Who To Start With?

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Jeff B.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello everyone, I want to thank everyone for all the great info on here. I am finally getting ready to start CDL school after 17 years of installing alarms and an injury forced me to change careers. I have pre-hire letters from Knight, May, and Schneider, and it is difficult to sort out what is bs and what isn't from the recruiters. Does anyone have any feedback on which of these companies would be best to start off with. I know this industry is something not to take lightly and I need to make it work. Any info would be appreciated.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

Tractor Man's Comment
member avatar

I have chosen to go with one of the BIG Company sponsored training programs, Swift. No money out of pocket, interest free financing, sign a 13 month contract and pay $37.50 per week(payroll deduction) for 13 months. With one of the Company Sponsored programs you are practically guaranteed a job after initial 3 weeks of classroom/range training and 6 or so weeks with a Mentor. It was pretty much a no brainer for me. Good Luck!

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I started with Swift last year. No complaints. TT had a set of reviews about companies here: Trucking Company Reviews

And these articles. You can check out the companies here::

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Jeff B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for the info Tractor Man and Errol. No offense, but I did talk with a Swift recruiter and was not impressed, I realize that is just one person though and probably shouldn't base a company on that. I have went through all the reviews on this site and there is a ton of good info. I am leaning towards Knight, does anyone have any experience with them? Are they new driver friendly? Basically I do not want to make the mistake of getting on with a company that will set me up for failure, I have a lot riding on this career change. I realize that whoever I get hired on with, that might happen. I am just trying to make the right choice.

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
member avatar

Old School still works for Knight and I started back up with Knight. They're not a bad company at all and you'll get out of it what you put into it. In my case, I wanted to work for a smaller company and can't really say anything terrible about Knight. I had another reason for leaving Knight but I know it's not something that effects every employee. I never brought it up because I didn't want it to be seen as bashing the company and I had and have no intention of doing so.

Tractor Man's Comment
member avatar

I'm sure there are pros and cons to all companies. I chose Swift due to the fact they are in my home State, 100 miles north of my hometown of Tucson. Big Company, lots of freight which can translate to lots of miles. I have learned a ton of things from this site and many others on being a rookie driver. Do not get any tickets, Do not hit anything, Do not refuse any loads, Be Professional and polite to your Dispatcher/ Higher-ups, and shippers/receivers, (even when they have it coming). Make all of your pick-ups and deliveries on time. Dress nicely, shower/ shave, DO NOT QUIT!! Suck it up and stick out your first year with the Company you start with. Do all of this for your 1st year and a whole world of opportunities will open up to you. These are all mantras that are said over and over by Experienced Drivers. I intend on taking their advice. Hell, I can put up with anything for a year!

good-luck.gif

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

Dispatcher:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Jeff B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Robert and great advice Tractor Man, I plan on doing just that. It takes hard work and great attitude to succeed in anything.

Dutch's Comment
member avatar

Jeff, I realize that you want to get started with the best company possible, as well as earn as much money as you can your first year.

In reality, your first year will serve to establish your safe driving record, as well as prove to yourself and everyone else that you won't give up easily, at the first sign of adversity. You should probably view your first year as something similar to pledging a fraternity, or prospecting for an MC.

You see, those recruiters you spoke with, are talking to a whole bunch of potential recruits, who haven't shown anyone what they are made of. They have simply picked up a telephone, and asked a few questions. Since there is a high attrition rate, they really have no way of knowing who will excel, and who will be a goldbricker. So right now, they probably don't seem to be taking you very seriously.

They don't really need to worry about those details early on. They just know that statistics tell them that out of every group of 30 drivers who attend school, X number will get a license, and 1 year later, X number will still be driving successfully in the industry.

My suggestion would be to make a list of the things you like most about each company, as well as a list of the things you don't. Through process of elimination, simply pick the program that seems to appeal to you the most. Things like tuition incentives, school location, company terminal locations, hiring areas, etc.

Once you have established a 6 month to 1 year driving record, you will then actually be ready to take a serious look at a long list of companies, and actually have some of those companies take a serious look at you.

Remember, right now, the training company you choose holds all the best cards in the game. Once you establish yourself, you will then be holding a few valuable cards, that you can then play to your advantage.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Steve L.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello everyone, I want to thank everyone for all the great info on here. I am finally getting ready to start CDL school after 17 years of installing alarms and an injury forced me to change careers. I have pre-hire letters from Knight, May, and Schneider, and it is difficult to sort out what is bs and what isn't from the recruiters. Does anyone have any feedback on which of these companies would be best to start off with. I know this industry is something not to take lightly and I need to make it work. Any info would be appreciated.

Here's my difficulty; I don't know where you live and what type of driving you're most interested in. That said, I drive for Schneider (over a year now) and everything they promised has been true. Here's my basic experience; I drive dry van. I get frustrated sometimes when I don't get 2,500+ miles in a week. However, I have averaged 10,000+ miles per month for the entire 15 months OTR. When you start with Schneider, you're making money pretty quickly because Orientation is only 17days long. When you start out, they usually don't send you into tough places. They let you get some experience before giving you those assignments.

While I'm always skeptical of bonus promises, I've earned the $.02/mile quarterly bonus every quarter since starting. So that's about $600/quarter extra. A nice chunk of change.

Here are the main reasons I chose Schneider; 1. Start earning quickly. 2. They're big enough that I can relocate or choose another line (e.g. tanker, intermodal , dedicated) without having to leave the company. 3. They're big enough that if they don't have freight, there's something seriously wrong. 4. I'm on an OTR schedule that gets me 5 days home time per month. I usually take this split with time off twice a month.

One of the biggest reasons I like Schneider is that we have Operating Centers (OC's) all over the country. All offer a safe parking spot (in addition to whatever is available at truck stops and rest areas), most offer showers, laundry and lounge (at no charge), maintenance facilities for express repairs to keep you moving and some have cafeterias (you pay for your meals there, but it's reasonably priced).

For me Schneider was the right choice and I don't have plans to leave. I wish you luck wherever you go and I hope this helps.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Intermodal:

Transporting freight using two or more transportation modes. An example would be freight that is moved by truck from the shipper's dock to the rail yard, then placed on a train to the next rail yard, and finally returned to a truck for delivery to the receiving customer.

In trucking when you hear someone refer to an intermodal job they're normally talking about hauling shipping containers to and from the shipyards and railyards.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Jeff B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Dutch, that makes perfect sense. As you and others have mentioned, whoever I pick and if it doesn't workout, I can go somewhere else as long as I stick it out for a year with my first company. Steve, I live in Colorado and I would like to do dry van as well. Thanks for the info on Schneider because they are the second company I am looking into. The things you mention about Schneider sounds pretty good to me, especially that they let you get some experience before the tougher assignments.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.
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