Who's the Boss?

| April 07, 2005

Source: Survey of 1,116 Truckers News readers

Contrary to the current wisdom of some drivers, shopping around for an employer doesn’t mean hopping around to different carriers. It can backfire in lost pay, and a spotty work record can easily disqualify you from getting that premium job you have been trying to land.

“Some guys will jump from one carrier to another for a penny more a mile,” says Steve Krizan, director of operations for Truck Technology Training in Monaca, Pa. “That is counterproductive in the long run.”

Instead, you should concentrate on finding the right carrier the first time. First, identify the qualities you desire in an employer.

“Drivers look for companies who respect them and treat them as human beings rather than numbers,” says Dale Lawless, president of CDL Truckers, a job service.

The search for respect goes hand in hand with the search for trustworthiness, generally measured in the difference between what a carrier promises and what it delivers. Reputation among other drivers, especially the carrier’s current drivers, can be a good measure of how the company treats its employees. But it is wise to remember that one driver’s complaints about his carrier may not be the full story.

Compare what you hear from a number of drivers with what you hear from the carrier’s recruiters. Recruiters are the source for answers to specific questions, such as whether the health benefits go into effect immediately, how much co-pay will be for doctor visits or what the plan will cost you.

“You need to ask questions about your benefit package,” says Kelly Anderson, president of Impact Transportation Solutions, a transportation consulting firm. “If your base pay is 30 cpm and the company is taking $160 a month for health insurance, you are actually only running for 28.4 cpm, for example.” To get a complete picture of deductions and other charges you may not otherwise be aware of, ask to see a sample pay stub.

You also may want to ask what the carrier’s turnover rate is. The industry in general has high turnover, so you can be sure that a carrier with a turnover rate below 70 percent is doing something right.

Often a carrier’s size can be an indicator of how it treats its employees. Large carriers can have the resources to provide benefits and perks not available at some smaller carriers. They also might offer higher mileage rates than smaller carriers can afford. Many drivers are inclined to work for medium-sized carriers where benefits and a certain amount of personal recognition blend. Fewer layers of management gives drivers access to those who can solve problems more quickly.

No matter what size outfit you run for, you want to know when you’re going to get home. This means asking direct questions about lanes and the availability of freight going in the direction of the house.

You can never ask too many questions before making a decision on a carrier. You may be interested in a job with a long length of haul, for instance. The fewer times you have to load and unload means more time you will spend running and getting paid. Ask about average length of haul, where the fleet runs and where its strongest lanes are located.

Many fleets have bonus programs that are tied to on-time delivery, number of miles run and the condition of your log. Earning these bonuses is not always a simple matter, but they can increase your earnings substantially. Make sure you know how the bonus programs work. This is also a good time to ask about who pays lumper fees and how these fees are treated for tax purposes.

Ideally, you ought to be able to manage your own miles as long as you are satisfying dispatch. There ought to be a clearly stated policy giving you authority over your personal safety and your load. Any carrier that forces you to keep schedules despite bad weather conditions or urges you to run beyond the legal limit is not the best place to work.

Don’t wait for orientation to find out the important information. If you have traveled to find the right job only to discover in orientation that some element of the operation doesn’t fit your needs, you will either have to live with your error or look elsewhere. One question to ask ahead of time is if you will be paid for orientation. Some companies do pay, and the best will often pay for some of your travel expenses.

Double-check significant facts by having more than one conversation and having verification of conversations. R. Crusen, a driver from Florida, signed on with a Midwest outfit after being told he would get home every two weeks. “When I got to orientation, they told me I would be out four to six weeks,” Crusen says. “I didn’t stay.”

The key to finding the right employer is comparative shopping and an attitude that your skills are in demand. You are interviewing carriers to find the job you want. It is your choice. Understanding your personal needs and preferences and sticking to your guns will pay off with a job that fits you.

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