Question About "Driver Mills"

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Jake T.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey everyone,

One topic and issue that I've seen online are drivers feeling upset about "driver mills" - in other words, schools that turn turckers out to get them on the road and to get their money. Is this a real concern? Does anyone have experience with this issue (or perhaps how upcoming drivers can avoid it?)

Thanks.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Jake, the way the trucking industry is structured there isn't a school in the nation that has the luxury of taking their time and training students at a reasonable pace. Whether it's Private Truck Driving Schools or a Paid CDL Training Programs they are all competing with other schools and companies to train students as quickly and efficiently as possible.

The government has never set any minimum standards for training CDL holders other than to say they have to pass the CDL exams. But you don't even have to go to any sort of school to get a CDL. That's not at all recommended because reputable companies won't hire new drivers that haven't attended a reputable school. But there are no minimum requirements for training of any sort.

Therefore schools and companies are all trying to compete to turn out drivers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

What you want to do when choosing a private school is make sure that some of the major companies will hire students from that school. Get a list of some of the majors that hire from a school and call a few yourself from home to verify. If major companies will hire from a school then at least you know they're worthy of consideration.

The purpose of any truck driving school is to teach you the basics well enough to get your CDL. At that point you'll get on with a company that will send you out with a trainer for anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to learn some of the in's and out's of doing your job day to day out there on the road. A school will not make you a proficient driver. They will make you a minimally qualified but hireable driver with a CDL. Your road training will help you improve a little from there and the rest you'll learn on your own.

That's the way it's been done in trucking for decades. It's fast and efficient but doesn't necessarily turn out the safest, most comfortable drivers.

We also have a ton of great information that will help you choose the right school:

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.

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.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Tractor Man's Comment
member avatar

Brett, VERY well put!smile.gif

Jake T.'s Comment
member avatar

Wow, thanks, Brett. That was incredibly informative.

Thanks! I'll look into the information you gave me.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Jake, I know you are interested in writing about the trucking industry, but you've got to be very careful about how you do your research. Since you are somewhat of an outsider, looking into the industry, you have to be cautious of all the misinformation that is out there. The extensive misinformation, that is almost amoeba like in the way it divides and multiplies itself, is an ingrained scourge in our industry. There are so many new entrants to the industry that don't have a clue about how it really works, and they are often in and back out before they ever understand the dynamics of this much misunderstood, performance based, industry because they had false expectations of how it all works. It is those multitudes of disgruntled malcontents who continue the myths and misinformation, because it provides them a template and an excuse that allows them to avoid accepting the responsibility of their own failure.

Personal responsibility is a strong characteristic that you will find in successful truck drivers. The lack of personal responsibility fuels many of the disparaging remarks you will find on-line by the wannabes who try to pose as the real thing. It's not difficult to see through their guileful remarks, but it is much easier for a successful truck driver to see where the error is in their remarks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Jake said in another thread:

I'm a recent college grad who loves to write and contributes to online sources/blog frequently with my writing. I'm heavily interested in writing about a variety of topics, but the trucking industry is one that is growing and with that comes a great deal of information that needs to be accounted for. That in mind, I need help from the folks here - what topics in the industry are interesting or worth writing about? Are there any issues that you or your loved ones behind the wheel have faced that you feel aren't addressed? Anything controversial in the business that seems to divide you and your friends?

It didn't dawn on me that you were the college kid who wanted to write about trucking. Jake, please do the world a favor and find something other than trucking to write about. If you haven't lived it you can't possibly begin understand it. Half the people out there driving truck don't seem to understand how this industry works. You're certainly not going to understand 1% of what the trucking world is all about by asking us some questions in a forum.

To be brutally honest, at the risk of offending, the last thing this world needs is another uninformed opinion. The media and the Web in general are already saturated with sensationalized lies, slander, and self-serving rhetoric. We spend most of our time in this forum dispelling myths and misinformation, which is why I answered your question without even thinking about who was asking it or why. We get questions like that all the time from people who are researching this industry and trying to find out the truth about this industry and what it takes to make it out there.

If you're so interested in trucking then go out there and live it and share your experiences with people. Otherwise leave it to the people who have been there to help others understand what it's all about. There isn't a thing in the world you can do at this point that's going to help anyone. I don't mean to offend, but that's how it is.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jake T.'s Comment
member avatar

Wow! Well, I gotta say, I'm not offended per se - but have a little faith, man! I love writing and I've written about tons of different subjects within contemprary culture. I'm truly not a musician (at least, I've never considered myself to be) yet I've made part of my living for the last 3 years in the realm freelance music journalism.

I've taught before at CSUs (you say "kid", but, whatever, I guess I am) and I always told my English students that they could write about any subject if they do enough earnest research, talked to people, and sought the truth. I don't work for any slanderous publication - I truly want to understand more about trucking and inform future truckers and the general public about the profession.

I agree that the last thing we need is another uninformed opinion. They are truly useless. But what's wrong with an informed opinion? Of course I'll never be able to understand the culture of trucking 100% - that would be incredible foolhardy to think so. However, to say that I'll never understand it and should give up, well, not only does that seem entirely defeatist to writing in general but that negates the point of any sort of journalistic endeavors.

See, I'm trying to do something positive here, and for the forum that promotes themselves as holding the positive and honest views I figured this would be a great place to turn to. I've been on other forums making friends and explaining my case - same as on here - and people have been incredibly friendly and helpful - even some sharing my cause on their social media pages.

And if I never "get it" well, I'd rather fail trying to understand as opposed to giving up because people have failed before me. So no, I'm offended, Brett. The people on these boards have been very welcoming to an outsider like me. I genuinely think trucking is interesting and have had a fine time disucssing some trends in the industry and gaining more insight into the culture. Isn't that in part what the forums are for?

Jake said in another thread:

double-quotes-start.png

I'm a recent college grad who loves to write and contributes to online sources/blog frequently with my writing. I'm heavily interested in writing about a variety of topics, but the trucking industry is one that is growing and with that comes a great deal of information that needs to be accounted for. That in mind, I need help from the folks here - what topics in the industry are interesting or worth writing about? Are there any issues that you or your loved ones behind the wheel have faced that you feel aren't addressed? Anything controversial in the business that seems to divide you and your friends?

double-quotes-end.png

It didn't dawn on me that you were the college kid who wanted to write about trucking. Jake, please do the world a favor and find something other than trucking to write about. If you haven't lived it you can't possibly begin understand it. Half the people out there driving truck don't seem to understand how this industry works. You're certainly not going to understand 1% of what the trucking world is all about by asking us some questions in a forum.

To be brutally honest, at the risk of offending, the last thing this world needs is another uninformed opinion. The media and the Web in general are already saturated with sensationalized lies, slander, and self-serving rhetoric. We spend most of our time in this forum dispelling myths and misinformation, which is why I answered your question without even thinking about who was asking it or why. We get questions like that all the time from people who are researching this industry and trying to find out the truth about this industry and what it takes to make it out there.

If you're so interested in trucking then go out there and live it and share your experiences with people. Otherwise leave it to the people who have been there to help others understand what it's all about. There isn't a thing in the world you can do at this point that's going to help anyone. I don't mean to offend, but that's how it is.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I guess I just don't see the point of writing about something like trucking without experiencing it first. I have quite the intellect and I could have easily spent my life teaching or engineering or philosophizing. But I'm much more interested in experiencing the world, as opposed to studying it, watching others experience it, or talking about it.

If something interests me enough then I'll want to try it. And if I want to try it then I'm going to spend some time learning about it first. And if I'm going to learn about it I most certainly want to learn about it from someone who has done it, not someone who has studied it or talked to people about it.

Honest to God I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, but trucking simply isn't something you can possibly understand without experiencing it. So if you're not going to experience it and you can't truly understand it then what good could you possibly do anyone by writing about it? That's my question.

And the fact that your first "idea" is "What do you think about driver mills?" tells me you're going to do exactly what I would expect you to do - start with some rhetoric about a hot button issue and start a hornets nest about something you can't possibly contribute to in a meaningful way. I'm sorry, but no one needs that. If someone needs to truly understand something about the trucking industry there are literally millions of people who have done it for a living and can share helpful insights and life experiences.

I'm just not a fan of the "intellectual only" side of things. There are tons of people who have never done much of anything outside of a library, a computer screen, or a classroom and in my opinion those people generally have very little to offer when trying to convey the finer points of things that require life experience to understand. It's the "clueless professor" syndrome - a brilliant person who understands nothing in the end because of an utter lack of real life experience.

Ask anyone that has ever driven a truck and they'll tell you that almost nothing about the job and lifestyle was even remotely similar to what they had imagined it would be. It's not like mathematics or theoretical physics where life experience plays no role in your ability to solve problems or formulate theories. It's trucking. It requires personal experience to truly understand it.

In fact, I've said ever since my first year in trucking that one of the biggest problems with this industry is that it's governed by people who have no experience driving a truck. You have sleep experts and business majors and insurance adjusters and lawyers and Congressmen that are writing the laws, creating company policies, formulating training agendas, and deciding what features are required in the trucks. So often it's painfully obvious they have no idea what they're talking about. Their opinions and their decision making are embarrassingly poor.

Again, I'm not trying to be a jerk and of course you can write about anything you'd like to write about. That's your prerogative. But personally, as someone who spent 15 years behind the wheel and almost a decade mentoring others I can tell you that without experiencing it first hand you know so little about it that you're almost certainly going to do more harm than good.

As a writer, don't you feel you should be an authority on your topic? Or maybe being a writer means you simply write about things without having to live them? I don't know. I write articles and I wrote a book but I don't consider myself a writer by trade. I wrote about my trade to help others understand it. That's two totally different things.

I just wouldn't pick a topic to write about that requires first hand knowledge if I didn't have that first hand knowledge. I would either get the experience first so I had something of value to contribute or I would stick with topics I know I can contribute to in a meaningful way.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Jake T.'s Comment
member avatar

Brett,

I get what you're saying. You as well as other drivers will always be a greater authority on trucking than I can ever be, try as I might. I concede that to you. I don't need to get schooled on the philosophy of "writing vs living" - I've had to live that since I chose this professional path.

Anyway, I'm going to continue with my endeavors, despite the naysayers. You do not have to read any of my writings. I thought this would be an interesting excercise in learning about something that has been in my life and community since I can remember. I guess I'll just continue to talk to the friendly folks on other forums and have nice conversations with some friendships I have cultivated online. I can't say this has been a "positive" experience from the moderators despite being a "positive" forum! However, the other folks have been great and I appreciate their support and input. I give up.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Old School's Comment
member avatar

Jake, I don't think you realize how hard we tirelessly work to dispel the many myths that abound about trucking. You confirmed all our worst nightmares when you came back in here from your research and asked us about CDL Mills. That alone clearly showed that we are right about how you could start writing about trucking and completely miss the truth that could help folks break into the industry. There is clearly no such thing as CDL Mills, yet just about any truck driver can tell you all about them! It's the last thing that we want to see - more drivel about non-existent things and circumstances affecting professional drivers. I realize that you really don't seem to understand where we are coming from, but I don't know how else to put it to you. It's bad enough that we have experienced truck drivers spreading all sorts of misinformation, but now we have additional "writers" wanting to just jump into the fray!

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.
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