Lesson learned finding a new home: How some recruiters blow it when bringing on new operators

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Updated Nov 11, 2022

So recently I made the decision to come back out of retirement from the road and drive a truck for a living once again. I have not given up my research or my academic goals. I am still in school, still learning what I can to help drivers become more successful. Going through the company-research process after quite a while since making any kind of move between carriers, furthermore, has helped there. Plenty insights fall under the bucket of "ways carriers shoot themselves in the foot" when it comes to retaining operators -- given some of what I've seen these past couple months, it's no wonder turnover's through the roof at so many. 

In the process of finding a carrier I could call home for at least a few years, I had several criteria that had to align.

  1. I am a widower now, and I have a family of two dogs -- I had to find a company that was pet-friendly, generally.
  2. Because of my advanced years I have a pretty good BS indicator -- honesty is critical for me when evaluating companies, though I will admit I can still have the wool pulled over my eyes at times.
  3. I enjoy working for myself. I have never been someone who could settle for a company telling me when I can or can’t go home, and as an owner-operator I set those rules. At the same time, I do not want all the hassle of paperwork that comes with being independent, so the company must have an owner-operator program.

Finally, because I am pursuing a PhD in psychology, I needed the company to understand I am pretty set in my ways of running and time management toward working while still maintaining my educational goals. Also, I should throw in there I am pretty firm in my religious beliefs, and as such tend to gravitate towards companies that exhibit those same beliefs.

I loved working with Christenson Transportation out of Springfield, Missouri. I honestly believe you will never find another company that works any harder to help their owner-operators succeed. While I thought about returning to that wonderful organization, I am one of those people who feel once certain bridges have been crossed there is no sense in trying to cross them again. If I do that, I must be desperate, because I tend to gravitate to new opportunities instead of pursuing old ones.

 [Related: 'Retired, not dead': On remaining a voice for meaningful change]

So after much research, I reached out to a company I thought fulfilled all of my criteria. I will not name that company -- as it turns out, they fell far short, and I elected to go a different direction the first day of orientation.

I talked with my Overdrive colleague here on Overdrive Extra, Gary Buchs, as well as with Don Christenson, about what had happened after I arrived at orientation. I feel the right choice was made, and that I dodged a bullet. Yet I had a problem: 

I had done something that years ago I quit doing. I used the company’s provided transportation to get to orientation instead of my own, and now I was stuck with no way home. But after a recommendation by Don, I reached out to another company, and the very next day was heading to their orientation. I was excited to work for this outfit, but certain red flags came up that I chose to ignore. In the orientation process, for instance, I was learning things contrary to what I had initially been told by the recruiter I'd previously spoken with. 

Then: I didn’t get to pick what truck I wanted when the time came to enter the lease-purchase program. On my very first run, I learned I'd been "terminated" without ever being told directly when the ELD in the truck, and then the fuel card, stopped functioning and I inquired with office personnel about it.

Long story short -- the proximate reason for the "termination" turned out to have to do with my not having a TWIC card. In orientation, the policy I'd been instructed on noted that was optional. My own past experience told me the few times I might need such a credential made it more cost-effective simply to pay the escort fee for access to any facility requiring it. So with little in the way of sufficient explanation for days, I was left stranded in the truck in Oklahoma City, short on funds and wondering what to do next. Fortunately, after some more research and prayer, I landed at my new company and was now off and running.

[Related: Want to improve retention in trucking? Define 'professionalism' to set the standard, build value]

There have been some hiccups, but every company has their feeling-out period, and we each have to discover how best to serve one another to make the opportunity fit. I’m optimistic about the possibilities, and I feel I have found an outfit the reflects my beliefs on what community should look like.

Having said all of that, the issues I ran into with the other two companies were directly related to their recruiting practices, which not only offered a lesson learned but also some insight into how companies are recruiting these days. I know if I was the company owner and my recruiter had just cost me a good deal of money to bring someone on board that was not going to be a fit, I would fire that recruiter in a heartbeat. But that is neither here nor there, since I do not own those companies.

While I do not have my Chaplain sign on my new truck yet, it's coming. Keep an eye out for me and say hi if you see me. We can talk about Jesus, trucking, nutrition, psychology, or anything else on your mind. I am driving a white, Cummins-powered 2021 Pete 579, 12-speed AMT, with the Freymiller logo on the side. Until then, this is Chappy saying keep the shiny side up and stay between the lines. 

Clifford Petersen and his 2021 Peterbilt 579Clifford Petersen and the 2021 579 he's lease-purchasing