Old School Responds To Criticisms After Busting The Free Agency Myth

by Old School

scenery in the Arizona desert while driving a tractor trailer

Okay, this is going to be a little bit of an unusual twist on something that came up recently. After putting out an article Busting The Free Agent Myth In Trucking we received a strange email message from someone who was clearly unimpressed with what we had to say. Their rant demonstrates some of the unique personalities that you will come across as you pursue trucking as a career.

Rather than just respond to the person individually, I wanted to set this up as an article so that hopefully each of you can see it and learn something from the exchange. We'll just call it a random “Teaching Moment” that presented itself to us.

Here is the content of the email:

Why are the articles on this site and others always so negative toward new drivers? [They all say], "You don't know shit, you are not going to get shit, you are shit, expect more shit." If people want to hear more negative bullshit there are plenty of places to get it, they don't need that from you.

Supposedly there are plenty of trucking jobs out there. People want to find helpful information on a career in trucking. Thats why they come to sites like this. I understand a dose of reality but that's not what we get. It comes across as "I've been doing this for 100 years and it's my way or the highway". Nobody wants to hear that shit. How about some encouragement. How about telling about when companies raise driver pay?

Find a successful lease driver and tell how he or she goes about being successful. I understand a high percentage of lease drivers fail. I seriously doubt its 100% though. Leasing even as a relative newbie is a route people can take. We don't want to hear, "Dont do it." We want to hear, "You may fail but if you want to try, this is what you need to do to be successful."

Instead [of being told], "You are never going to get to be with your family," how about a story about a driver who works his ass off for twenty years but was able to put his children through college?

How about an article comparing starting truck driver pay to starting pay in other industries?

Instead [of telling us] a story basically saying you are an idiot if you think you are a free agent coming out of school in trucking, explain what it means to be a free agent in the trucking industry and the difference between a veteran free agent and a rookie free agent without all the negativity.

Its no wonder the trucking industry is looked down upon. All the negativity only breeds more negativity. I understand trucking is a very tough and demanding job but some of it would be better left unsaid and let people learn that on their own.

- Anonymous Emailer

I am just going to go through this thing line by line trying to shed some light on it, and hopefully we can all learn a few things in the process. I am going to try and be as helpful and gentle as I can. You can see this person is clearly disturbed about our methods here.

To be honest, I am still not certain as to how this person came to these conclusions. It is clear they have taken offense to a few things we teach regularly, and it's rather obvious they don't like the fact that we don't recommend the methods they had already decided to try.

In other words, we kind of burst their little bubble, and the reality of that is disturbing them. That is what has really upset their little apple cart. They don't like hearing good sound advice from someone who actually knows what they are talking about because it goes against what they have already determined would be best. Nevermind the fact that this person has yet to make their first dollar in a big rig.

Bizarre!

So let's start from the beginning:

Why are the articles on this site and others always so negative toward new drivers?

- Anonymous Emailer

Well, I personally did a search of the site and I couldn't find a single article that was negative toward new drivers. In fact I found tens of thousands of pages of helpful and interesting stuff that new drivers want and need to know about. I found tons of stuff showing how to succeed at trucking like Important Truths for Rookie Drivers: Surviving Your First 6 Months and great advice on how to avoid many of the pitfalls that beset new drivers like What Causes People To Fail CDL School?.

So, I'm not sure how you came to ask this question, because we sure have a lot of visitors who have left us many complimentary remarks of how thankful they are for us helping them to make a good start at this career.

Reality: Most New Drivers Do Not Succeed In Trucking

It is a cold hard fact that something like 95% of the new drivers attempting to make a new career out of trucking end up never making it past the one year mark in this industry. Statistics show that getting started in trucking is a precarious move, and we try to do what we can to help folks avoid the most common pitfalls. We focus on putting the right kind of information out there to help people succeed at trucking.

It is a career that we have found to be both rewarding and profitable. Those two things are the very things that most former truck drivers complain about the most. They quit because they were miserable and going broke in the process. Therefore we give them the right stuff for success.

Honest Advice Can Be Tough To Take

Another quote from the anonymous emailer:

[We are being told] "You dont know shit, you are not going to get shit, you are shit, expect more shit." If people want to hear more negitive bullshit there are plenty of places to get it, they dont need that from you.

- Anonymous Emailer

Okay, I am just assuming you feel this way because I made this statement in the article about The Free Agency Myth:

Brand new rookie truck drivers would be laughed out of the building if they came in thinking they are going to demand the kind of salary and treatment that a well established successful driver gets. They have nothing to bring to the table but a CDL! So let's get that idea out of our heads about being “Free Agents” just because we went to a private truck driving school, and then we can establish what it takes to become a “Free Agent” in the world of trucking.

- Old School

I stand by that statement, and if you have a problem with it then it's simply because you get offended way too easily. I'm not talking down to new drivers, I'm trying to help them establish what it takes to succeed at this. We all have to start somewhere, and the best place to start in trucking is to realize that we don't know anything about it. That is where learning starts.

Thinking we are something that we are not can really get you into a dangerous position out here in a big rig. Having a nice new shiny CDL is wonderful, but it is not redeeming at all. We all have to establish ourselves in this business.

Trust me, there isn't a dispatcher in the country who honestly expects a new driver to last for very long. They will give new drivers the chance to prove themselves, but they have had far too many new drivers quit or tear stuff up long before they were able to prove they had what it takes to do this like a real professional.

So people actually do need to hear that kind of stuff from us. We provide positive information and feedback to all who come in here looking for it.

Supposedly there are plenty of trucking jobs out there. People want to find helpful information on a career in trucking. Thats why they come to sites like this. I understand a dose of reality but thats not what we get. It comes accross as "Ive been doing this for 100 years and its my way or the highway". Nobody wants to hear that shit. How about some encouragement?

- Anonymous Emailer

I'll tell you how we look at this whole website here. It is like a classroom. Classrooms have two elements to them. There is the teacher, who knows the subject matter they are teaching, and there are students, who hopefully have the desire and the capacity to learn what is being taught.

The teacher has to keep some semblance of order in the classroom so the students who want to learn can make progress. This is not a, “My Way or the Highway” approach. It is simply the cold, hard truth about life in the trucking industry put out there for those who want to know the facts.

Most of the time when someone doesn't like that approach, it is because they have an agenda of their own that is not being presented, and that bothers them. We encourage new drivers all the time. Just the other day we had a new person in the forum wanting to get started in trucking, but they had four DUI's. If there ever was a person we could talk down to and tell them we don't want them in a truck on the road with us, that would be the person.

Take a look at the advice and encouragement Brett gave them:

I applaud you on being sober for so many years now. That's a great start. Now you have to ask yourself what kind of a person you would really like to be.

You had better have the right attitude and the right approach before you enter trucking or it's going to spit you out quickly. You have to be fiercely determined, ambitious, and crafty to succeed at this. The learning curve is steep, the change of lifestyle is drastic, and people often underestimate how difficult it is to succeed in this business.

We'll support you 100% every step of the way if you're ready to step up your game and make this happen. But no one can do it for you. Drop the "poor me" thing and steel yourself for a tough road ahead. - Brett Aquila

Would you like to know how they responded? With gratitude for the honest words! They know that we are willing to help them. They didn't get all offended because we didn't stroke their ego or their false expectations. They are seriously looking for some help and advice, therefore they recognize it when it is offered.

How about telling about when companies raise driver pay. Find a successful lease driver and tell how he or she goes about being successful. I understand a high percentage of lease drivers fail. I seriously doubt its 100% though. Leasing even as a relative newbie is a route people can take. We don't want to hear, "don't do it." We want to hear, "You may fail but if you want to try, this is what you need to do to be successful," instead of, "you are never going to get to be with your family."  How about a story about a driver who works his ass off for twenty years but was able to put his children through college?

- Anonymous Emailer

Well, companies raise driver pay all the time. In fact, good solid drivers who prove themselves get regular pay increases. We talk about that all the time.

You see, you want to start out in a career that you know nothing about and expect to earn top wages right off the bat! After all it's just driving, right? Any moron can do that, right?

On top of that, you think you have already figured out that you can make more money by leasing a truck.

Well, here's our approach to helping new drivers get started in this industry. We will always tell you the truth, even if it isn't what you were hoping to hear..

You are a free agent with us, that means that you can do whatever you want with what we tell you. That's right, we will allow you to be a free agent. Go out there and lease that truck, and put your kids through college with all that extra cash you will be swimming in! All we ask is that you come back in here after twenty years of doing that and give us a break down of how successful you were at it, because you will be the absolute first person who took us up on that challenge. We would love to hear your success story!

We've been saying the same thing all along about leasing. Leasing a truck isn't worth the risks or the trouble. Incidentally, three of the four top drivers in our fleet started leasing trucks last year. I was the only one who refused their offers. One of them quit within two months. He didn't seem to care for a couple of checks he received with a negative number on them! The other two have both confided in me that they are taking a beating, and making less money than they were as a company driver. They are going to hang in there because they somehow think that when they have that truck paid for they can sell it and get back the money they've lost. It doesn't work that way, but they're a little like you, they won't listen to me either.

Let's Talk About A Truck Driver's Salary

How about an article comparing starting truck driver pay to starting pay in other industries. Instead of a story basically saying you are an idiot if you think you are a free agent coming out of school in trucking. Explain what it means to be a free agent in the trucking industry and the difference between a veteran free agent and a rookie free agent. Without all the negativity.

- Anonymous Emailer

We tell people how much they can expect to make as a rookie driver all the time. A decent rookie with a will to succeed can expect to make about forty thousand dollars his first year, some will even make as much as fifty thousand or a little better, but it has little to do with which company they start with. This career is very much a merit based pay system. That just means that you will determine your own level of pay by how much you are willing to put into developing your ability to get things done out here.

More About Trucker's Salary:

We will allow you to prove us wrong on that free agent idea if you like. Go out there and land a truck driving job with no experience making all that money you are dreaming about. Then we will allow you to come in here and gloat all you want to. You can have the floor and show everyone what kind of idiots we are. And by the way if you had bothered to really read the article about busting the free agent myth you would have found our explanation on how to be a free agent in the trucking industry. We clearly laid it out (with no negativity) when we said this:

As far as “Free Agency” goes, here's the way to be a free agent in the trucking industry. Get yourself about three solid years of dependable safe driving experience under your belt. Don't be a job hopper, and learn to conduct yourself as a true professional in this challenging environment. Once you've got those credentials, you have something seriously desirable to offer any trucking company out there.

- Old School

Negativity In Trucking

This final part of the email is what really floored me. It's the capstone of this whole ludicrous notion that we are a big part of the problem in the trucking industry:

It's no wonder the trucking industry is looked down upon. All the negativity only breeds more negativity. I understand trucking is a very tough and demanding job but some of it would be better left unsaid and let people learn that on their own.

- Anonymous Emailer

I'll tell you one reason why people look down on trucking. It's because of people like this who have convinced themselves they know way more than they do. We have so many so called “experts” on YouTube and in trucking forums spewing out total garbage that they have given rise to a whole new generation of people who think they've got it all figured out just because they have access to the internet.

There are no shortcuts to success in trucking. There is no substitute for hard fought battles won out there on the playing field. Professional drivers get a good deal of respect from the people they serve. It is the pretenders who have never broken through to the level of professional who bring a good deal of disdain down upon our profession.

It is appalling and disturbing that I am even having to respond to this mess, but it makes it clear to most of us that our industry is in for some real trouble when these "experts" start getting behind the wheel. Here we have a person who has brilliantly decided they don't want to hear how tough and demanding this job is. They think that would be better left unsaid! “Let people learn that on their own!”

Allowing Drivers To Make Huge Mistakes Is Not Our Teaching Style

Well, forgive us, but we don't believe you should let a kid play with fire just so he can learn how badly it can burn him. Instead, we are going to keep telling folks how this industry works, and we will continue to help folks become true professionals along the way.

There have been plenty of people who learned the secrets to success in trucking from us, and there have been some who realized that trucking really wasn't for them after all.

We love what we do here at TruckingTruth, and we have a long list of those who have gone on to be professional drivers after getting their start right here at our website. I don't know where you saw all this negativity you speak of, but it wasn't in here. Being truthful is only considered negative by those who have chosen to pursue a lie.

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.

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.

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

by Brett Aquila

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

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