How to Start a Transportation Business

Written by Dave Lavinsky

transport and logistics business
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Starting a transportation business is a highly profitable endeavor, but it also requires a great deal of hard work and research in order to succeed. Transportation businesses can include any type of transport, but they primarily focus on efficient and cost-effective modes of transportation for commercial use. Some examples of transport businesses are trucking companies, public transit, intercity buses, and courier services.

Businesses in the transport industry are extremely profitable because most businesses simply cannot function without some kind of transportation service. Many retail stores rely on courier services for delivery, or on public transit options for customers to reach them. This means that transportation businesses are constantly in high demand, and can charge a significant amount for their services.

If you’re interested in starting your own transportation business, there are many different things to consider before you get started. In this article, you’ll learn about what you’ll need to do in order to start a transportation business.

Importantly, a critical step in starting a transport business is to complete your business plan. To help you out, you should download Growthink’s Ultimate Business Plan Template here.

Steps to Starting a Transportation Business

1. Make a business plan.

The first step to starting a transportation business is to complete thorough market research for your specific transport niche and develop a transportation business plan. This document will outline your business goals, strategies, and how you plan on achieving them. It’s important to be realistic in your planning and make sure you have the financial resources to sustain your business in the early stages.

2. Determine the best business structure.

There are several different business structures for transport businesses, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. You can choose to be a sole proprietorship, limited liability partnership (LLP), limited liability company (LLC), S corporation, C corporation, or nonprofit organization. Once you’ve chosen your best option, you’ll need to file all the appropriate paperwork with your state government. You may also want to consult with a lawyer or accountant for assistance in setting up your business.

3. Register your business.

It is important to register your business with the appropriate government agencies, including a federal employer identification number (EIN) and registering with the state(s) in which you plan to operate. This process will vary depending on your location, but will likely require you to file paperwork and pay associated fees. 

You’ll also need to get liability insurance and licenses/permits for your vehicles and drivers.

4. Find the right employees.

After your business registration, you have to find the right employees. It’s important to put together a strong team of drivers and office staff. This is an area where you’ll need to be selective because these will be the people who interact most with your customers.

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5. Purchase the right vehicles.

You’ll need to purchase or lease a truck and trailer and decide on a pricing structure for your services. You’ll need to estimate demand for your transportation services and how many vehicles you’ll need to meet that demand. You’ll also want to factor in overhead costs, including insurance, fuel, maintenance, and equipment depreciation.  You’ll also want to buy other equipment such as ladders and tools if necessary.

6. Buy insurance for your business and vehicles.

Insurance is a crucial part to start a transportation business. Transport businesses can be especially susceptible to litigation, so you have to make sure that you have the proper coverage in place before accidents happen. You’ll want liability insurance for any damages or injuries caused by your business and separate insurance coverage for your cargo.

7. Purchase special equipment and signage as needed.

Many transport businesses require additional types of equipment such as flatbeds, cranes, winches, warehouses, office trailers, etc. Once again it’s important to research what types of equipment you need based on the services that your company provides and factor those costs into your budgeting process.

8. Market your business.

Marketing is critical for any small business, but even more so with a transport company because it’s difficult to entice consumers without an established reputation. Transport marketing can include advertising on radio or billboards, attending trade shows, sponsoring local transport events or giving discounts to loyal customers, among many other strategies.

9. Keep accurate accounting records.

For record-keeping purposes and tax preparation/filing purposes at the end of the year, you have to make sure to document all your transactions. Transportation businesses can have a significant impact on your accounting records, cash flow and tax payments. It’s crucial that you keep accurate records at all times in order to stay compliant with local laws and avoid big penalties or fines down the line.

There are many hurdles to overcome when starting a transport business, but this is something very worthwhile. Just make sure that you go about it properly and do sufficient research before getting started so you’ll be able to optimize the likelihood of success for your new venture.

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How Big is the Transportation & Warehousing Industry?

The transportation and warehousing industry is quite large. There are over 8 million people employed and over 1 trillion dollars generated throughout the industry every year. It’s a great idea to start your own transportation company because there is such a high demand for goods and services.

transport industry statistics

What are the Key Segments of the Transportation Industry?

There are many key segments in the transport industry, and each sector of the market has its own unique opportunities. Here are some of the key segments of the transportation business industry:

Ground transport

This is the largest segment in the transport industry which accounts for an estimated 30.7% of sector revenue in 2021. Examples of ground transport include: companies within the trucking industry, taxi services, bus transportation, medical transport, limousine service, moving companies and other personal transport.

Air transport

This sector includes any mode of transportation of people and cargo through air like airlines, passenger carriers, charter firms, business jets/helicopters.

Railway transport

This includes transportation service via railways, such as metro lines and commuter rail, and rail freight. It’s worth about $1 billion a year, and it’s expected to grow at a fast pace over the next few years due to the increasing demand from manufacturers for this service as they ship their goods around the world more efficiently to reduce time delays.

Water transport

This includes shipping companies, ports, and freight forwarders. Operators in this industry primarily transport freight, such as coal, petrochemicals, agricultural goods, and building materials, but this also includes transportation of passengers via ship.

Pipeline transport

This segment consists of companies that use pipelines to transport products such as oil, gas, and chemicals.

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What External Factors Affect the Transportation Market?

There are quite a few external factors that affect the transport industry. Here are some of the most influential:

Economic conditions

This is one of the most important factors in business, and it’s no less important when it comes to global transport companies.

If there’s an economic downturn, for example, then people cut out expenses like travel and shipping goods. This, in turn, affects the transportation sector by reducing demand for certain services and goods, resulting in a loss of revenue.

On the other hand, if there’s a healthy economy then it will incentivize people to travel more frequently and buy products from all around the world which means an increase in the transporting business.

Social forces

These include population growth, cultural norms, and demand for certain products in society. This plays a huge part in transportation, as it can make or break your business.

For example, if there’s strong demand for an industry product in one country or region then this means that transport companies will serve more people and therefore be able to generate more revenue.

On the other hand, if there are social factors that are against your product or service then you might have to compete with huge companies that may be able to offer a cheaper price.

Legal factors

This includes laws, rules, and regulations in your area. The same example can be used for this situation. If there are laws in place that make your product or service illegal, then it will definitely affect transportation.

You could even be in a situation where you’re forced to fight for market share against much larger companies with huge legal teams and a lot of money.


This includes any new technologies that might change the way we transport goods and services. For example, the introduction of self-driving cars means that you could potentially lose your job if it becomes an alternative to hiring drivers.

This is because people will just be able to hail a car on their phone and send it to pick them up which would be much more convenient than hiring someone to drive them.

Weather & Natural Disasters

Weather and natural disasters are also huge factors that can affect the industry. For example, a hurricane can damage infrastructure and disrupt supply chains, which then affects the transport sector.

  • Flooding can also have an impact by disrupting transportation routes and traffic.
  • Snowstorms can cause roads to close and make transportation difficult.
  • Wildfires can lead to evacuation orders, which means people have to leave their homes and this affects transportation.

Due to these external factors, people who work in this industry must know how to handle anything that comes their way and how to deal with competition.


Who are the Key Competitors in the Transportation Market?

In the transportation business, the key competitors are FedEx, UPS and DHL. They have been around for a while and have a lot of experience to offer. In addition, they have a good reputation in the market.


FedEx is a courier delivery service that provides next-day and express deliveries. They mainly work with businesses but they also offer services for individual customers such as packing and shipping. Their couriers will even drop off packages to remote places if needed. Some of their large clients are Coca-Cola, Apple and IBM.


UPS is a large international courier delivery service that operates in around 200 countries and territories. UPS is the world’s largest package delivery company and they provide next-day and express deliveries. They usually deliver between 7 am to 10 pm depending on the location of the recipient. Some of their large clients include Macy’s, Adidas and General Motors.

Despite being a competitor, FedEx and UPS have partnered with each other to deliver packages for each other sometimes when there was not enough time or it was too remote an area for one of them to cover on their own.


DHL is a logistics company that provides services to transport packages and parcels. They provide express deliveries from business to consumer and vice versa. One of their main competitors is UPS but FedEx has also been a competitor at times when there wasn’t enough time for either of them to deliver the package on their own due to its remoteness. Just like FedEx and UPS, DHL does not only transport parcels but also takes care of supply chain management, customs clearance, and distribution.


What are the Key Customer Segments in the Transportation Market?

Depending on what you’re selling or transporting, will also determine who your key customer segments are.

For example, if you want to transport laptops and computers, then the customer segment would be businesses that need them for their offices.

If you want to transport food such as chocolates and sandwiches, then the clientele would be individuals who run snack and lunch bars.

If you want to transport medical supplies such as syringes and bandages, then your clientele would be pharmacies or doctors’ offices.

If you want to transport construction materials, then your target market would be individuals or companies that are involved in construction.

Transportation of livestock is also a big sector where the customer segment would be farmers who need them for their livestock.

Transportation of hazardous materials needs more safety so they are usually transported by professionals who have the required training and permits.

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What are the Typical Startup Costs for a New Transportation Business?

If you want to start your own transportation business, there are many things that need to be considered.

You will need to purchase or rent a vehicle depending on the size of your business. There are several types of vehicles suited for this type of industry such as trucks and vans. It is important to take into consideration how much space you’ll need for your vehicle to accommodate depending on the type of goods you will be transporting.

You’ll also need to provide for any business expenses that come with having a transportation business such as office space, vehicle maintenance and fuel, courier wages, office supplies, business licenses, permits and insurance, fuel, toll charges, and wear and tear on your vehicle.

In terms of the company’s branding and promotion, you will need to consider how much it will cost you in terms of time and money. If you don’t have a huge budget to spend on your marketing, try to be creative in coming up with ideas that won’t cost much but can still get people interested in your business.

Finally, you will need to consider how much you’ll need to pay your staff members. If you’re just starting up and will only have one or two people working for you, then it won’t be that much to pay them. However, once your business grows and you add more employees, their salaries will increase as well.


Are Transportation Businesses Profitable?

The transportation business can be highly profitable, but the amount of money you make depends on many factors such as your industry, area economy and demand levels.

One thing that’s really important to take note of is the competition in your area. If there are a lot of transport businesses operating in your area already, then it might get harder for your business to gain a foothold.

In order to determine whether or not a transportation business is profitable, you need to do some projections.

First, you need to calculate the amount of revenue your new business will generate per month.

Next, add up all your expenses that go into running the business such as vehicle expenses, insurance costs, office supplies and salaries. You’ll also have to keep track of your fuel expenses so you can determine how much it will cost you every month.

After adding up all your expenses, subtract them from your monthly revenue. This should give you an estimate on how much money your business would be making every month if everything goes according to plan.


What are the Keys to Launching a New Transportation Business?

Here are a few key things that you need to do in order to launch a successful transportation business:

Do your research

Make sure you understand the industry and the market you’re entering. This doesn’t just mean understanding the market trends, but also what’s happening in your specific region.

  • Do you need additional licensing?
  • Are there any government incentives that could help you grow?

Your research will really set the stage for how you develop a solid business plan and launch your business.

Start small

Don’t overreach in the beginning; start with a small fleet and grow gradually. You don’t want to invest too much money in equipment and marketing before you understand your local market and the demand for your proposed services.


Build relationships with clients, suppliers, small business owners, and other businesses in the industry. Being an entrepreneur is all about building relationships, so you should spend some time getting to know the people who are in your network. And once you’ve built up these connections, be sure to continue maintaining them even after you reach success.

Be efficient

Keep your costs low and your turnaround times fast. You want to be able to provide your clients with the best possible service and ensure their satisfaction, which means keeping your expenses under control and ensuring that you can deliver what you promise.

Keep learning

The best way to run a successful business is by constantly learning new things about both your industry and your customers. This way you can adapt to changes in the market, meet your clients’ needs, and continue building your business. Keep up with changes in technology and legislation that may affect your business. You don’t want to get stuck with old equipment or new regulations that could be crippling your business.


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How to Start a Transport Business FAQs

Anyone who has access to a safe vehicle with four or more wheels is able to start a transport business. However, starting a transport business may require certain licensing depending on the state/province and local authorities.

The costs of starting a transportation business vary depending on the size of your fleet, the types of vehicles you use, which industry you specialize in, and your marketing budget. You can expect to spend $30,000 or more to get started.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the amount of money and time you should spend on maintenance for your transport business will vary depending on the size and complexity of your business, as well as the type of vehicles and equipment you use.

However, it's a good idea to allocate a certain amount of your budget to maintenance and repairs and to set aside a certain amount of time each week or month to perform routine maintenance tasks.

Ideally, you should allocate around 10% of your income for transport business maintenance and spend at least 8 hours per week on maintenance tasks.

If you're looking to start a transportation business, there are certain local and state license requirements that you should meet.

Some of the most common licenses for transportation companies include sales tax permit/business license, DOT Number (Department of Transportation), Department of Motor Vehicles commercial vehicle registration, cargo insurance, commercial driver’s licenses (if your vehicles require one), and local business license.

There are many types of insurance coverage that you should get for your transportation business, including general liability, commercial auto, cargo insurance (if applicable), trucker's bond/license bond (if applicable), and workers' compensation.


Helpful Videos

How to Start a Transportation Business: Everything You Need to Know


How To Start A Non Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) Business From Scratch (TBT) #47


Starting Your Own Trucking Company | What You NEED To Know


Additional Resources for Transportation Business Owners

U.S. Department of Transportation Resources and Tools

American Public Transportation Association

NorthAmerican Transportation Association


Other Helpful Business Plan Articles & Templates