Tracking expenses and calculating operating costs when starting in car hauling

New owner operators may feel overwhelmed with the task of running their business and this can lead to making mistakes when managing finances. To many, it can feel like a rite of passage to have more month left at the end of the money, wondering where it all went. That is because one of the biggest challenges that owner operators face is managing money and tracking expenses.

Small business accounting and bookkeeping can seem like a daunting and time consuming task, but tracking your finances weekly, monthly, or even quarterly, will help you see exactly where your money is going and will reduce the time needed to get everything in order. Managing money as an owner operator is as important as making sure your cars are all strapped down. As an owner operator you are not just a driver but you are the CEO, the dispatcher, and even the secretary.

Cost Per Mile

The most useful way to keep track of your finances is to calculate the cost per mile of all expenses. Start by writing down the total mileage for the month. Spreadsheets work great since they can process calculations and are easily edited. To calculate, take the expense and divide it by the mileage.

If you ran 6,000 miles during the month of February and you want to find the cost/mile of your truck insurance, take the monthly cost of insurance ($1500) and divide it by 6,000 miles.

$1,300 / 6,000 miles = $ .25/mile

The cost per mile can be done weekly or daily to get a view of your expenses, which makes it easier to see where your money is going.

Example expenses and costs car hauling

You can add expenses to your load on Super Dispatch. Expenses can be added to each load from the app under the “Expenses” tab. There you can input the expense and snap a photo of the receipt.

TIP: Keeping track of your expenses and cost per mile could be done on your USDOT required 30 minute break. At the end of the month just simply add all the weeks and you have your monthly finances in order.

Tracking Revenue

Tracking revenue can be tough without the right tools. Spreadsheets work well but you have to remember to input all data.

For me, Super Dispatch has been a great tool for tracking revenue. A weekly report of delivered loads is sent each week to your email and highlights the paid loads for that week, as well as a quick summary comparing the current week to the past week. When tracking company revenue in a spreadsheet be sure to include the company, price, and date the payment was received. The whole point of tracking revenue is to see exactly how much money is coming in. You can include due dates and payment types on the spreadsheet, however, this is only to serve as a record for you for future reference.

How to pay yourself as an Owner Operatorexpenses car hauling owner operator costs

One of the biggest mistakes that owner operators make is how they pay themselves. Many owner operators believe that they earn what each load pays.

“The truth is that the company, not the owner operator, earns what the load pays.”

The truth is that the company, not the owner operator, earns what the load pays. The driver only makes a percentage of what a load pays; the company’s revenue has to pay for it’s expenses and the driver is one expense. Owner operators should pay themselves as if they were paying a driver. The industry standard is 25% of gross revenue for car haulers.

Most owner operators starting off, fall into the trap of thinking that the company’s revenue is the owner’s profit; they fail to separate between personal and business finances.

I use Super Dispatch to simplify the process of calculating driver pay with the Driver Pay Report.  It allows you to input the percentage pay to generate the driver pay for that pay period. If you follow this mindset, it will discipline you into not spending more than you make.

Take away

A majority of small business owners face financial issues because they fail to keep track and manage expenses. We are always told that knowledge is power and this is entirely true when managing a business.

“We are always told that knowledge is power and this is entirely true when managing a business.”

Small business owners must keep track of all revenue and expenses to understand where the money is going and know how much money needs to come in for the business to be profitable.

Owner Operators in auto transport use a variety of tools to keep track of their business, from things like Quickbooks to paper ledgers to Super Dispatch. Personally, I use the  tools and features within Super Dispatch because they save time and simplify the process for me. Regardless of what you start with, you must keep track of all revenue and expenses, and it’s a lot less confusing when you keep it all in one place.

If you are puzzled wondering where all your money went, start by writing down all your expenses. When you have all your finances on paper, it is easier to solve the problem of “missing” money. As an owner operator, you must treat yourself as an employee of the company and not as the CEO. This means you should be paying yourself as a driver and not as the business.

Tom Stec is an Owner Operator at Fury Transport and a customer of Super Dispatch. He occasionally writes guest blogs

Manheim Mondays – Tim at JT Enterprises

Tim and his truck, owner operator of JT Enterprises at Kansas City Manheim on Monday Jan 14. Super Dispatch

To stay close to our customers and the car hauling industry in general, Super Dispatch regularly steps out of the office to ask people what they think: about our product, about the industry, or about anything that is topical for the people we create our product for. This week at Manheim Kansas City, we spoke with Tim, Owner Operator of JT Enterprises:

My name is Tim and my company is JT Enterprises. I’ve been hauling about 8 years.

What has been your biggest challenge today?

The snow!

Do you come out to Kansas City often?

Yeah, sometimes. Last week I was here 4 times. This week once so far, but I go where it pays to go.

Where does it pay to go?

Sometimes Colorado. Sometimes Rapid City. Denver area, Colorado Springs…

How do you get these jobs?
I have my own dealers that will call me. Then I use Central Dispatch. Then there’s rental car companies that call you all the time because they know you can get the job done?

“Last Monday was the first time I started my truck since before Christmas. Because I took time off. I’m a single dad, I’ve got a kid in college. And I’d like to spend time with him, too you know?”

And has it always been that way? That you have been able to put it all together that way?

Oh yeah. Well, there are times that we struggled but you know, I would hate to start over now and try to get my foot in the door with some of these people…last week I pretty much hauled for the same person from Nebraska to here. Bringing cars down and back to Nebraska. All for the same dealer. You know, they paid good.

Is this a good season for you for right now for that?

Actually, last Monday was the first time I started my truck since before Christmas. Because I took time off.

Are you able to do that often?

Oh, yeah. If you make enough money…I’m a single dad, I’ve got a kid in college. And I’d like to spend time with him, too you know?

So when you were first starting out, were you able to take breaks like that?

Oh no. I had to go go go go. My equipment is paid for now, it makes a big difference.

How long did it take you to do that?

A couple years, two and a half years. And then I bought a new trailer, sold my old trailer. And then I had to use up two years to pay for this trailer.

So about 4 years total?

Yeah, but fuel goes up and down and tires get more expensive. Insurance is a big thing. Insurance just goes up up up. And then you got Central Dispatch that when I first started hauling cars, I want to say it’s 39 dollars a month. 39.99. You know? It’s up to like $129 a month now, in just a few years. And I don’t know what they’re up to, what is different. They aren’t helping me any by upping their rates.

Are you still going to keep your account though?

Oh yeah, you know. I wish there was another load board out there. I mean…there’s been other people that tried it. But you know…

Yeah, that’s what we hear too…I’ve been writing a story about it recently.

There was another load board that started up and I think it was free for the first 30 days. And so I got on there, and compared to Central…they had the exact same stuff that was on Central at the exact same rate. So it’s like, what do you do?

But then it seems like there would be no way for a load board to start then? Because everything is already on Central.

Well, from what I understand, it’s a pretty expensive process to get something like that going. And I know some of the big guys back east that have talked about starting their own load board. But, you know it’s a big expense. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ve tried to post some stuff on Central Dispatch before. My bank had some repo-ed cars that needed to go back to Chicago. I would only do it because the bank wanted me to do it, but I don’t go to Chicago. So, I’ll put it on Central, but heck I had to pay like a buck and a mile to get a car moved. It was amazing. Because if there’s anything on Central Dispatch from 12 cents a mile to sometimes you get like 90 cents a mile on certain items.

I mean, I’m not going to get out of my truck for less than $100.”

Man that just seems so low – 12 cents a mile?

Oh no, it’s crazy low. It’s ridiculous. But someone will do it. There will be somebody that will do it.

Why do you think they’ll do that? It doesn’t make sense.

I think they think they can get by with it.

So they just never learned how to budget?

Oh yeah, I’ve got people that I’ve hauled for, coming back from Dallas to Nebraska with a couple Dually pickups and a ford pickup for $500 bucks a piece out of them. And then there’s a guy that’s a rebuilder, uses Copart and he just buys it and expects you to go get it for him. And it’s like, Gosh I need 5 or 600 bucks to go down there. You know, if I have something going down there. And he says “Well, gee I can get some of these other guys to haul it cheaper.” and I’m like “well, then go for it, dude.”

Well, so what would be your biggest advice to someone younger or just starting out? Or that takes loads that are too low?

Gosh. Probably find something else to do. No really, I’m serious. There’s so much competition in it right now, that it has been that way for 2-3 years now. The competition is terrible. And there is somebody else that will stop and get it for peanuts.

Why do you think all of a sudden there is all this competition?

Well, there was a time when everything was paying really good. And that’s when I got into it. And there were several other people who did too. But there is a lot of people that will haul for nothing. And then there’s me – I’m not gonna.

But why do you think all of a sudden those people are doing it for nothing? As opposed to before?

You know, I don’t know. That’s a thousand dollar question. I don’t really understand that. Cause if I’m not making money, I’m not doing it. I’m parking my stuff at home and finding something else to do. But there is a big question on the Auto Transport Everything Facebook group: “What’s the lowest you’ll go?” and I mean, I’m not going to get out of my truck for less than $100. Like Lincoln, Nebraska to Omaha, Nebraska. I’m not going to haul from Lincoln to Omaha for less than $100. It’s only 50 miles, but still you got the time fighting through traffic, getting out, unloading, you might have to unload something to load something else on, you might have to move stuff around. Spend time in the dealership, do your inspection on the vehicle, strap it down, it’s time. It’s all time.

And some people were saying lower than that?

Oh yeah. People saying “I’ll do it for $50.” I’m not going to do it for $50. I’m sorry. You know, a tow truck gets $100 just for towing a car across town.