Weigh-in: Time for truckers to torpedo the two-week notice?

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Junior was my best friend at an outfit we both worked with a long time ago.

A combat veteran with PTSD, he wasn't known for suffering fools gladly. For some reason, though, he liked me. It was kind of an honor to be his friend, mainly because he was just as jaded and bitter at the time as yours truly. Back then I thought of Junior, in his late 20s, as a 60-year-old trucker man trapped in a young man's body.

Once, he chanced upon me conversing with a coworker who was wearing flip-flops. When he finally got me off to the side, he chided, “I don’t even know why you talk to that moron!” Junior had standards. Always immaculately dressed and groomed, he relegated anyone who dressed in a substandard way to the status of trucking-industry cancer, or worse. 

He finally got his fill of the OTR scene after a conflict regarding the boss' request to cut his scheduled time off short. He complied with the request, but upon reporting to the terminal, he sternly submitted his two-week notice. The boy was livid, but his standards prevented him from leaving without notice.

The next 14 days were hard. He was getting all the worst loads, and he knew it. This kept him in a constant state of turmoil.

A while after he left, someone I trusted told me that he had two wrecks during that time. I've always wondered whether the state of acrimony between Junior and the boss might have contributed. Would it have been better for everyone for him to cut that notice short, given that he was entrusted with commandeering 80,000 lbs. of freight and steel? It certainly would have been cheaper for the company, and easier on the trucker's record.

Many years later, I'm really beginning to wonder whether the two-week notice should even still be a thing.

[Related: Tales from a trainer's truck: Good, bad and ugly with operator Bill Douglas

At my wife's request, a couple years ago I applied for a regional job that would get me home much more frequently. It was with a widely respected and heavily advertised carrier promising an income north of $100,000 within the first year. At the time I applied, I had 10 years with my current carrier, no chargeable accidents in more than 2 million miles, and no moving violations in more than 12 years.

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A call came in from Chicago. 

"You can start next week," the young man said. 

"I wouldn't be able to do that," I said. "I need to give my current employer a two-week notice."

He seemed a bit irritated by my response. "Yeah, you could do that. How 'bout we start you in two weeks?" 

"Well, I could, yes, but I'd like to talk to my wife, let her know what's going on, then get back to you. Would that be OK?"

"I'm not really liking any of your answers," he said. "How 'bout we just say you withdrew your application?"

If he was going to go bottom-feeder, boiler-room Bubba on me, maybe this wasn't such a great job after all. The more disgruntled he grew, the more uninterested in this dream job I was becoming.

"I guess you can go ahead and say whatever you want," I said. "All I'm saying is I need a little time to think it over and speak to my wife about it."

"OK. I'll just say you withdrew your application."

"Like I said, say whatever you want to say."

Click.

Neither of my requests seemed all that outlandish, at least to me. The people I've worked for through the years wanted nothing to do with a driver who would leave an outfit without notice. Were these now-antiquated protocols marking me as uncoachable? Was there some word from the top that told the boiler-room boys to brook no hesitation? Did stipulating a two-week notice profile me as some kind of dinosaur?

I asked a few colleagues to weigh in. Below, find just what they had to say. (What are your thoughts on the two-week notice? I can be reached at [email protected], or 765-730-7643.)  

Bill WeaverBill Weaver, owner-operator -- "As long as you get your equipment back to the terminal, I don't feel you owe them a two-week notice. It's not the norm anymore. That said, if they've been a good company, out of respect you should give them one.”

Ben SenterBen Senter, small fleet owner -- "I still believe a good man should give the two-week notice. I used to work for a guy who wouldn't take a notice. He'd say, 'If you don't want to work here, just leave!' But he took my notice. If we're going to say we're old-school, and then we can't do business on a handshake, we're hypocrites. Unless there's extenuating circumstances, I still prefer a two-week notice."

Leander Richmond, small fleet owner -- "A two-week notice is just good etiquette. What I see from my drivers is a two-week notice. Sometimes, we ask them for a month and they give it to us. If you punish a driver for giving you a notice, you're only punishing yourself, because that's two good weeks of revenue you're missing out on. I have six drivers who are return drivers. If you treat them right, they might come back to you." 

[Related: 'We don't give directions' -- how GPS is changing our social selves]

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