Maintaining a relationship while on the road can be extremely challenging, but also extremely rewarding. You just have to get creative and stay motivated! With cel phones and apps it is sure a lot easier than the days of a pay phone. There are apps that you can use so your loved ones at home can see exactly where you are at all times. Getting in the habit of calling or sending a text every time you stop can go a very long way.
Safety ratings are become more and more important as the years roll by. Make sure the company you are going with has good safety ratings! It might not seem important to you personally but it will have an impact on the company you work for. If they do not value safety, chances are they will not support safe driving such as pulling over if you are sleepy.
I feel like if you want to fast track your career in trucking, you will need to stay with one company for at least one year. If you are willing to commit to that, then get your CDL through them, it will save you a lot of money. Heck, most of the time it is cheaper through a trucking company any way, so I would still say go to a trucking company. Plus if you do the footwork and start with the right company, it will be the best way to really get to know the company so you can work well with them.
Imagine working with a company for 3 years, then a new guys come aboard and is given a bonus. How would it feel to have been busting ass and working hard, only to see a guy that just joined get a reward? I don't know about you, but it would make me wish I could quit so I could join again to get a bonus!
It may sound appealing, to join and get a bonus right out of the gate, but stop and think about what kind of company has to pay you to get you to join them. Dig deep and look into driver satisfaction in the long run with these companies.
Sign on bonuses tend to attract the "job hoppers". The crew of drivers that do not care about the long term, just looking for a quick buck. Drivers see the sign on bonus, then do not take the time to dig deep and think about if it is the right company for them, so a few months down the road they discover, yea, that $500.00 bonus was nice, but now they are only getting 1500 miles a week and getting yelled at all the time. So, they start to look for a new place to go, and they will really need another sign on bonus since they have not been making money where they are. It creates a vicious cycle.
Based on what I have seen, there is no driver shortage. What there is a shortage of is hire-able drivers. This day and age most of the hiring is dictated by insurance companies. We can cry and complain all we want about how they have no idea, they have never driven, they are desk jockies making decisions with no real knowledge on the subject, but when it comes down to it, if we want to get real, numbers are numbers and that is what they look at. There is not much we can do about it, just have to adapt and work with it.
The bigger companies that are harder to work with long term, where you are just a number, tend to be self-insured. They can absorb more risk, and afford to pay for it. These are the companies you will feel like meat in the seat.
Small companies are a gamble, they may or may not even have the correct insurance. They may or may not care about the extra expense to hire a driver with a few speeding tickets. If they are small enough, one driver with a few extra bumps is still worth the extra expense and risk because even the small amount of extra revenue they will add will be a big enough impact on the bottom dollar to be worth the gamble.
Mid-size companies, companies that can weather storms of a tumultuous economy, companies where you know your pay check will clear and you will get the green light from your pre-pass, these are the companies that are looking for safe clean drivers that will meet the strict insurance guidelines.
Clean, as in proud to show off your MVR, and previous employment verification that is not cluttered with "incidents". That MVR is not just from when in the truck either, a ticket has the same impact if you are in a truck or in a 4 wheeler. Job stability is huge on the weigh in, but a good company will have their hands tied if even the best driver out there has a speeding ticket over 15mph.
Some companies bring you in with a CDL permit to "train" you, then they send you out in a truck to team drive. Generally the "trainer" just obtained his CDL, or maybe he has a month of experience. This is no training, this is just the company taking a gamble on you, not caring about how it goes for you or if you stick around, or what you really learn. It is sink or swim with these companies. They just found a way to keep the wheels moving on the truck as a team even though you only have your permit. Your "trainer" will be sleeping while you drive, and you will sleep while he drives, how in the heck are you supposed to learn from a sleeping trainer????!
The average length of haul is something to consider with a company. If the A.L.O.H. is only 350 miles, that means lots of stop and go. If the A.L.O.H. is 1000 miles, you will have more open roads and free sailing to roll with.
Generally if the A.L.O.H. is lower, you will not be able to fit as many miles in a week, but you should get more cents per mile to make up for this. You do have to be able to be patient, and not get in the mind set of miles miles miles as it will drive you crazy!
Generally companies that drive in the more western half of the states will have longer lengths of haul.
For the most part, having a longer A.L.O.H. is more relaxing because if you have a 2300 mile run, then you can plan out your next 5 days of driving. You will feel more in control of your life. If you have a 300 mile runs, you might have to plan out 6 trips in the next 5 days and not know where the next load will be.
OTR trucking is a pretty different way to live, and should be thought of more as a life style, not just a job. You have to adjust to things like not being home for all the holidays, or not seeing your family or friends every day.
It can be a rough transition for a lot of people, heck, it should be! It is not easy to completely shake up your value system and revise it outside of what most of society deems "normal". On the plus side, once you learn the skills to adjust to this new life, you will have a renewed sense of independence and it will be a huge accomplishment.
Not seeing your family every single day is not necessarily bad, it is just different. When you adjust to the new life of OTR living and realize that all the "norms" are just guidelines and it is ok to live different, you will feel a new sense of freedom that can make life pretty dang fun.
Onboarding, or orientation, is when you start with a new company and they give you a crash course on how things roll. You can tell a lot about a company by how they run their onboarding classes.
If you are going to a company with 30, 40, 50 even 100 drivers in their orientaion class, beware! These are generally the companies that tell recruiter ''Just get them in the door". The recruiter will get paid for any driver that shows up. Of the huge group of drivers starting out with you, maybe 10 will stick around and make it into a truck. The recruiters are happy because they get paid on all those drivers, the company is happy because they at least found 10 drivers. Most of the drivers ARE NOT happy as their time has been wasted and they are now stuck trying to find a way home.
If you find a company with an onboarding size of 10 or less, then it is more likely that company is not just cranking through numbers to get drivers. They are probably a bit more selective in who they bring on, and will take better care of the driver to retain them.
With Jim Palmer, recruiters are not paid a big fat commission on a driver, we are not taught to see drivers as money or numbers. We are taught from the ground up to value and respect drivers. We strive to find the best drivers and to give them the most accurate information possible. Our recruiters do not brag about how many drivers we bring in, we brag about how long our drivers stay with he company.
Rarely does a driver get sent home from our onboarding classes (once in awhile it happens, sadly enough it is generally from a failed drug test) and if they do, the recruiter is pretty humiliated by that. We take pride in finding a good clean safe team of drivers, not just the wham bam thank you ma'm kind of deal.
When you are talking to a recruiter, just casually ask, how many drivers are generally in an orientation class? Ask how long the class is, (ours is two and a half days because we are smaller classes and organized, some companies might be a week long!) Also ask how many of the drivers generally make it into a truck after the class. This may not be an easy one for a recruiter to tell you with honesty, but toss out that question and see what the reply is.
In an attempt to let people know what it is like for over the road drivers, I am heading out with Jim Palmer Trucking driver Allie Knight.