit all of the equipment needed for the business (which can be bought for less than $1,000, including the ladder).
If you want to learn how to start a low-cost gutter cleaning business, check out my article on the topic here.
Passenger Van Businesses
Offer a Car Service
This is obviously the most common business to run with a passenger van. As I mentioned earlier, you can offer shared ride services (taxi-like service where you transport people going in the same general direction), charter van services (where a group of people going on a trip, for example, charter your van for that trip), shuttle van services (where you transport people back and forth along a route), and a bunch of variations on these types of passenger delivery services.
Rent Out Your Passenger Van
This is a cool strategy that is made possible by sites like Turo.
Turo is the like the Airbnb of car rentals. Basically, using Turo, you can rent out your passenger van to people who are looking for one. To see how much money you can make on Turo with a passenger van, check out their Carculator.
When I looked up a 2018 Ford Transit Van, it showed that I could earn over a $1,000 a month! Not bad considering you can probably finance one for monthly payments that will be far less than that. It can be a cool little arbitrage.
How to Get Started
For a complete guide on how to start your transportation business with a van, check out my article on the topic here.
So there you have – 20+ great trucking businesses that you can start. Now I recognize that most people who are starting off may be short on money, so I have written an article that shows you how to start a trucking business with just a single truck. Check it out here.