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Old 06-05-2008, 10:05 PM
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Default The Changing Industry

I was reading through a job searching post a little earlier from a driver with a pretty long list of "must have's" and it got me to thinking. The driver's first paragraph had me wondering why he didn't have a job. He seemed pretty solid, good history and experience, no driving issues. On paper, he looked golden and most companies should be moving quickly to snap him up. Then I got to his second paragraph with all the "must have's" and I realized why he was still looking. At first, I was simply going to roll my eyes and move on. Then I thought about PMing him with some constructive advice, before finally settling on something straight out to everyone because it seems to come up over and over again.

So here you go. What I am about to write is pretty even-keeled, non-emotional, and based on facts. Take it as you wish. It's long and while I am basically posting to the OTR crowd, it could just as easily apply to local guys.

That said...

First of all, I'm a recruiter. I get paid by salary, so I don't have a dog in the pay-by-hire race. I've been doing this here for nearly seven years and have seen my share of changes. I like this industry and I know this industry because I pay attention. But even before entering this industry, I've been involved in a management or human resources aspect of business since entering the work force back in the mid 80's, so I'm not talking out of my azz.

The bottom line is simple...if you are looking for a job, any job, you look for a job that will meet maybe 70% of your "requirements" and then deal with the remainder. There is no perfect company out there for anyone, period, not even a union gig. If the company is not for you, move on and find one that closer matches what you are looking for. If you cannot find one that does, then perhaps you are looking for or asking for too much and it would behoove you to re-evaluate your demands. But by all means, do NOT lay a list of those demands at the feet of a potential employer. Find out what they have and mentally calculate if it's what you want. If you phrase your wish list and must haves as demands, that's the quickest way to get shown the door with a polite or not-so-polite "you're not for us."

Now, what about your must have's? Let me tell you why your must have's will get you passed by.

"I'm looking for a long-haul job. I want to run coast-to-coast and none of that short haul crap."

Most companies are moving toward eliminating long haul runs and going more to the short to medium haul freight. That's where the money is. Technically, it's been where the money has been for a long time. It's just that in today's market with fuel being what it is, the profit margin for long hauls has completely vanished.

"I want a long-nosed Pete."

If you've been paying attention to fleet changes, you're seeing a lot of major companies going with the shorter nosed fuel-efficient tractors if they're not already there. Those smaller companies with long-nosed tractors are simply going out of business because they are failing to adapt.

"I want to be able to run the speed limit."

Most fleet trucks today are governed and that is at one set speed across the board, not for specific states and areas. And most of the major companies have already scaled back their trucks to 60 and 62. It's to the point now that 65 is a fast truck. Another 6 months and people won't know what an ungoverned truck is anymore. Get used to getting passed. And save the argument that it's not safe...that argument doesn't wash, period. It's proven safer and the cost savings is enormous. As long as a governed truck meets the minimum speed limit (usually 45) of the road, then the safety of the 4-wheeling public falls to Joe Motorist to slow down when coming up on a slower moving truck. Period.

"My truck must have an APU."

Granted, it would be nice for all trucks to eventually have APUs and perhaps someday we'll be there as an industry. But APU's are still a wild card. Several states have banned them and/or considering banning them. Most of the larger companies are taking a wait and see approach until they know what the eventual standard is going to be. By the same token, though, if a company doesn't have APU's on their truck, their idling policy needs to be along the lines of "use common sense."

"I need to take my dog Scooter with me."

Pet policies will soon be a thing of the past. Most companies are getting rid of pet policies due to the excessive idling that is needed to maintain a safe and comfortable environment for said 4-legger when you are not in the truck... ie. showering, eating, playing video poker, etc.

"I must be able to use an inverter. I can't afford to eat out all the time."

Inverters are another animal. A few companies still accept them, but that is a dwindling list. The fire hazard that inverters create have pushed a lot of companies to banning them outright. On top of that, there is a pretty big liability involved, too. If a company still allows them and has their shop install them, there is still that human element. If a shop-installed inverter malfunctions and burns the truck to the ground with the driver in it, they might as well hand over a blank check to the family of the dead driver.

As to the issue of not being able to afford to eat out all the time, go buy a 12V cooler. I know a lot of guys that go that route, pack it with the basics every week and then eat healthy and well the entire time they are out on the road. If you want an inverter for your microwave, George Foreman grill, coffee-maker, Belgian waffle maker, and espresso machine, go buy your own truck.

"I don't do the northeast."

New England freight is at a premium...New York freight even better in most cases. Some companies stay out of NYC as much as possible, but even the smaller companies recognize that there will sometimes be runs up there that pay a pretty penny. And as far as the northeast goes, if you don't want to do it, don't live anywhere near it and look for a regional run that will keep you out.

"I'm not interested in forced dispatch."

More and more companies are going to forced dispatch if they are not already there. Why? Because companies make money and earn bigger and better contracts by being on time with their deliveries. In a JITD dominated world, on-time delivery is a company's biggest and best bargaining chip. Personally, I think everyone should be a forced dispatch and it's probably not going to be that much longer before everyone is forced dispatch. Companies are going to want to know the driver that is WORKING for them, is going to cover their freight. As a driver, you're there to do a job, period.

"I do not go to Canada. It's too much of a hassle."

You would be right in that Canada is a major hassle and a lot of companies have stopped hauling Canadian freight because of that. That said, though, a few companies still do and if you hire on to one of those companies, you'll be expected to haul where they tell you to.

"I'm a driver, not a lumper."

Once more, if lumping the occassional load is part of the job description, then expect to do the job when asked. The only people that consistently lump freight are a lot of the LTLers and local day-cabbers. Most of the regional and OTR gigs will have the occassional fingerprint load, but not a lot.

"I don't run at night, period."

Then you should not be driving a truck. In the first place, driving at night is preferrable to driving during the day. There's less traffic and fewer idiots on the road. It's generally less stressful. Still, some people cannot drive at night...I'm one of those. Doesn't matter how much sleep I have, right around midnight, I'm going to be out. Still, if you can't drive at night, it might be time to hang it up as a truck driver. Companies have night driving. It's part of the nature of the beast. Ask around, but good luck finding a company that does zero night driving.

"I have to have my wife, spouse, 3 children, and/or great grandmother with me at all times."

I'm not against rider policies, but when you are driving for a company, you're there to do your job. Most companies have rider policies that kick in after a certain amount of time; few have policies that are immediate. But don't expect to pack up your family for an extended vacation. When you're driving your truck, you're not on vacation. You're working.

"I homeschool my child on the truck and won't work for anyone that won't allow me to."

Contact child protective services and tell them that. At the risk of opening up yet another huge debate on the subject, the truck is not a home. It is not a suitable environment to raise a child. Sure, it's great to take your child out for short periods of time, but the operative word there should be "short". If you have no one to watch your child, then it's time to get off the road for while.
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Those are a few of the must-have's and reasons why they will get you nowhere. I'm certain there are more but it should be real clear that when looking for a job, don't make demands of a potential employer. You don't own the company...someone else does. A company is not going to change their policies because of your demands. Instead, they'll chuckle at you and forget about you. So do your homework when searching for a job. Understand that there is no perfect company out there and that you are going to have to make concessions, no matter where you go.

There have been some of the most significant changes ever in the industry over even the last year. In the very recent past, it was a driver's market. Driver's could pick and choose any one of hundreds of different companies and if they got pissed off about something, all they had to do was pick up the phone and move to the next one.

It's not like that anymore. You can't keep up with the number of companies going out of business today. For every major company like Jevic or JDC or WH Transportation or Rush that simply abruptly locks the doors, there are thousands of the smaller outfits that are also folding, but don't make the news. Fuel is not going to go down by any signficant amount to save companies that are on the edge. Companies that are still in business and hiring are doing so by going through operational changes in order to survive what is bar-none the most difficult time ever in the industry. And they also have the luxury of picking through thousands of qualified drivers to fill a precious few slots. Those drivers that are going to get hired are going to be those drivers that are going to do the job they were hired to do.

I am not, nor have I ever, advocated for a driver to be a doormat for a company. But you are also an employee of said company and as an employee, you are expected to do the job you were hired to do, even if you don't like it at times. If that means you have to help lump a load, then you lump it. If that means you have to run a load at night, then you run it...providing, of course, you can do so legally.

It's a fine line you will skate as a driver today and we definitely don't live in a perfect world. Unfortunately, some companies or dispatchers might look at it as an opportunity to take advantage of a driver because they know the driver's choices are limited. But by and large, those will be the exception to the rule. Understand the flip side to that, though. The company hired you to do a job. If it doesn't violate rules or laws, then do the job they hired you to do. If you don't like it, there's always buying your own truck.
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Old 06-05-2008, 10:45 PM
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Very good post, TF.

I think what many drivers forget (or ignore), is that like it or not, in today's market, the trucking company holds all the cards. There are far more drivers than there are trucks; especially with the number of trucking companies that have gone out of business recently. Ridiculous demands of your employer will likely result in you being shown the door, because there are several other, possibly more qualified drivers who would be happy to fill your shoes without the demands. I'm sure that as a recruiter, you see this more than anyone. I'm sure that you've seen the requirements of the trucking companies have gotten tighter and tighter, since there are far more drivers for them to pick from.

I have always been of the mindset that the "driver shortage" of the early 21st century was a fabrication, and it is even more apparent today. There is no driver shortage, and working with the company who employs you will help keep you off the unemployment line.

To be honest, with trucking being what it is today, turnover should be down significantly. When drivers who constantly quit one company because their "demands" weren't met suddenly find themselves unable to find a company who will hire them, the only one they will have to blame is themselves. Find a company that meets the majority of your requirements in an employer, and stick with them.
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Old 06-06-2008, 12:05 AM
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Good post TF. I am hopeful that this slowdown will help us to get rid of some of the bad drivers we have been plagued for so many years. I am glad to hear that some of the larger carriers are becoming more selective in their hiring process. The only way to raise the standards is to hire better people. Making demands of a potential employer has never worked. Employers see someone coming into their organization who starts out making demands as someone they can do without. I am also glad to hear about the pet policies changing. I have never felt that having a pet in a truck was a good idea.

I think we are just seeing the beginning of major changes in this industry. I expect to hear of many more carriers who will close the doors. Those who have a good job should do what they can to keep it. While there may still be plenty of driving jobs available, I see more competition ahead as more carriers close their doors.
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Old 06-06-2008, 12:34 AM
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I have always enjoyed the " Demand/ I want " posts..... There is a simple way to meet all of those " demands ".....

Do what I and others have done.... invest thousands into equipment, work your azz off to land and retain shippers... Then you can have it your way...
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Old 06-06-2008, 10:03 AM
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Default What about potential newbies?

Given this situation with shuttered trucking companies putting a large number of drivers in the market for new jobs, how does that affect the prospects of people like me who are thinking about becoming truck drivers?

Personally, I'm 49 years old with clean driving record, no criminal past, no drug habit and no immediate family.

Would I still be hireable after five weeks of training at a community college?
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Old 06-06-2008, 10:18 AM
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I can imagine it being pretty easy for newbies at the large companies that seem to swallow up trainees and thrive on turnover.

However the other companies that hire with experience only will be very much able to pick and choose. Maybe we will be able to get rid of the unsafe drivers that companies were putting up with.

With this change in the industry however have come countless O/O's getting out of the industry. And while I don't condone the circumstances that cost honest, hard working people their livelihood I suspect it has/will do the same with them. Those who spend all their extra money buying chrome and chasing lizards may soon find themselves in the poor house.
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Old 06-06-2008, 01:11 PM
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Default Re: What about potential newbies?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rodcannon
Given this situation with shuttered trucking companies putting a large number of drivers in the market for new jobs, how does that affect the prospects of people like me who are thinking about becoming truck drivers?
There are so many variables in that question that it is almost impossible to answer. One thing you can do, however, is look at companies before you ever go to school, and give them a call and ask!. One all too common mistake is that the new (or prospective) driver waits until after he or she has gone to school to start asking questions, or waits until after they have orientation at a company scheduled before they even start researching their future employer. That is far too late. The more you know, the better, and the sooner you know it, the better.
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Old 06-06-2008, 01:20 PM
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Quote:
I have always enjoyed the " Demand/ I want " posts..... There is a simple way to meet all of those " demands ".....

Do what I and others have done.... invest thousands into equipment, work your azz off to land and retain shippers... Then you can have it your way...
That's exactly it, right there. If you want it your way, go out an make it happen. I sit in an office all day, but I'd like a 3-day work week, summers off and paid, a personal secretary/massuese, and a 2-hour lunch. Odds are that if I took those demands to my boss, I'd get laughed out of the building. But that's not anything different than a driver's "must have" list.

Sure, I like my job for the most part, but like anyone, there are aspects of it that I don't like. But I recognize that it's still the job I was hired for and my company pays me for it and if I want to keep my job, then I need to do what they ask me to do. It's no different than with a company driver.

Quote:
Given this situation with shuttered trucking companies putting a large number of drivers in the market for new jobs, how does that affect the prospects of people like me who are thinking about becoming truck drivers?

Personally, I'm 49 years old with clean driving record, no criminal past, no drug habit and no immediate family.

Would I still be hireable after five weeks of training at a community college?
I don't see the prospects for new drivers being dimmed that much. The industry is certainly changing, but won't be going away. There will always be a need for new blood in the industry to replace those that are leaving the industry for whatever reason.

The one thing I do see changing, though, is a better focus on safety for some of these training companies. The day of the 1-year Swift driver making through his 12 months with 4 or 5 minor incidents, is gone. The safety focus is going to be greater and will hopefully weed out some of these drivers that have in the past, made it through the system.

Quote:
To be honest, with trucking being what it is today, turnover should be down significantly. When drivers who constantly quit one company because their "demands" weren't met suddenly find themselves unable to find a company who will hire them, the only one they will have to blame is themselves. Find a company that meets the majority of your requirements in an employer, and stick with them.
Exactly. In the recent past, a driver could do a little job-hopping and not do much damage to his ability to get a job. But those days are over. Drivers that have been bouncing around from company-to-company, looking for more "must have's" are going to find themselves on the outside of the industry, looking in.

In the end, industries change and companies will be forced to change and adapt to remain in said industry. Right now, it's the trucking industry. Companies will change and because of that, drivers will have to adapt to those changes or leave.

It's really that simple.
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Old 06-06-2008, 01:39 PM
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This is excellent advice, and it applies to all industries/trades, not just trucking.

I think the larger issue is that we live in an "entitlement" society nowadays. It's all gimme, gimme, gimme, while I do nothing for it. The media and the government have given people, mostly the mush-minded, the impression that they are entitled to anything, and can have the world and everything in it with little or no effort on their part. Most people are quick to assert their "rights", when they have no idea what their "rights" really are. Couple that with a cavalier attitude and in most cases no experience and you're basically dealing with a bunch of recalcitrant children in adult bodies.

When someone hires me I tow their line, not mine.

Ignorance, carelessness and inexperience are personally costly.
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Old 06-07-2008, 09:34 PM
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No question there will be changes in this business. While it would be purely speculative to predict when it will happen, PPM/CPM is on it's way out. Instead, you can expect to see a day rate which takes into consideration all Driver responsibilities beyond the driving. It will restore the incentive (necessity) to use the truck and Driver more efficiently, eliminate downtime and eliminate the productivity penalty Drivers experience for circumstances beyond their control. Between lower MPH and the inevitable onset of more resrtictive idling rules, it's going to make more sense to pay Drivers NOT to sleep or even be in the truck when it's not moving. That could mean a lot more trucks parked in hotel lots or a lot more hotel like accomodations at truck stops.

It's entirely conceivable that it will require forced dispatch and a lot more freight fingerprinting, when appropriate, but that just makes sense. What good does it do anyone to have the driver sitting . . and waiting . . while someone else loads/unloads.

Drivers can expect to earn more, attrition will decline, safety will improve and it will go a long way toward eliminating the artificial "subsidized" rates shippers have been demanding and eliminate a lot of the so called "cheap freight".

The only thing I take issue with in the OP is the night driving thing. There is new and better information regarding night driving all the time. The bottom line is that most people aren't programmed and cannot program themselves to rearrange their sleep. I know . . plenty of drivers love it and prefer it but I doubt that many liability sensative companies are going to impose or expect more of it.
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