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Owner Operator Stories: Dahavin Noel

Dahavin got started driving trucks almost a decade ago and he shares his advice on how to manage through the uncertainties of being an Owner Operator.

This determined truck driver-owner has graciously allowed us to interview him to get insight about his experience, the situations he has encountered and how he stays motivated. Becoming an Owner Operator can be a rewarding career that allows you to do as much as you want to, once you are acquainted with what it takes to starting a trucking career and become a successful truck driver. Dahavin’s story is his own, but every future Owner Operator has a chance to write his or her own story in a career that can be an amazing adventure.

Dahavin Noel - Owner OperatorST: What made you decide to join the trucking industry and start a trucking career? 

Dahavin: I wanted to try a new career, other than following in my grandfather and dad’s footsteps. I just wanted to try a different opportunity in life, a different trade. So, I decided on starting a trucking career.

ST: What year did you start driving?

Dahavin: I started training in 2012, about 8 or so years ago.

ST: What was your first driving job after starting a trucking career?  

Dahavin: At that point I started driving with a company called TCL, where I was a company driver for about 6 months, driving cross-country for that employer.

ST: What kind of work did you do before joining the trucking industry?  

Dahavin: I was working offshore in an oil platform’s drilling rig, where we drilled for oil located beneath the seabed.

ST: How did you decide to transition from driver to Owner Operator? 

Dahavin: While I was a lease operator, I became friends with someone who showed me the way to starting a trucking career. Instead of just driving and being behind the wheel, this new friend started showing me the “ins and outs” of the trucking business. And it was because of this friend that I started appreciating this profession even more and considered becoming a truck driver-owner. Not only was I liking what I was doing, I was also becoming more knowledgeable about trucking. That’s when I decided it was time for me to take a chance and try working the business with my own truck. To this day, I feel I’m lucky I met that guy because he motivated me on how to make money in trucking.

ST: What advice would you give to a new driver starting a trucking career? 

Dahavin: I tell all my friends about how I got my CDL and how to become a commercial truck driver-owner. The only thing I can say is to be strong of mind because whatever you set your mind to can help you accomplish your goals. I wasn’t better than anyone else and I did was able to do it. There are a lot of people who want to do it but may be scared because the truck is big. However, once you get over that fear and put your mind to it, you can do it. Yes, I was intimidated at first too but now I drive like it’s nothing because I gained confidence through training with a reputable trucking company. Don’t think about the worst case because that is when bad things may actually happen. The mind is strong and you just have put your mind to it.

ST: How did you go about deciding on the truck you now own? 

Dahavin: A friend who has been doing this for many years gave me a lot of good advice on how to make money in trucking. He shared the do’s and don’ts, what to look for—and what to look out for. I listened to him carefully and took his advice when I was looking for a truck. Frankly, I didn’t know anything about trucks, so I had to rely on my friend’s advice.

ST: What advice would you give to someone purchasing their first truck as a truck driver-owner?

Dahavin: Before purchasing the truck, just make sure you have a reputable trucking company where you can put the truck into operation. Research the company and make sure they can support the goals you set for yourself as an Owner Operator. When starting a trucking career, don’t just go work anywhere, because you don’t want to go to a company and then leave to go somewhere else. Focus on what you want to get out of your commitment and find a reputable trucking company. Look around and analyze different companies before you make your decision. Once you know where you will work, then get the truck. There’s no sense getting into a truck payment if you have no way to pay for it.

ST: What do you think are the most important things for an Owner Operator to consider when accepting the load?

Dahavin: You need to know what you can and cannot accept as payment, because you need to make enough money to support yourself and your family. That includes watching your expenses to make sure you can handle them. A lot of owner operators think of the revenue on each load only and you must accept the fact some loads aren’t going to be profitable. You have to take the good with the bad as it comes when starting a trucking career.

ST: How do you maximize your profit?

Dahavin: Because you’re trying to figure out how to make money in trucking, start by doing some calculations to get a rough estimate in your head about the money you’re going to be making on each load—then save your money, find the cheapest fuel and the easiest route. Even if you save a few cents on a gallon, its money saved and it adds to the profit.

ST: How do you prepare for equipment repairs truck driver-owner?

Dahavin: I always do a pre-trip inspection, checking the truck’s systems and seeing if it needs anything. Never hold off getting on problems repaired as an Owner Operator. When you’re out on the road, try to see if you can put it off until you get to your destination. Then, after you deliver the load, go straight to a repair shop to get it fixed. Always call ahead to the shops in the area and see who can take you in the fastest. While you’re out there, you don’t want to be wasting your time. Our profession is driven by time, so we are always on a clock. A repair shop that can fix you up the quickest is the best, because once you get it fixed you can go back on the road. Remember the longer you’re down, the more money you are losing. Check your equipment every day because you don’t want to be surprised by a big repair—if you can avoid it.

ST: What has kept you in the industry all this time, since starting a trucking career?

Dahavin: The love of the trucking industry is what keeps me engaged, as well as being my own boss—that’s why I fell in love with being a truck driver-owner. To be honest, I was driving commercial trucks for a while and I wasn’t generating too much revenue before, so it was important to figure out how to make money in trucking. Prior to joining Status, which I consider a reputable trucking company, I was about to give up and go back to my offshore oil rig job. Up to that point it had been expensive to manage owning my truck and the company I was with wasn’t able to support me. Status has really helped me out and taken care of me and my family by providing the resources and knowledge I needed. My dispatcher, Alex, has really taken great care of me and the company is part of my extended family—I’m very grateful to affiliated with them as an Owner Operator.

ST: What tips can you give an Owner Operator when dealing with their dispatcher? 

Dahavin: Make sure you’re comfortable with the route from Point A to Point B. Think about the areas you’ll go through—whether it’s mountains, weather, or toll roads. When you get the load offer, quickly calculate fuel and all your expenses before accepting it. Once you build a relationship with your dispatcher at a reputable trucking company, you will have a chance to accomplish your goals together. At that point, it will become easier for the dispatcher to assist you because he or she will know what you would or won’t do, leading you to opportunities that show you how to make money in trucking.

ST: Any situations while being in the trucking industry that have made you wiser or better as an Owner Operator?

Dahavin: Always be safe as a truck driver-owner. There are so many different kinds of drivers and they have to drive through different states with different traffic patterns. Things can happen in the blink of an eye if you’re not paying attention. Therefore, you must be alert, safe and cautious.

ST: How long did it take for you to be comfortable on the road after starting a trucking career?

Dahavin: It took me about 2 to 3 weeks of driving on the road until I started to feel better. At that point I wasn’t as scared anymore.

ST: How long do you stay out on the road at a time as a truck driver-owner? 

Dahavin: I’ve been out on the road for about two months before, but now I usually stay on the road for two weeks. Then I go home for the weekend, every other weekend. That’s how I like to run my schedule and it works well for me.

ST: As an Owner Operator, what regions do you run and why?

Dahavin: I run all over, cross country because I like to ride. I like the scenery and the rates too—of course! It’s all about how to make money in trucking.

ST: What advice would you give to someone who wants to become an Owner Operator for the first time?  

Dahavin: When starting a trucking career, make sure you are affiliated with a reputable trucking company, so you can generate the revenue you need to make, which will then make you a more successful owner operator later on.

ST: Any tips or tricks that new truck driver-owners should know? 

Dahavin: Life is all about ups and downs, but as long as you work hard and put your mind to it, you can never go wrong.

ST: What is the most important thing that leads to success in this industry when starting a trucking career?  

Dahavin: Staying away from DOT as much as you can by exercising best practices and safe driving! To do that, you need to constantly check your truck and take care of all the repairs, if any. Follow the rules and you’ll never go wrong as an Owner Operator.

ST: What was the most memorable experience on the road that you remember?  

Dahavin: When I first started driving as a truck driver-owner, I could take my family with me on the road. So, I took them to California since we had never been to Six Flags Amusement Park before. So, we first went to Six Flags, then to the Grand Canyon and those are my most memorable moments out on the road. It’s not just about how to make money in trucking, but rather enjoying the time off work too.

ST: How do you handle breakdowns out on the road as an Owner Operator?

Dahavin:  I make it a point to learn the area that I am or will be in, then search the closest and least expensive truck repair place, so I can start making connections from there. In addition, I always keep two emergency credit cards that are especially for breakdowns and I keep a certain amount of petty cash on me at all times—just in case. Try to keep a few hundred dollars on you, because even the smallest repair can come up unexpectedly.

ST: Are you planning to buy additional trucks and become a fleet owner in the near future? 

Dahavin: I have three sons, so I am thinking of going further with this career and having them follow my lead by starting a trucking career. I would want to get them all into trucks on my fleet, which is something I can see doing in the future.