Prime Flatbed - Pay For Securement Equipment?

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Gregg M.'s Comment
member avatar

I've been emailing with a Prime recruiter, and am very interested in their flatbed division. They have a terminal about 90 minutes from me, and will give me some consideration for already having a CDL-A even with no experience. I also like that they have some diversity in the company, and I can get some exposure to tanker, reefer , and regional work if I feel so inclined. Of course the mostly positive comments by other members here don't hurt either ;)

Anyway, during a phone conversation the recruiter mentioned that flatbed drivers are responsible to purchase their own straps, tarps, chains and accessories. They can be purchased through Prime, which gives you the option to pay them back over a year, or you can purchase from other vendors so long as the equipment meets their specifications. Of course I asked how much this would cost and the answer is about $4000.00.

Now as someone who has been an automotive tech for a long time I'm used to buying tools, and I completely get the idea that if the equipment belongs to you, you take better care of it. But 4K is a big hit, and even over a year is almost $100 a week. I was a bit taken aback by this.

Obviously I'm not going to change their policy, but I'm curious - is this S.O.P. in the flatbed industry? Or is this something Prime alone does?

And of course the follow up question - any suggestions on sources for the equipment if/when I get that far?

Thanks for any feedback/thoughts

Gregg

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.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

It's been 5 years since I purchased my flatbed equipment through Prime, and I can't remember now exactly how much it cost me. However, due to some of it being pre-owned I got it at a reduced cost. The final bill was somewhere in the $2500 range, definitely less than 3k. I'm sure prices could've gone up since then.

Chief Brody is currently a flatbedder with Prime, so he'll have more up to date accurate pricing info. He'll likely be along shortly.

When I left Prime 2 1/2 yrs later, I sold most of the equipment, minus the tarps which I kept, back to them for something like $1900. So all in all not a bad deal.

I think Prime is mostly alone in this practice. Most other companies supply the equipment to company drivers free of charge. But as you know, you'll take far better care of your equipment when you own it. The fact that you can sell it back to them if you leave gives you some cushion. Prime pays better than most other companies, so the cost is offset by that too.

Some people don't like the policy, but I never had a problem with it. It was a small price to pay to work with a company of Prime's caliber.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

It's not only flatbed-specific equipment that companies may require a driver to purchase. I had to buy my four load locks, four cargo straps, kingpin lock, two trailer door locks, tire chains, etc.

These items aren't approaching 4 grand, but there is a price tag approaching $1K. The deductions were $40/week that is refundable when I depart the driving here.

One tends to keep up with items that we purchase.

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar

Gregg,

I'm in my second full year at Prime in the flatbed division.

The $4,000 for the flatbed equipment is about what I paid. The weekly deduction over a year equals $75.

If you are comparing Prime to other companies, a couple of things to consider.

Your tarp pay ranges from $80 to $150 per load. During my first year, about 50% of my loads were tarp loads. With at least two loads per week, your tarp pay will offset the $75 weekly payroll deduction. So, if you are comparing Prime dry van or reefer , where you don't pay for equipment, but then you don't get tarp pay, it's about a wash. However, I think I came out ahead with the tarp pay during my first year. I briefly searched Melton which says they pay $100, $50 to tarp and $50 to untarp. But they just raised their tarp pay rate. I don't know what TMC pays. But they have a percentage pay option that many find more lucrative.

I grossed $73,000 during my first year solo at Prime. So, minus the cost of the equipment that's $69,000 net.

As Turtle says, you can sell your equipment back after you leave. In fact, if there are something you don't want, you can sell it back right away. But, I would recommend keeping all of the equipment they issue. In fact, I bought some more j-hooks that what they issued. I also bought some 6 foot drop tarps and some other equipment that makes securement easier and better.

As far as other sources of the equipment, I would just get it from Prime. It's going to be cheaper than trying to buy it from Mytee Products or US Cargo. Plus, you don't have to pay shipping. Getting the equipment from Prime is easy. The flatbed shop puts the "standard issue" on a pallet. Then they lift up that pallet over the fifth wheel of your truck and you just pull everything off and put it in your headache rack. I was in the "tarp bay" yesterday, and here was a new flatbedder getting his new equipment.

The other thing to consider with Prime is that your health insurance is more the first year. For me, it was more than $80 per week more. So, whether you go flatbed, reefer, or drive van you will pay more in health insurance you first year. So, if you are considering other companies, you will want to find out their health benefit costs.

My only experience has been at Prime and can say that I'm pretty happy with the company. There are some things that I don't like about Prime in the flatbed division. We tend to tarp more than other companies. In fact, at one shipper where I picked up a 37,000 lb aluminum ingot, another flatbedder told me "you are the only guys who tarp those things." I didn't mind because it was an easy tarp job. I made $80 an hour to tarp. Now, a 13'8" Cedar City load in January is another story. Although that was $150 tarp pay, you can keep the money.

I would not focus too much on paying for the equipment. Like I said, you will probably see more of an increase in your pay after the first year due to the health benefit cost.

Hope this helps.

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.

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.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Gregg M.'s Comment
member avatar

First, I want to say "Thank You" for the responses - this was exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

Second, I want to say that this is definitely NOT a go/no go issue for me with Prime. As I said, I'm used to buying tools, and I appreciate all of the subtleties of the difference between My equipment and the Company's equipment.

The recruiter did not mention that Prime would "buy back" equipment if I left the company or flatbed division, but then again I wouldn't expect her to - her job is to get me in the door, not tell me about leaving the company :) In any case, that is a good thing to know - makes it more like text books in college, buy them, take care of them, sell them back. It's also good information that just buying from Prime makes the most sense - Thank you.

I did look over the health insurance pretty thoroughly and noted the elevated first year pricing. I've seen that before, and I'm neither surprised nor put off by it. It's simply a way to reward employees for staying, and have some of the in-and-out guys cover some of the costs they incur by being short term.

Chief Brody - I have to say that your generally positive descriptions of Prime are one of the many factors that put them on my short list.

If I can I'd like to ask you a couple of questions . . .

When you get home time are you expected to drop the truck (and/or trailer) at the terminal , or do you take the truck home?

Even though you've been strictly flatbed, do you have any sense of how easy or difficult it is to switch to a different fleet - say tanker, or a regional position?

What's your feeling about the equipment storage on the trucks and trailers? Is it enough? Related to that how often do you change trailers, and what does that entail?

What extra equipment did you add to the standard list, and why? I run rollback tow trucks as a second job, so I'm familiar with wanting the right tools for the job when on the road.

And last - any chance you're a trainer?

Gregg

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

Gregg,

Chief Brody is on home time, and likely didn't see your questions. I'll answer the ones that I can.

When you get home time are you expected to drop the truck (and/or trailer) at the terminal , or do you take the truck home?

You can take the truck and trailer home as long as you have a safe, secure place for them.

Even though you've been strictly flatbed, do you have any sense of how easy or difficult it is to switch to a different fleet - say tanker

It's very easy to switch divisions. Prime wants to keep you as a driver, even if that means putting you in a different division.

or a regional position?

That may be slightly more difficult in flatbed, depending on where you live, and how many openings are available in that regional fleet. There's Northeast regional, Texas regional, Western 11 (I think they still do that), etc.

What's your feeling about the equipment storage on the trucks and trailers?

Can't help you there. The headache racks were different in my day. The interior of the racks is smaller now, but still adequate. Chief will have a better answer for you there.

Related to that how often do you change trailers, and what does that entail?

It's a crapshoot. Sometimes you'll have the same trailer 3 weeks in a row. Other times you might change trailers three times a week. There's no gear stored in the trailers, other than maybe your tarps up on the deck. Typically you'll only switch trailers when dropping an empty and picking up a pre-loaded trailer at a shipper.

What extra equipment did you add to the standard list, and why?

No help for you here either. The standard gear issued today is different than in my day. I added things like different/larger edge protectors and moving blankets to prevent tearing of my tarps. Besides those things, the standard gear issued covers most bases.

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.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar

I'll reply in more detail later.

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar

Gregg,

See my more detailed responses below:

When you get home time are you expected to drop the truck (and/or trailer) at the terminal , or do you take the truck home?

As Turtle stated, you can take the truck home or go to a terminal. There is a drop lot in East St. Louis where I can leave my truck or trailer for longer periods like 4 days home time. If I'm only home for a 34-hour reset, I park at a Target near my house. I leave my POV parked at the Prime Springfield terminal. When I need work done on my truck, I will often select the Springfield terminal as my home time location and then drive my POV home.

Even though you've been strictly flatbed, do you have any sense of how easy or difficult it is to switch to a different fleet - say tanker, or a regional position?

As Turtle said, you can transfer between divisions pretty seamlessly. If you are a good driver, they will want to keep you.

What's your feeling about the equipment storage on the trucks and trailers? Is it enough? Related to that how often do you change trailers, and what does that entail?

The storage space on the truck, both inside the truck and the headache rack are plenty. I have six total tarps, but only four will fit in the clamshell storage above my headache rack. I strap the other two on the trailer, along with a duffle bag of moving blankets. One thing you need to consider involves the violent movement of the truck. Things will bounce around in your storage cabinet if you don't have things packed in pretty tightly.

Swapping trailers happens pretty regularly. Prime has many regular customers so you will drop and empty trailer at a shipper and then pick up your loaded trailer. In addition to the simple uncoupling the empty trailer and coupling to the new trailer, I have to swap my tarps on the trailer plus for 8' 4X4s that I use for a bulkhead.

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.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

Bulkhead:

A strong wall-like structure placed at the front of a flatbed trailer (or on the rear of the tractor) used to protect the driver against shifting cargo during a front-end collision. May also refer to any separator within a dry or liquid trailer (also called a baffle for liquid trailers) used to partition the load.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar
What extra equipment did you add to the standard list, and why? I run rollback tow trucks as a second job, so I'm familiar with wanting the right tools for the job when on the road.

1. I bought two 6' drop, 26' long tarps from Montana Canvas in Belgrade, Montana. The material is better quality than the tarps that Prime issues, which come from Joplin Tarp. Prime use a three tarp system where loads that are taller than what the standard Prime 4' drops will cover and/or longer than what the Prime 8' drops will cover. You turn a 4' drop tarp sideways to cover the gap between the two 8' drop tarps. It just a lot easier to use two 6' drop tarps that are longer. And two 6' drop tarps, 26' feet long will cover most of the loads that Prime hauls.

2. I bought three canvas tarps from Tarp Nation: two 10'X5" and one 8'X6'. Many drivers use moving blanket to cover steel or aluminum that will cut through your tarps. But covering all of the exposed sharp edges with many moving blankets strategically placed, takes time. Plus, it takes time to fold all of those moving blankets up and store then when you are done. With the canvas tarps, I can cover almost all of the exposed sharp edges by throwing a large canvas tarp over the front and the back.

3. Rubberized chain steel edge protectors. Prime gives you metal edge protectors and then small rubber pads to put under them. They are a paid in the butt to use. These rubberized edge protectors work a lot better:

https://www.myteeproducts.com/10-pack-steel-edge-protector-w-rubber-coating.html?fee=39&fep=4025&gclid=CjwKCAjwk6-LBhBZEiwAOUUDp9g381KDovYp8XAOmirUYG15wllgwrFqgrdSte1T0XhfY2V7hiMaMhoCx2EQAvD_BwE

4. Steel edge protectors with a slot:

Some steel coils already have a plastic ring to protect it. You can use these for steel edge protection and thread the chain through them. This way, the chain won't slip off the side.

https://www.myteeproducts.com/steel-corner-protector-w-chain-slot.html

5. Corner protectors:

When I have steel corners that are extra sharp and may cut through my canvas I'll tape these to the corners to protect my tarps. I also use them when I'm just concerned about the corners for a lumber load. I'll use a hammer tacker to staple them to the wood on the corners.

https://www.myteeproducts.com/platic-tarp-protector.html

6. Corner protection placement pole.

I use this to put edge protection on the edges of tall loads. I also use this to put "belly straps" through loads.

https://www.myteeproducts.com/8ft-veeboards-extension-handle.html

7. Packrat gave me some fire hose. I cut it into 3' strip and sliced open one side. I use if for really sharp edges that I think may cut through my canvas or when I have a tiered load that has multiple levels of edges more than just the front and the back. If it's a lumber load, I'll use my hammer tacker to staple them to the lumber.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar

Forgot to answer your last question about training.

They keep asking me to be a trainer, and I keep telling them the same thing that Jack Benny said when a robber demanded "your money or your life."

"I'm thinking, I'm thinking."

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