Recruiters, Companies, and Schools - Choosing The Right Path Into Your Trucking Career

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Its funny how much getting started in trucking is so similar to getting started in the military. It takes much thought and soul searching for both, it takes constant nights worrying about if you're making the right choice, and the most common theme they both share is that you have to wade through the BS that the recruiters try and sell you. I know, I know, I shouldn't generalize, I am sure there are plenty of honest, shoot from the hip recruiters from both professions. I haven't met or talked to any, but I don't mean to imply they aren't out there.

I remember sitting in my recruiters office the month before I went to basic training. I had already chosen my MOS and was just waiting on the day I left for Ft Benning. I knew I would be heading to Iraq, I knew I would be gone for long periods of time. I wasn't naive in any way. But it still makes me smile every time I think of my recruiter telling me the places I would see. He made Iraq sound almost romantic. Let me tell you, Army recruiters are the best salesmen of all time. Ha, Iraq. I loved my time there, but I will tell you, it was no picnic, and I didn't get to see any of the historical sites. I spent most of my time patrolling a dirty little city on the Iranian border, getting shot at almost daily, and our vehicles getting blown up. It wasn't exactly a vacation. But man did I have fun. Anyway, sorry, I get off subject. So yeah, somehow I get this same feeling while I am talking to the various recruiters from trucking companies. I have heard the spiel from every single one of them, 'We are thee premier trucking company, we offer the most miles, the most time home, the best school, and we care about you!'

Ok, I will tell you as I have read it on here, there is no one perfect trucking company. It's all about what works best for you. To me, I won't have to be home much, I don't care how often they can get me home. Let me setup somewhere out of state for a day off, and I will be perfectly happy. We all want money, so we all want miles. For me, that means I want to run till the wheels fall off no matter where I end up. But maybe you wont want to, or can't stay out week after week after week. So can you make money and get miles in the company you're interested in? Do they have local and regional jobs available? All the companies I have researched so far are only considering OTR drivers right now. That's not to say you can't find it out there, and I haven't really searched for it because I want an over the road job. But looking at countless websites, I haven't seen any.

How To Pay For The Schooling?

The next thing I am considering is how to pay for the schooling. I am not going to use my Montgomery GI bill, because frankly, I don't want to. My thinking on it is, why spend my GI bill when I can have a company sponsor me? Sure, I will pay for the schooling through payroll deductions for the first year or so, and I will be locked into a contract, but I think overall it's a small price for learning a trade. And plus, I want the security of knowing I have work as soon as I finish school, as opposed to paying for school and having a hard time finding a job. But either way you go, do not accept the first offer thrown at you!! You'll have many many options, and to only apply at one company without knowing much about the industry is foolish.

Make a List of Their Qualities

I have a list of the different companies I have applied to. You should always do the same, listing the pros and cons of what you have found about each company. My list includes:

The location - Where is the schooling? I could go to Texas for the schooling, I could go to Little Rock, there's one here in Georgia, and still another in NY, etc, etc. I don't care where I go, as I've mentioned, but I do consider whether or not they pay for you to get out there. One company I've been offered a job at says I need to pay my own way out, which isn't a deal breaker for me. Still another offers me a free greyhound ticket out to their school. I love free. But I won't base my choice on this. Still others will send you a ticket out to their school, but it is considered an advance, and will be added to the amount you pay back once you start your career. That's fair. So to me, none of these are deal breakers, though if you haven't got a lot of money to spend now, there are ways you can go to schools in different states without ponying up a good chunk of change to get out there. Though if you can afford it, or can drive yourself out there, please do that. There is no reason to give yourself a bigger debt if you can avoid it.

The courses - Ok, many of the schools I have looked at share almost the same courses. You have class time, yard time, and road time. If you are going through an actual trucking company's school, you are going to learn what you need. They will train you well because you will be handling their equipment. To those of you thinking of paying out of pocket, or starting at an independent school, please be careful. I have came across some horrible sounding schools - even one offering you a CDL in a one week course. In my opinion, and I'm no expert, that is way too little time. That just sounds like a money machine to me. You can visit most websites and look for their job placement page. They should have a list of trucking companies they can send your info out to. Most respectable schools are at least 3 weeks. Remember, there's more to learning how to drive a truck than knowing how to shift gears and handling a trailer. A lot more.

The pay - This is what we really care about, right? And this should be the easiest thing to find. For those who paid their own way and get hired during or after school, don.t forget something - a lot of the bigger trucking companies may reimburse you for some of your schooling, so don't forget to ask!!! For those of us getting our schooling paid for, don't forget to find out how much is deducted each pay period, and the length and total amount you are asked to pay back. Ive seen it range from 25 to 45 dollars a week for about a year. But make sure you check. And don't just accept the first offer that comes your way! After my first offer I was so excited I almost jumped on the first plane there to get started! Now I'm glad I did more research.

It turns out there was a catch. This trucking company offered me schooling if I stayed with them for a year,a free bus ride to the state of the school, advance money for food and housing, and they would pay for the CDL fee. Well hot damn - I was there!! I wouldn't even need to bring my bank card. But get all that alright, but after training, you are only a company driver for 6 months, at which time they offer you a leasing deal. If you refuse the lease to become your own boss, than they can not guarantee you a company driver position, which means you will be 6 months short of paying off the schooling. Which means you had better find another job ASAP. I don't know too much about the whole leasing thing, but I do know its not for me. I think the lease they were offering was anywhere from $690-$900 a week depending on the truck. In a business I know next to nothing about, I do not want to risk it. Brett has a great article on leasing called So You're Thinking About Becoming An Owner Operator?, and I agree 100% with him. You should check it out.

That's just one horror story, most of my dealing have been pretty much straight forward after that. But the point is, know what you are getting into, and don't just settle for the first offer that comes your way. Because if you are motivated and you have a good driving and criminal record, these companies will hire you. I now have three companies I am considering. Monday I make my last calls and I will know where I am going. Don't get rushed, don't get over excited, and don't settle. You will find the one that is best for you. And remember, recruiters are recruiters. Take what they say with a grain of salt and do your own research.

Brett has a great article called Free Truck Driving Schools and Free CDL Training - Who Offers It and What Are My Options? You should definitely check it out. TruckerMike also has a great one called Choosing a CDL Truck Driving School - The First Challenge. Know all of your options and send out plenty of applications. Don't forget to call back and check up on them.

Till next time, take care everyone.

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