Yet Another New Guy - YANG

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Tracy W.'s Comment
member avatar

Okay...I'm just a YANG (Yet Another New Guy) joining Trucking Truth. :)

I started lurking here a while ago because I've always considered a career in trucking, and as I've been out of work a while, I took the leap.

I'm seeking some advice, and trying to let out some apprehension by posting this.

A little bit about me, and the circumstances that led to the decision, just to fill you in.

I'm 57 years old, married to the most wonderful woman in the world for 38 years this September. (we were high school sweethearts)

I joined the Navy after graduation, had great training and it led to a career in Information Technology. I was always pretty good at it, and moved into management. In 2009 I took a job with a company that was a mistake. Things were good at first, but the leadership of the company decided to outsource the IT work to India, and I was out of a job in 2011. And not gently, either, because as they couldn't lay me off, a BS reason was made up and I was fired. I chose not to fight it, which in retrospect was a mistake.

After searching fruitlessly for two years for further work in the IT world, I decided to go to school and get my CDL. During the two year hiatus, I held a couple part time jobs, one as a clerk in a Cigar and Pipe shop, the other as a Test Administrator for the U.S. Military Entrance exams. I still have both those jobs, pending signing on with a trucking company.

I started school in my town (Billings, Montana) at the end of May, and finished last Monday, June 24th. I passed all the written exams including the endorsements (except Hazmat) at the end of the first week. On the 24th I passed my State exam, so I have my CDL. I did the TSA work, and am scheduled to take the Hazmat test on Monday the 1st.

So currently I'm well into the search for a company to land at, and I'm dealing with a few issues I hope some folks can help with. I'm looking at doing the OTR runs for at least the first year to get my street creds...both my wife and I understand that is necessary, having been in the military. I know more choices will be available after I get 12 months and 100,000 miles under my belt.

Due to my location, I seem to have some limited choices as to companies in the area, many of those that look really good based on their website are not hiring in my area.

There are a couple options for OTR in the area, one of the companies has a terminal right here, so seems a good choice.

Question #1 - The local company says they will put me through a 10-day advanced training school, do a road test, and if I pass, they'll put me in a truck solo right after that. This seems a bit fast to me, what do you think?

Question #2 - The Orientation pay is $100 the first day, $100 the 5th day, and $200 the second week. The second week's orientation pay will go in my first regular paycheck. This seems low based on what I've seen so far, what do you think?

Question #3 - The starting pay for new drivers at that company is 29 cents a mile. The recruiter claimed that was some of the highest in the industry. Again, that seems low as to what I've seen on other websites. It works out to about $30K the first year based on the projected miles. What do you think?

Question #4 - It may very well be that I need to head to the Bakken Oil Fields and drive if I can't get an OTR gig. I've heard horror stories and some good ones. Any feedback on those?

Question #5 - Anyone have any idea if my departure from that last company is going to condemn me in my new career? Some of the job apps I've looked at have pretty specifically asked if I left a previous job in a negative manner. What is really interesting is that company that fired me had to bring me back on for a consulting gig with a client who requested me and wouldn't have anyone else. It really pained them to do it though.

I know this was pretty long, and I apologize, I'm probably venting a bit too, but I really want to get started on this new career. I know trucking school is not enough to make me an expert, just enough to get my license and get me on the road. Any feedback would be appreciated!

Thanks all!

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

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.

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.

Dm:

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.
Tracy W.'s Comment
member avatar

I would also like to give Brett and the contributors to the site a huge thank you. You've certainly taken some of the difficulty out of jumping into a new career for many of us, and I for one greatly appreciate those who have gone before lighting the way for those following.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Tracy, welcome to the forum! It sounds like you've already got a lot of things accomplished, Congratulations!

I don't know that much about hiring from Montana, but I will say if you think you've found a gig and the first years salary will end up being around 30K, then that's definitely in the ballpark of most of the major carriers. If you catch on quickly you will develop your own savvy and figure out how to manage your time, your shippers, and receivers so that you can squeeze in some more pay because you are getting more accomplished and delivered than the company thought you would. I sometimes manage to get an extra 150 - 200 bucks on my paycheck by surprising my dispatcher with getting things done before he expected it. Some of the receivers will take you early if you talk to them professionally and it can really help you get onto the next load if you've got a good dispatcher. Miles is where the money comes from - I make less than the cpm that you quoted, but my paychecks are very healthy because my dispatcher knows that I will take care of whatever he can send my way. I've had several loads lately that are in the 1500 to 2,200 mile category. If you can manage those things efficiently you can make some money.

I'm not that concerned about the 10 day advanced training, but it will depend on you. For me I would have been glad to have that instead of the four weeks that I endured. It's going to depend on how you take to this career. If your a responsible, prudent, careful person I think you'll be fine. They obviously have done this before and they must be satisfied with the results that they are getting. I think you'll find that when they send you out solo they will probably be sending you on certain types of runs at first until both you and they are more confident in your abilities.

I tell people if they want a job don't get so obsessed about the training pay. If you look at the industry standard it's all over the place - I don't consider there to be a standard. Some of the companies just don't want to put a whole lot into it because there are a lot of losers out there that just come for the orientation pay and then go home. I would be embarrassed to tell you what I got paid for my training - it was a joke!

The oil fields can be brutal, your not really a truck driver, your more like a roughneck oil field worker who gets to also drive the truck for part of the day. If you love really hard physical work and getting really dirty and nasty everyday you just might fit in with that crowd. They earn a lot of money, but make sure that you understand I'm putting a big emphasis on that word earn.

As far as your employment history, trucking companies are required by the regulations to gather a lot of information. Be honest, tell them just what you told us, even the part about them bringing you back on for a consulting gig. Let the chips fall where they will, some will be satisfied some will not. I suspect the local gig you talked about will not be as particular over this matter as some of the other major carriers.

Don't just limit yourself to that company in Montana though - Brett has set up an application system here on the site where you can fill out one application and have it sent to a lot of different companies. Give that a try, cast a wide net and see what you come up with. Don't be bashful about contacting these companies after you've sent the application either, sometimes they appreciate you following up - it shows them you are serious and it also brings your name back up to the top of their working list. I never would have gotten a job had I not been persistent in following up on applications. Give it about two days and then star making some calls and just ask them about the status of your recent application.

Keep at it and keep us posted with any other concerns you come across, we'll do our best to help you.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Britton R.'s Comment
member avatar

Everything I've heard says that it doesnt matter where you live in general for companies especially the large ones. If they have freight running through your area you will be able to get home. Don't limit yourself to local companies. Thosse big OTR companies will pay to get you there for orientation and all of that.

As far as you getting "fired" from that job it may limit your chances a bit. I would contact recruiters and talk to them and explain the situation. Best way to know for sure is to contact them directly.

Best of luck to you.

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.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Welcome aboard! You were given some excellent advice already. I'll see what I can throw in here.

For starters, ignore the orientation pay. That means nothing in the grand scheme of things.

The 10 day training is fine. It's shorter than most, but like Old School said you'll probably be really glad about that. When I started driving in '93 my training was only 2 weeks and that was plenty as far as I was concerned.

As far as starting pay, Old School is right. What's most important is the job you do out there. If you prove yourself to be an awesome driver that's safe, reliable, and gets the job done day in and day out they'll have all the miles you can stand available for you and you'll have solid paychecks. Raises are important too. A lot of companies start low but give significant raises during that first year. So that's something to consider.

The oil fields are indeed pretty brutal from what we hear. You would definitely want to speak with some current drivers in the oil fields to find out specifics about the job and lifestyle before taking a job there.

And like the others mentioned above, be honest about getting fired from that employer and explain the situation thoroughly. I've been fired from a couple of truck driving jobs for too many logbook violations (paper logbooks back in the day and I wasn't one to follow the rules very well) and I was always honest about it. I never had a problem finding work right away and the companies told me they were willing to bring me onboard because they verified I was being honest with them and had a clean safety record. So just tell it like it is.

And the location of the company means nothing. All you care about is that the company hires from your area. We do indeed have a new system in place to allow you to apply to a bunch of companies all at once with one application. You can find it here:

Apply for truck driving jobs.

Some of the companies accept drivers straight out of school, some don't. Just pick as many as you like, submit the application, and you'll find out immediately which ones accept applications from you and which ones won't. I'm going to setup the system so that you can sort by required experience shortly down the road, but I haven't gotten that far with it yet.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

Starcar's Comment
member avatar

Tracy...We Welcome you to the TT....and I Thank You for your Service in the military.. Since your in MT, I'm pretty sure which companies you speak of. We are O/O's, and have worked for both CRST, and Watkins Shepard. But there are other companies that run your freight lane. Interstate , Melton, Sherman bros. JE Williams, just to name a few. just because the home terminal is in MT, doesn't mean they will get you home any more than any other company. But if you'd like to talk to me about your local companies, feel free to pm me.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Tracy W.'s Comment
member avatar

Thank you all for the great advice and encouragement! I was feeling a bit edgy about the employment history, but as you folks stated, it is what it is, and I just have to be honest about it...someone will hire me, and then it's all history.

Starcar, the local company I was speaking of is Watkins & Shepard .. I will go ahead with the application to them, based on everyone's responses, it seems to be the smart thing.

The oilfield company I applied with in person was Sanjel, a Canadian outfit. They seem pretty positive about safety, and the jobs I'd be eligible for are Fracking Operator and Coil Tubing Operator. I don't think either require a lot of physical stuff, I wouldn't be capable of doing that at my age anyway. The driving part is only 5-15% ... I guess the appeal is the six figure salaries being pulled down by most of the employees.

I'm going to use the blanket application system....thank you for doing that Brett! I missed it on my first look through the system. As a computer guy, I know that must have been an interesting application to put together. Good job!

Monday is my Hazmat test day, the last of the Endorsements. I should be able to legally (if not necessarily expertly) pilot almost anything on the road. I'll make an update just in case any one is interested.

By the way, for those considering a school and career. My VA education bill had long ago expired as I'm a Vietnam Era Vet. I applied for VRAP - Veteran's Retraining Assistance Program. They pay about $1600 a month for up to 12 months while a Vet is in school and training in one of the in-demand professions they have listed. Truck driving is one of them. I was approved in about 14 days and they were supposed to pay me in about 20. Unfortunately, the VA rep at the school failed to post my enrollment certification as she said she would, so when I checked yesterday, the VA said they had not processed it due to that problem. I called the school and asked for them to get on it immediately, as I really need the money, and hopefully the VA can get it processed quickly.

If anyone is a Vet and considering CDL school, VRAP should be a consideration. I did ask the VA if VRAP was applicable to programs like Werner's Apprenticeship Program, and they said it was not.

I hope to get an offer from a company next week. Perhaps Watkins & Shepard will come through.

Thanks all!

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

One additional question. If I sign on and take the advanced training with Watkins & Shepard, and for some reason fail the road test because I don't shift well enough (which I've heard they are picky about) or something else....what does that do to me career wise? Is it a non-event and I just try someone else or is it going to be harder to get someone else to try me?

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

If you fail the CDL road test they'll just have you re-take it until you pass.

The state CDL examiners wouldn't have a job long if they passed everyone. So they have to fail at least some people here and there so it's no big deal at all. We've had a lot of people come through here and report that they failed their road test the first time and then passed it soon after on the second try.

No worries there.

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.
Starcar's Comment
member avatar

If you fail the Watkins Shepard road test, just apply somewhere else. Being newly out of CDL school, they won't expect you to shift like a veteran driver, but i"m sure they are picky. Just remember your double clutch stuff. Each truck will shift at different rpms, both up shift, and down shift....I guess I shouldn't say "truck, since its the engine, in reality. but depending on the truck/engine/transmission, and the load, they will shift at different rpms....Don't sweat it....its not a deal breaker, and they will expect some booboo's.... GOOD LUCK !!!!

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.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

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