Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Questions You Should Ask When Considering Trucking Jobs

It's always best to talk to drivers about their experience, but even better to talk to multiple drivers as every driver handles things differently. Recruiters, on the other hand, are paid to convince you to work for their company, and are frequently out-of-the-loop on what's really going on at their company anyway. Whatever the reason, misinformation is common when it comes to recruiters. In addition to this, they tend to emphasize benefits that are either standard for any company, not really important (but since you're not a driver yet you wouldn't know that), greatly exaggerated, not really benificial to you at all (like computerized logs), or are just plain not true (like every truck in their fleet has a refridgerator, an APU, and an onboard touch screen dispatching computer, or that you get to pick your own truck). Recruiters are however good for making travel arrangements to driver orientation once you decide to apply, and can be a great help in navigating through the application process; otherwise, take anything they say with several grains of salt.

GOOD THINGS TO ASK COMPANY DRIVERS

How long have you been driving for your company? Do you still like them?
The honeymoon period at most companies is about 6 months - 1 year.

How long have you been a driver?
10+ years and still happy with their company is pretty darn good. Veteran drivers usually have a better fix on what really matters on the road, and put up with less crap from their companies.

What kind of trucks used?
Just for general knowledge, here are some common types of trucks:
Freightliner (very common; economy truck)
Kenworth (can be good; depends on the model)
International (recent models have good reputation)
Volvo (Very comfortable, but heavy and not very powerful)
Peterbilt (A favorite of truckers; generally thought to be the best trucks on the road)

There are some others but more important are the following questions:
How comfortable are they?
How much room in the cab?
What kind of engine? (there are a lot but Freightliner trucks usually use one of three:
Cummins (red)=good
Cat (yellow)=pretty good
Detroit (green)=average

What MPH are trucks governed at?
A recruiter can tell you this, but good idea to check with drivers. The faster your truck can go, the more money you make.

Where is most freight?
Ask drivers not recruiters. This will give you a good idea of where you will be driving. A few things to consider; Flat empty places = easy boring driving, mountainous areas = beautiful but more work especially in winter, highly populated areas = traffic, and California and Oregon are 55 MPH states.

Where are yards?
A recruiter can probably email a list or spreadsheet. Look for a good spread of terminals over the area you are going to be driving in.

How many yards have laundry & showers?
A recruiter can probably email a list or spreadsheet. Talk to drivers; they can tell you what the facilities are really like.

Min. Drive time / Max home time?
Standard is one day home for every seven on the road. Companies differ on the minimum time they want you to be out; anywhere from 12 days to 21 days; also may depend on how big a region you are driving - the bigger the region, the longer you will be out. Also ask how long you can be out of the truck before they want you to move out. About 1 week is pretty standard.

Tuition reimbursement?
Drivers may not know. Recruiters usually can be trusted on this, but no one is going to remind you to get it set up once hired. You have to get on top of this or you wont get it. Most companies hiring new drivers will reimburse up to $4,000 for tuition over the course of your first 2 years working there. Some companies take longer, some will pay up front but will require you to sign a one year commitment contract.

Slip seat?
Means you share your truck with other drivers. Usually considered undesirable.

Tri-PAC? APU?
Basically a generator. Non-idle climate control and power. Don't expect to get one right off, but the company should at least claim that most of their trucks have them. Reality is usually about 50% of the fleet at most has them regardless of what recruiters claim.

Pets?
$500 non-refundable deposit is standard; some companies limit the size, breed, type, or number of pets.

Vacation pay?
Some companies offer a bonus equivalent to 1 weeks pay instead of paid vacation. Some companies just offer an annual bonus.

Log books?
Ask drivers only! Anyone working at the office will tell you that you must log exactly as it happens and that furthermore, Big Brother is watching!
First thing to look out for is computerized logs; paper logs are not hard to do and it is to your advantage to be in charge of your own log book. The less "computerized" a company's logbooks are the better. What you really want to find out is how drivers actually log; there are several ways:
1. Real; "I log it like it happens;" this is a good "clean conscience" way to log.
2. Log by milage; Miles Driven divided by Legal Speed Limit equals Hours logged. Very common way to do logs. Usually ends up being close enough to reality to be passable.
3. Re-written logs; ("science fiction" logs); maybe what you did was not quite legal, but it looks legal now! Most drivers have done this at least once or twice.
4. Multiple log books; logging more than one version of your trip; depending on who's asking and what time it is, you show them which ever log book would make what you are currently doing look ok; highly illegal. If caught you will lose your license and probably never drive a truck again.

Short haul pay?
Rare, but a very good bonus!

Detention pay?
Most companies will pay you for being held for over 2 hours at a shipper. Ask drivers if they ever actually get paid on this. Companies commonly claim to do this, but not many companies actually do.

Lay-over Pay?
Standard is $25-$30 for sitting 24 hours due to repairs or lack of frieght. Every recruiter will tell you they pay this; ask the drivers if they actually do it.

Hotels?
Usually this only comes up if your truck is in the shop. Again, many companies claim to do it but reality is a different story. Ask drivers.

Cash Advances?
Ask drivers. Chances are, until you get some money built up in your savings account you will need this benefit every once in a while. Some companies will advance you up to $150 per week and take it out of your next pay check. Others don't do advances at all. Ask drivers; recruiters may either not know, be misinformed, or make something up that sounds plausible and attractive.

Dispatcher culture?
Basically find out how respectful and considerate dispatchers (also called "Fleet Managers" or "Driver Managers") are and what the drivers experience has been. Drivers love talking about this, and if nothing else you'll hear some entertaining stories. Keep in mind that drivers and dispatchers commonly don't get along. Usually, being able to solve problems on your own, good trip planning habits, and clear professional (and well documented) communication can go along way to help that relationship. Don't even bother asking recruiters about this unless you want the fairy tale version.

Safety Rating?
Recruiters usually know this by heart unless their rating is particularly embarrassing, in which case they may make something up; you can also look this up online (http://www.safersys.org/). A good safety rating usually means good driver training and less hassle from DOT and highway patrol. There are some skeptics of the whole Safety Rating system however (if you're curious you can look up "Driver Safety Rating" on Wikipedia.com)

Common Fuel stops?
Less of an issue now that most truck stops are owned by one of 3 companies but find out if they use Comdata or EFS to pay for fuel.
Just for general information here are the common ones:

TA (Travel Centers of America):
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Repair shop, Fried food, Restaurant, Buffet, A/C & power hookups (called "Idle Air;" only at some locations)

Petro:
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Fried food, Restaurant, Buffet, Idle Air (some locations)

Flying J (now partners with Pilot and Loves):
Showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Fried food, Pizza (most locations), Restaurant

Pilot:
Showers, Laundry (sometimes), fast food

Loves:
Showers (most locations), fast food (most locations): some Flying J's have now been converted to Love's

Little America (AM Best):
Excellent showers, Laundry, Places to sit, Cable TV, Repair shop, Grill (Burgers etc.)

Questions? Comments? Did I forget something? Let me know!

No comments:

Post a Comment