Look both ways before you leap

| March 07, 2006

Not all drivers make the decision to jump based solely on money. Bobbie Smith, a 21-year industry veteran who drove 10 years for Southern State, left the company when it changed locales. “They were leaving South Carolina. They had good benefits and I was making good money with Southern State; I just didn’t want to move.”

Smith said he didn’t haul for almost six months after quitting Southern State, and that layover time cost him about $5,000. But now that he’s found a new home at Triangle SC, he’s happy and isn’t thinking about moving again.

Owner-operator Powell says he wasn’t swayed by emotion but raw data. When he quit his old carrier last November, it was after he had researched his new firm for three months and crunched the numbers in a spreadsheet. “The numbers really didn’t work out too good in the favor of my old company,” Powell says. “But there are things more than money, you know. The relationship you had with the people.”

That relationship is still good, says Powell, whose wife’s truck is leased to his old carrier. But the money is better at his new company, and in the end, his decision was based on business, not emotion.

“You have to do the math,” he says. “It’s a business. That’s the way I try to approach this. It’s my career.”

Think First, Jump Second
When truckers quit one fleet to go to work for another, few calculate the entire impact on their income. The decision should be based on more than just pay per mile and feelings.

Owner-operator Brian Powell, for example, didn’t realize he was moving from an over-the-road carrier with average lengths of haul more than 1,000 miles to a regional fleet with 350-mile hauls. “That’s one of the things I’m kicking myself about. I spent too much time listening to a recruiter than talking to drivers. I miss going out on the road,” Powell says.

Talking to as many drivers of a potential fleet as possible is one of the best ways to evaluate a move, say recruiters. “Get feedback from drivers,” says Dart Transit’s Darin Heinemeyer. “If you talk to 20 drivers and only two are happy, that’s probably not a good carrier.”

You can also do things to minimize any downtime between jobs. Try to run for your old carrier right up until you start orientation with your new company, Heinemeyer says. Other advice: Visit your potential employer and ask to speak to a fleet manager. The more information you get, Heinemeyer says, the more smoothly your transition will be.

Finally, don’t make a hasty move. Often, drivers will jump to a new carrier when rate increases are announced. “But if you’re a driver or contractor at a large company and you see other carriers coming out with rate increases, chances are your carrier isn’t far behind,” Heinemeyer says. “It doesn’t hurt to ask if your carrier has plans to increase wages.”

Financial Checklist
When drivers change carriers, pay per mile is usually their first concern. But pay is just one part of a driver’s employment package. Other things to consider:

For company drivers:

  • Quantity of miles

  • Practical miles vs. household goods miles
  • Benefits
  • Safety, longevity and sign-on bonuses
  • Length of orientation

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