Choosing That First Employer

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Rico's Comment
member avatar

I just got off the phone with PTL, out of Murray, KY. The recruiter seemed to be upfront. They do their training in two phases. After a 3 day orientation, you go with a company trainer for 6-8K miles. She claims 2-3 weeks, but I'm guessing it's closer to 3-4 weeks for this part to be completed. You then team up with another new driver for 30k miles. This part can take up to three months or more. Once you go solo, you're assigned a truck that you take home with you during home time. The pay during training is 15cpm, $150 for orientation. You get the 15cpm for all miles during the team driving phase.

Hiring requirements are the basics you see from most companies. They do the DOT drug test and physical. They only ask for three years employment history, which is less than what I've read about other companies. They do want a complete criminal history though. They want to know about all arrests and convictions, not just convictions.

I have mixed feelings about their program. They seem to be more liberal than other companies on what it takes to get hired--not as much jumping through hoops and whatnot. This team driving with another newbie for 30K miles seems kinda iffy to me. I think it would be much better to team drive with an experienced driver. I realize two heads are better than one, but we're talking about two newbies trying to learn the ropes. I'm guessing that these 30K miles is when the company tests you--you know, crappy loads, low miles, lots of delays, the possibility that your partner gives up and gets out of the truck in the middle of a run, etc. One thing I do like is that they don't approve you for orientation until all the background and employment verifications are complete. None of this showing up for orientation and training to get sent home after a few days. When you show up for training, it's because they've hired you.

For now I am putting them in the Yes category. My next call is to Celadon.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rico's Comment
member avatar

Hmmmmm. It looks as if Celadon will have to wait. I called them for information and was told to fill out the application first. Apparently they don't give out much information until they have your application in hand. And I'm not talking about one of those quickie pre-qualifying apps either. They want the main application filled out first. I guess maybe this saves them some time. Since I'd like to get information before I officially apply with a company, (I'm waiting until the last week of school to put in applications), I will put them in the Maybe category. US Xpress is next.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

James, based on the phone calls I've made, DO NOT wait until your last week of school before applying to most companies. All of the recruiters I've spoken with told me to apply about 30 days before I intend to graduate. Schneider, Crete / Shaffer, Prime Inc. Seems like a trend. I can't recall what Werner said. Ask those recruiters when you should apply.

One of the main reasons I'm choosing Crete / Shaffer first is because you get 8 weeks of paid training. You run as a solo operation with a trainer. I like the idea of having 8 weeks. I prefer the method of saddling up with another trainer that has a minimum of two years experience. I don't think I'd feel as comfortable with another guy that only had 6 months experiences prior to becoming a trainer. That's just me.

ThinksTooMuch (who drives for US Xpress) might chime in here, but I believe US Xpress has you teaming w/ another driver that is relatively wet behind the ears - I don't want to spread misinformation, so you might want to ask a recruiter about that one. Another thing to consider w/ US Xpress is the probability of driving a truck with automatic transmission.

Curious, are you trying to land an OTR gig, or would you actually prefer a regional or dedicated account? Some companies allow you to transfer immediately into a regional fleet or dedicated account, right after training. Of course a lot of it has to do w/ where you're located.

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.

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.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
This team driving with another newbie for 30K miles seems kinda iffy to me. I think it would be much better to team drive with an experienced driver. I realize two heads are better than one, but we're talking about two newbies trying to learn the ropes. I'm guessing that these 30K miles is when the company tests you--you know, crappy loads, low miles, lots of delays, the possibility that your partner gives up and gets out of the truck in the middle of a run, etc.

Different companies will take a different approach to this. But I don't think they'll test you by making you sit around. This is an opportunity to move team freight at a very low pay rate so the company stands to make good money from this. If anything I would think they'll run you as hard as you can go to see if you're up to the challenge.

I think the main reasons they team up newbies are for moral support, companionship, and the ability to help each other out in tight circumstances like backing, following directions in a city, and communicating on the Qualcomm while driving. This can be a huge advantage over going solo right after training.

Do not underestimate how lonely and stressful life can be when you first go solo. For most people that will be the first time they've ever gone more than a few days without seeing a single person they know. That can be a real shock to the system. And to have a "buddy in the trenches with you" can really be a huge stress reliever. Even if you're the one driving in a stressful situation, just knowing there's someone there can make it feel like someone is in it with you.

And we all know how good it feels to be able to vent once in a while, especially to someone that knows us and can relate to what we're going through. Big help right there, especially under such difficult and stressful circumstances.

All of that being said, you don't know who you'll be teamed up with and whether or not you can trust their decision making. That's scary for everyone. But from an experienced driver's perspective I feel like teaming up two newbies has way more advantages for most people than it does disadvantages.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

I never thought of teaming up w/ another rookie as having those positives that you mentioned, Brett. Definitely food for thought. You make some good points.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

The only thing I've decided is that going the flatbed route is out for now. To be honest, I don't think I am in good enough shape for all the work that it involves. Regional hauling would be nice because of the possibility of more frequent home time. At the same time, I kinda want to see the States.

Part of the reason why I am waiting is because my daughter graduates May 24th. As fate would have it, my mother and sister won't be able to come to the graduation. If I am not there, that only leaves her mother, sisters, and brother. She really wants me to be there. Other than CDL training itself, any orientation, training, etc. needs to start after that date. If I were already out on the road as a regular driver, I could probly get that day as home time. But being fresh out of school in a new hire program isn't the time to be asking for home time. It's gonna make money a little tight, but we'll manage.

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.

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.

Rico's Comment
member avatar
double-quotes-start.png

This team driving with another newbie for 30K miles seems kinda iffy to me. I think it would be much better to team drive with an experienced driver. I realize two heads are better than one, but we're talking about two newbies trying to learn the ropes. I'm guessing that these 30K miles is when the company tests you--you know, crappy loads, low miles, lots of delays, the possibility that your partner gives up and gets out of the truck in the middle of a run, etc.

double-quotes-end.png

Different companies will take a different approach to this. But I don't think they'll test you by making you sit around. This is an opportunity to move team freight at a very low pay rate so the company stands to make good money from this. If anything I would think they'll run you as hard as you can go to see if you're up to the challenge.

I think the main reasons they team up newbies are for moral support, companionship, and the ability to help each other out in tight circumstances like backing, following directions in a city, and communicating on the Qualcomm while driving. This can be a huge advantage over going solo right after training.

Do not underestimate how lonely and stressful life can be when you first go solo. For most people that will be the first time they've ever gone more than a few days without seeing a single person they know. That can be a real shock to the system. And to have a "buddy in the trenches with you" can really be a huge stress reliever. Even if you're the one driving in a stressful situation, just knowing there's someone there can make it feel like someone is in it with you.

And we all know how good it feels to be able to vent once in a while, especially to someone that knows us and can relate to what we're going through. Big help right there, especially under such difficult and stressful circumstances.

All of that being said, you don't know who you'll be teamed up with and whether or not you can trust their decision making. That's scary for everyone. But from an experienced driver's perspective I feel like teaming up two newbies has way more advantages for most people than it does disadvantages.

I hear ya. The reason I figured you don't get a whole lot of miles during this phase is because she said it sometimes takes three months or more to complete it. You'd think a team turning the wheels as much as possible would rack up 30K miles faster than that.

Yeah, I know those first few weeks and months are gonna be tough. I figure the first few runs I'll be all excited 'cause I'll finally be behind the wheel, but the highway looks like the highway looks like the highway after a while. I'm upgrading my phone service so me and family can Skype. There's always texting, as long as the truck is parked. As long as I can squeeze in some time to take certain matters into my own hands (uh, well, you know), I think I'll get through it ok.

I do like the idea of having someone there to bounce ideas off of, but I'd be more comfortable with it if it were an experienced driver. I can just picture getting into some oddball parking situation for the first time and me and the other newbie looking at each other with blank stares on our faces! lol I guess they figure those initial 6K miles with the trainer are plenty to team two newbies up. Overall I have to say that I like what the recruiter explained to me. If I go with PTL, I'll do whatever it takes to make it work. That first 12-18 months is gonna be difficult no matter what company I go with.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rico's Comment
member avatar

I got off the phone with Con-Way Freight about an hour ago. It turns out the school I have chosen isn't on their list of approved schools, but she said it's not from a lack of trying on Con-Way's part. They know CDTC has a good program, but the owner doesn't want to go through the process with them to get his school on their list. So, we talked about another option.

Con-Way has two approved schools in MO. The one we talked about is in Neosho and is actually a community college. The program there is 5 weeks long, two weeks longer than CDTC, and costs $4400 including room, board, and misc. expenses (DOT physical, license, etc.). Con-way pays 1/2 the tuition and I pay the other half. Twenty two hundred dollars is almost $1000 cheaper than what I would pay CDTC. The deal is that as long as I complete the program, I am guaranteed a job with Con-Way. I do not have to pay back their half of the $4400, but I will owe the college that $2200 if I don't graduate. Con-Way completes all the background checks before approving me for the program, so it's basically a "do well in school and you have a job with us, no strings attached" situation.

After the schooling is completed, orientation is four days followed by 7500 miles with the company trainer. Pay is $100 for orientation, 26cpm while with trainer, 30cpm once I go solo, followed by steady raises based on miles driven.

This sounds like it could be a good choice. The schooling part is longer than others, but that's because of no weekends and regular school hours (no 12 hour days). Con-Way seems to have a better reputation than other companies. The only thing is that I have to decide within the next couple of days or so. The classes start the 28th of this month and there needs to be enough time to get all the details worked out with the college, get the background checks done, etc. I spent weeks settling on CDTC for training. In fact, I am supposed to start training with them on the 21st. At least this path with Con-Way would be killing two birds with one stone. Decisions.........decisions.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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

6 string rhythm's Comment
member avatar

Lots of decisions. Took me quite awhile to narrow down the list of companies I'd like to work for.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Hey Rico, I know your stressing over these decisions, but I just wanted to tell you that as far as a well managed company goes, Conway would be hard to beat, they have a great operation with lots of different opportunities.

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