If you are interested in starting a dump truck business but don't know where to begin, you are in the right place.
In this beginner's guide, I will cover 10 essential steps to starting a dump truck business. Here's a preview of each step that we'll cover (of course, if you want to jump ahead to any of the individual steps, just click on the appropriate hyperlink below).
- Step 1: Avoid Disaster and Research the Market
- Step 2: Establish Your Business
- Step 3: Create a Business Plan For Your Dump Truck Business
- Step 4: Open Up a Business Checking Account and Credit Card
- Step 5: Obtain Funding
- Step 6: Obtain Licenses and Permits
- Step 7: Protect Your Dump Truck Business With Proper Insurance
- Step 8: Secure a Location and Hire Drivers (If Needed)
- Step 9: Get Dump Truck Contracts
- Step 10: Set Up Your Accounting
Before we dive into the steps, I will cover some introductory questions you may have about the dump truck business, including how dump truck owners make money, how profitable a dump truck business can be (hint: the numbers can be pretty good), how much it costs to get started, and how hard it is to actually get started in this business.
If you want to skip the introductory stuff and jump ahead to the 10 steps, click here.
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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.
How Do Dump Truck Owners Make Money?
Dump truck owners generally make money by collecting fees for loads they move. Loads can include garbage or other waste (if you service the waste management industry or want to help individual residents get rid of their junk), coal (if you are working the mining industry), or gravel, sand, dirt, and other construction-related materials (if you are working in the construction space).
What are Typical Load Rates for Dump Trucks?
You will often see dump truck companies charging by the hour, especially for construction-related loads. Load rates will vary, but typically range from $70 to $120 per hour. Alternatively, you can charge by weight (tonnage) or a flat fee for the load (residential customers sometimes prefer a fixed fee for the entire load).
Rates will vary by region, so if you want to get a more accurate picture of what load rates will be for your area, call local dump truck companies and ask for quotes. You will get a pretty good sense of the market just with this simple step.
Is a Dump Truck Business Profitable?
Now that we have covered how dump truck businesses make money, let's turn to whether this type of business can be profitable.
How Much Do Dump Truck Owners 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. I have to admit, that's a large range and there are a lot of factors that can affect 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.)
How Much Does it Cost to Start a Dump Truck Business?
Starting a dump truck business can be expensive, with the largest initial expense coming from the actual cost of your dump truck. A new dump truck starts at approximately $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
Fortunately, there are both financing and leasing options available that can help with the initial purchase costs. Below is a list of companies that will offer financing for your new or used dump truck (many also offer leasing programs too). You will find companies below that offer no down payment options, even for start-ups.
Financing For New Dump Trucks
Financing For Used Dump Trucks
Of course, buying the truck is not the only cost in starting your dump truck business (although it is far and away the biggest cost). You will also need to spend some money on branding (e.g., vinyl lettering on your truck), marketing (especially if you use paid advertising channels), costs of setting up your business entity, as well as costs for getting required licenses, permits, registrations, etc.
However, all of these costs should not really cost much more than a few thousand dollar combined.
How Hard Is It To Start a Dump Truck Business?
Starting a dump truck business can be challenging because you will need to meet some very specific (and potentially expensive) requirements, such as buying or leasing a dump truck, getting proper licensing (including getting a Commercial Driver's License (CDL) if you are going to be an owner operator), finding profitable loads, and hiring and managing drivers (if you plan on growing your business).
On top of that, you will need to navigate all of the legal, financial, operational, marketing and other requirements involved with creating a new business in general.
But don't let that get in your way.
With the right information, you can get your dump truck business off the ground and begin your journey as a successful small business owner. On that note, let's dive into the meat of the article, which is the step-by step guide to starting a dump truck business.
Step 1: Avoid Disaster and Research the Market First
The first thing you want to do is make sure that there is enough market demand to support your dump truck business. You don't want to dive in blind. If you do, you might spend a lot of time and money pursuing a business idea that is unworkable because the market is too small, too competitive or in a state of decline.
Identify Your Market
The first step is accurately identifying your market. You need to know who your customers are and whether there are enough of them to support your business.
Try to imagine your target customer. Are you going to pursue residential contracts? Then you will want to know the demographics of residents in your area (e.g., are they mostly homeowners who have money? Is the area's population growing? etc.).
Will you be offering your service to local builders in your area? Do you prefer to offer your services to cities and counties? Mining operations?
If you have a clear picture of your business, it should not be hard to figure out who your target customer is.
Armed with that knowledge, start looking into whether there would be room for another player to enter into the dump truck space. Talk to people already working in the industry in your area, engage with potential customers and see if their needs are currently being met and what would compel them to move to another provider of dump truck services.
Do your competitors seem to be thriving? Are people entering into this business and shutting down quickly or do they tend to survive? I know you may be excited and anxious to get started, but a little patience and research can save you a lot of time, money and regret down the road.
Conduct Competitive Analysis
You also want to research the competition.
If you are going to be the only game in town, that can be a good sign. But in most cases, you will be facing some degree of competition. If you live in your target area, you probably know who your major competitors are going to be. But to get a more complete sense of the competition, you can go on Google.
You can simply type in “dump truck services near me” (or whatever city you are researching) and Google will pull up a list of local businesses that match your search along with a map that has pins on where those businesses are located. You can also go on Yelp and type in a similar search. Between the two, you should be able to get a very good sense of the competitive landscape in your area.
Step 2: Establish Your Business
Select Your Business Name and Logo
If you've done your market research and figured out the competitive landscape (and the results look promising), the next thing to do is establish your business.
The first step in that process is selecting a name and logo that you like.
Having trouble figuring out a name? Try Shopify’s business name generator. It’s free.
As for a logo, you can go on canva.com and check out some of their logo templates and start from there. It's a free option, but you will need to customize the logo templates to your liking. I prefer a more ready-made solution.
One solid option is to go on Fiverr and hire someone to create your logo. There are tons of people who do this, and I have seen pricing as low as $5. For that price, you can probably try a bunch of folks and pick the logo that suits you best.
Or you can go with Looka. They are an AI-powered platform that will provide you a professional looking logo at reasonable prices.
Note: You want to make sure your name and logo are original to you and are not going to infringe someone else's intellectual property. If you are unsure, you can check the USPTO's trademark search tool as a starting point.
For more great strategies and tips on how to select the right name and logo for your business, check out my full article on the topic: How to Choose a Company Name and Logo [16 Key Strategies and Tips].
Create a Website For Your Dump Truck Business
Don't neglect this step. Your business needs a website, period.
Your website doesn't have to be incredibly fancy or cost a lot of money to set up. There are a lot of resources available to help you with this.
In fact, Google allows you to build your first business website for free.
List Your Dump Truck Business So Customers Can Find You
It is also important to get your fledgling business on Google. You can do this by listing it on Google My Business. This way, people who are searching for a dump truck business in your local area can find you.
If you want to learn more about how to do this, check out this tutorial from Google.
Set Up Your Business Entity
You may want to set up a business entity like an LLC, corporation, or partnership for your dump truck business. Why do this? In most cases, setting up a business entity can help shield some of your assets held outside the business entity if there is a claim against the business.
If you want to make the investment of setting up a corporation, LLC, or some other business entity, you can hire a lawyer to help you, or you can use many of the online resources that can help you set up your business entity. For a handy table comparing the different types of business entities, check out my ultimate guide to starting a business.
I like using an online service called Incorporate because they can get you up and running quickly and easily. They also have some great resources to educate on what type of entity to choose and which may be the right state to choose for your new entity. If you want to learn more, check them out below.
Note: This can be a fairly complicated area and you don't want to make mistakes, so you may want to consult with your legal and financial advisors to make sure you understand the implications of setting up a business entity.
Step 3: Create a Business Plan For Your Dump Truck Business
A business plan is essentially a roadmap for your dump truck business.
It organizes your thoughts relating to your business into an actionable plan. Some things to include in your dump truck business plan are budgeting, identifying your target market and competition, marketing strategy (how will you get loads), pricing strategy, operational plans (will you have drivers, etc.), and growth projections.
Don’t stress too much about getting your business plan perfect. I would use it more as an organizational tool at this point. You can polish it up later if you need to.
Another benefit of having a business plan is that it can help you raise money from banks and investors (if your business has high starting costs, you may need to get some financing right away). This is when you will need to refine your business plan – these folks will want to see a professional-looking business plan as part of their lending or investing process.
Don’t know how to get started? The Small Business Administration has a great tool to help you write your business plan.
Step 4: Open Up a Business Checking Account and Credit Card
You should open a dedicated checking account in the name of your dump truck business. Make sure to run all business revenue and expenses (and only business revenue and expenses) through that account. This is especially important if you have a formal legal entity like a corporation or LLC because you do not want to mingle personal assets and expenses with business assets and expenses.
Why? Because you may risk losing the liability protection we discussed earlier if the business entity is deemed a sham because you did not treat it like a separate legal entity.
On a more practical note, having a separate account keeps things tidy from a recordkeeping and accounting perspective. It will definitely make things easier come tax time. It also signals credibility and professionalism when you write a check from your business account or ask someone to pay to your business account.
Now, let's turn to business credit cards. Credit cards can be really helpful to a new dump truck business, especially if an expensive repair pops up!
First, they are often easier to qualify for than a line of credit, especially when you are a brand new business. Even if you don't need to use it right away, it's nice to have the funds available in a pinch. Second, it's a great way to build your business credit rating, which will come in handy if you need to apply for a loan in the future to expand your business, etc.
Finally, you get to enjoy the benefits of points, cash back or other rewards that may come with owning your business credit card. However, just like your business checking account, avoid intermingling business expenses with personal expenses on your credit card.
Step 5: Obtain Funding
As we covered already, starting a dump truck business can be costly, especially if you plan on buying a new dump truck.
Fortunately, there are a lot of equipment financing options for your dump truck, which we covered above.
If you want to explore other funding options, consider the following:
- Personal savings. You will often need some skin in the game before lenders will work with you, so having some personal savings is important.
- Credit Cards. Due to high interest rates, credit cards are probably not an ideal choice, but if you can snag a 0% teaser rate on a credit card, you can put some of the start-up costs onto that card at a ultra low interest rate (at least until the teaser rate period expires). Try to get one that lasts at least a year so you have some time to get your business off the ground.
- Friends and family. Although these people may be willing to lending you money, you have to weigh that against the risk of souring your relationship with them if things go sideways.
- Banks. Banks are a traditional source of funding for new businesses, but they will often conduct extensive due diligence and underwriting before lending to a brand new enterprise.
- Online Funding. This includes includes getting a loan using peer-to-peer lending, funding through kickstarter campaigns, using online lenders, etc.
- SBA loans. Another funding source for your new business can be a loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. SBA loans are provided through a bank, but since the SBA guarantees a portion of the loan, qualifying for an SBA loan is often easier than qualifying for a traditional bank loan.
- Retirement Accounts. If you have funds in a Roth IRA, you can withdraw the contributions portion at any time without penalty or taxes. If you are withdrawing from a traditional IRA or 401(k), you may be subject to early withdrawal penalties and taxes if you do so before you reach a certain age. As a general rule, retirement accounts should be earmarked for retirement, so you may not want to pursue this as your first choice.
Step 6: Obtain Licenses and Permits
As we talked about, if you plan on driving your dump truck, you will need to get a CDL (if you don't already have one).
However, there may be additional licenses, permits or registrations you may need to get, depending on where you plan on operating. You should check with your state and local municipalities to make sure you have all of the required licenses and permits you will need to operate your dump truck business.
In many cases, you will need to get a general business license (which is usually not too expensive or difficult to obtain), but there may be other, more specific, permits or licenses required, depending on where you live and the scope of activities you plan to engage in.
If you need help navigating all of this, your county clerk's office is the best place to start, but if you run into a wall, you can always hire a qualified lawyer to help guide you through the process.
Speaking of lawyers, you may need a lawyer to help draw up all of the legal contracts that you will need in connection with your business (e.g., customer agreements, waivers, etc.), so it's best to engage a qualified lawyer early on so they can help guide you through all of the legalities required for your business.
Step 7: Protect Your Dump Truck Business With Proper Insurance
You are doing all of this work to eventually build a valuable business. So it only makes sense that you protect your business and yourself. That's where insurance comes in. Dump truck insurance is very important because you are operating a vehicle that could be extremely dangerous to yourself and others if something goes wrong.
The good news is that there is a robust insurance industry that specifically caters to dump truck owners. Check out the following companies that offer dump truck specific insurance.
Step 8: Secure a Location and Hire Drivers (If Needed)
You are going to need a place to store your dump truck when it's not in use. You will want to find a location that doesn't charge you an arm and a leg, but one that isn't too far from your target neighborhoods. It will be a bit of a balancing act because the more remote your location, the cheaper it will be to your store your stuff, but the more you will likely pay in gas, mileage, time, and general wear and tear on your truck.
Now let's turn to employees.
Not every dump truck business will need employees in the beginning. If you are going to be an owner-operator, then you can run your own loads without any other drivers. But if you are not going to be driving or want to position your business for growth as soon as possible, you will want to hire qualified drivers.
If you are already a driver in the industry, you should know people already who can fit the bill, but if not, no worries. Here are some tips to recruit drivers:
- Have a very clear idea of what the job requires and write a comprehensive job description. If you have clean driving requirements, or other requirements, clearly list them.
- Cast a wide net to get candidates – post the job online and through local venues, ask around for referral candidates, etc.
- Interview promising candidates and select them based on their qualifications (you need to make sure you do not discriminate on a prohibited basis, like race, color, religion, sex, etc. during both the interview and hiring process).
- Make sure you have the right infrastructure in place to manage payroll. There are tons of payroll administration providers who can take care of the legal and other requirements to make sure you handle the withholding and payment process without issues.
- Keep all employee-related records as required by law.
- Report payroll taxes as needed (you should consult with your payroll provider and your accountant to make sure your business is complying with everything it needs to in connection with your employees).
Step 9: Get Dump Truck Contracts
One of the things you absolutely need to get right is getting consistent and profitable dump truck contracts.
So how do you do this? We've got your covered.
Here are some practical strategies to get dump truck contracts.
1. Use Your Contacts If You Have Them
If you are already in the business, you will likely have contacts in the industry that you can draw on to drum up business. If people know you are a good operator, that's worth its weight in gold. Use your good reputation to build your new business.
If you are not in the industry already, get out there and start making contacts. Join relevant associations and talk to people. Make yourself known. It will make things much easier if people know your name when you come around marketing your services.
2. Reach Out to Key Customers
Regardless of who your customers are going to be, you will need to come up with a solid marketing plan to reach them.
For residential customers, you will want to explore the following:
- Set up a Google My Business, so that people looking for your type of business can find you. You want to encourage people to leave good reviews there for you if they like your business. Research has found a strong relationship between the number of online reviews a business and the revenue that it generates.
- Get a great website that draws traffic to your business. You can use the free website offered by Google that we mentioned earlier, but if you really want to draw traffic (and customers) to your website, you may want to hire an online marketing expert to help you optimize your website for traffic and leads.
- Get on Yelp for business and let your customers find you. They are an extremely well-known brand, and many people look there when searching for local businesses. Check them out below to learn more.
- In addition to advertising on Yelp, you can buy online ads from other online and social media outlets (Facebook, etc.)
- If you want to go old school, you can also advertise in your local newspapers, circulars, or through direct mail, etc.
If you want to service the construction industry, reach out to local builders and landscapers to see if they have a need for a good dump truck service. Do some research on how much your competitors are charging and beat them on pricing. You may need to offer deep discounts in the beginning to land those contracts, but once you have developed a good reputation, you should be able to operate without offering those types of steep price cuts.
You can also reach out to local HOAs and municipalities to see if they are interested in snow removal or other services that can be performed using your dump truck.
Ultimately, you want to experiment with various marketing strategies – you may be surprised at what works best.
Step 10: Set Up Your Accounting
Ok – we're almost there.
The final step is making sure that you don't lose track of your revenues and expenses. When tax time rolls around you are going to need accurate records of all transactions that took place in connection with your business. Bookkeeping isn't fun, but it's necessary.
Of course, if you can't stand the thought of bookkeeping, you have a few options. First, you can hire one through Fiverr or any number of online platforms where gigs are offered.
Another option is to use software to keep track of your business transaction and activities. You will still need to do the data entry, but it makes the task much easier. Quickbooks and Freshbooks are popular options if you want to explore this option.
So there you have it – 10 steps to start a dump truck business.
Hope this has been helpful. If you want to learn how to make passive income in the trucking business, check out my article on trucking investing for passive income. We cover three different ways to do this, with some pretty unconventional ideas. I think you will find it an interesting read.