Owner-Operator vs Company Driving

Working as a fleet driver vs owner-operator

Truckers have to make a decision: do you want to be a company driver or an owner-operator?

There’s a serious difference between being an owner-operator versus driving for a fleet as a company driver that goes well beyond monetary compensation.

What is a Fleet Driver?

A fleet driver is someone that works for a trucking company. You log your hours, drive and when you’re done for the day, all of your responsibilities are over. You leave the truck back in the terminal, and the company deals with all of the logistics from maintenance to finding loads to haul.

Owner-Operator Definition

An owner operator’s job pays more, although the owner actually still drivers the truck. You’ll be responsible for the driving, but when you’ve dropped off your last load for the day, you’re also responsible for:

  • Management tasks
  • Rig maintenance
  • Booking jobs
  • Negotiating with customers

Owner-Operators vs Fleet Drivers 101

When considering either position, there are a few things that you’ll need to make a priority:

  • Responsibility
  • Training
  • Expenses
  • Pay rate
  • Work hours
  • Comfort
  • Slip seating


Owner-operators have a lot of responsibility, and this includes management tasks, maintenance, negotiating contracts and working to find loads. Fleet drivers will be given loads to haul, and their main job is driving.


Training-wise, both drivers will need to undergo training to receive their CDL, but an owner-operator will also need to learn how to deal with customers, book jobs, and the ins and outs of trucking laws and regulations.


Expenses are the next consideration. An owner-operator takes on considerably more expenses and will have to pay for truck maintenance, repairs, upgrades and the truck itself, which is a major expense. Insurance will also have to be paid along with everything else that goes with operating the truck.

Fleet drivers only have to drive. There’s no need to pay a dime extra for maintenance or repairs. If the truck breaks down and needs to go into the shop, it’s the responsibility of the truck owner, not the driver. If you choose to be a fleet driver, you will be able to enjoy the entirety of your paycheck.

Pay Rate

Speaking of pay rates, fleet drivers are not paid for time sitting at terminals or taking breaks. Oftentimes, drivers will be paid by mileage, and it’s pertinent to make each trip as short as possible to maximize earning potential.

Owner-operators will negotiate their own rate, meaning that the owner-operator should be getting paid for everything, including load times, wait times and mileage. Since the owner-operator is taking on more responsibility, they earn more money as a result.

Work Hours

Fleet drivers are tied to their company’s routes and deadlines, and oftentimes, these drivers are on the road longer than they want to be. As a fleet driver, you give up a lot of the control over your schedule because you’re at the whim or forced dispatch.

Owner-operators are able to set their own schedule and can schedule themselves to be home on:

  • Nights
  • Weekends

If an owner-operator is sick or needs time off of work, they can schedule this into their week without an issue. But you will have to spend more time ensuring that you have a full schedule and you will have to be motivated to start each day. When you park your rig for the night, there may be managerial tasks and other tasks that you have to take on, which a fleet driver does not.


Fleet drivers and owner-operators will both need to pay for their additional comfort. You will have to bring your own seat covers, essentials and food with you as a fleet driver if you want to be more comfortable.

Owner-operators will also have to pay for the comforts of their rig, but they can also upgrade the seats and perform other upgrades to their heating and cooling for maximum comfort. This is a perk of owning the truck.

Owner-operators can also choose to bring a passenger along with them on the road or even a pet.

Slip Seating

When you own the truck, you don’t have to worry about adjusting the seats, radio or mirrors. You left the truck as the last driver, so you can hop back in and get on the road immediately. Fleet drivers do have to share the truck with others.

Fleet drivers will have to clean and inspect the vehicle when they go on their shift every day, and it’s one of the added responsibilities that an owner-operator would not have to be concerned with.

Truck Owner Operator Expenses Infographic 

owner-operator vs company driver

Graphic created by InstaPay Flexible

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