Choosing Your First Trucking Company

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    Choosing Your First Trucking Company

    As you probably realize there are tens or even hundreds of thousands of trucking companies nationwide. There are some as small as one truck and some as large as tens of thousands of trucks. There are local, regional, and over the road companies and some that are a combination of two or even all three. There are tanker, flat bed, reefer, dry van, dump, and a multitude of other types of trucks you can drive. There are companies that specialize in one type and companies that have a combination of several different types.

    So with all of these choices presented to you how do you know where to start your career?

     To tell you the truth it's not that hard. Let's cover some of the key points you should focus on.

    First let's start with your lifestyle. Are you married? Divorced? Do you have children? Do you love adventure? Would you like to travel extensively and see the country or have you already had that chance and want to stay near home?

    Home time is one of the most important considerations you should make. There is one point I can not stress enough � if you have a family of your own, please, please, please don't take an over the road job where you are gone for weeks at a time. It's been done by thousands of drivers over the years and is being done by thousands today, but the stress it puts on every member of the family is enormous and is simply not necessary.

    There are tons of opportunities in the industry to make good money and be home at least every weekend, often times every night. Countless numbers of families have split up because of the time apart. I certainly don't want to see that number grow.

    Even regional jobs can be very stressful, but I think it can be done. It will definitely test your relationship both as a couple and with your children though. Ideally you would like to be home with your family everyday but often times your financial situation dictates that you get a really good paying job which you may not be able to find in a local company.

    Be forewarned though, even a regional job will be a HUGE test of your family's strength, not to mention you will miss so much of your family's lives.

    You may be married, or in a serious relationship, but you don't have any children. There are a lot of couples that travel together. In some cases both are drivers and share the driving duties, in other cases only one drives and the other helps in varying degrees with navigation, phone calls, paperwork, and in a variety of other duties.

    But again be forewarned... the inside of your truck is the size of a walk-in closet and you two will be together nearly non-stop 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I don't know if you've ever tried to share a tiny space with another person practically ever minute of every day but it is very difficult. At best it will take a lot of getting used to and at worst you will be at each other's throats after a while. Some couples can handle it, many can't. Often times the only way to find out is to try it.

    But if you do decide to give it a shot please don't give up your home or apartment for several months figuring it will work out. If you can handle it for three months you should be ok. Often, though, both parties are glad that they can travel together sometimes and at other times one person can stay home to give themselves a break and to take care of other responsibilities. There really is no easy answer for this type of situation. It's a matter of trial and error.

    Now when I started driving I was 21 years old, hadn't traveled too much, had never been married, and had no children. The idea of traveling all of the time and living in the truck sounded AWESOME, and it was! The better part of my first 9 years of driving was over the road. I would stay on the road for weeks and sometimes months at a time. I just totally loved it! It really suited my personality and lifestyle. I was able to give up my apartment and vehicle and just let the money pile up in the bank.

    I usually found myself driving a lot during the week and having a lot of free time on the weekends to entertain myself. I'd go to bars, sporting events, concerts, and do the �tourist thing� like in Las Vegas or New Orleans. It was spectacular!

    So your first consideration should be home time. But please be honest with yourself. Don't convince yourself to do something that deep down inside you probably have some serious doubts about. If you have a family please try to find a job with as much home time as possible. If you absolutely NEED to make as much money as possible at least for a little while then at least try to formulate a solid plan that will get you out of your money crunch and into a position to take a job that will get you home as often as possible. I'm telling you, too much time away from home can ruin a family. Try to avoid it.

    The next big consideration will be the size of the trucking company you choose to work for. I have worked for companies with over 5,000 trucks and for companies with as few as four. It's a huge cultural difference.

    The larger trucking companies have a huge amount of resources available. They have tons and tons of different types of freight and driving opportunities. They often have local jobs, dedicated jobs - where you remain with one customer or run one route all the time, regional jobs, and over the road. They have much more flexibility when it comes to home time and will allow you to freely move between different divisions within the company when you feel an opportunity presents itself.

    Larger trucking companies also have accounts set up with customers, lumpers, repair shops, towing companies, motels, bus companies, and truck stops. These accounts generally allow you to walk in the door, tell them who you work for, and get what you need taken care of without doing a thing. Repairs, towing, showering, getting bus tickets when needed, and picking up or delivering freight becomes much faster and easier under this system. To me this was always a really big deal.

    Larger trucking companies also have a large pool of equipment to use. A variety of tractors to choose from and a huge number of additional trailers available make life much nicer for the driver. With the extra trailers you get to do a lot of �drop and hooks� where you pull into the customer, drop your trailer, grab a different trailer, and leave.

    You don't have to wait around to be loaded or unloaded. This is really huge because most jobs pay by the mile so the time you spend sitting around waiting to load or unload is unpaid, wasted time. You want to keep rolling as much as possible and drop and hooks can help you make a lot more money in a lot less time.


    Drop and hooks also give you more flexibility as far as when you make your pickups and deliveries. Often times they will give you a deadline to pickup or deliver but you can generally get in there as early as you like, 24 hours a day. So if you have to pick up a load that's sitting in a trailer in downtown Chicago you don't have to try to push through rush hour traffic to arrive at a certain time.

    You can go in late at night when traffic is light. Or maybe you're gonna get there really early but you really would love to take a nap for an hour or two or sit down for a nice meal first. Go for it. As long as you arrive ahead of the deadline everyone is happy. Believe me you're gonna LOVE having this kind of flexibility.

    To continue with this theme larger companies tend to have a long list of perks.

    I've worked for trucking companies that had things like free family counseling, large plush driver facilities with arcades, big screen TVs, and restaurants, free 24 hour medical phone lines where you can call and talk to nurses confidentially about any medical questions you might have, discounts on travel accommodations, top of the line health insurance, 401k and direct deposit, free high speed wireless networks, shower facilities, and on and on and on. I must say at times we'd wish they would just pay us more instead, but you know how that goes. The perks really are unbelievable though.

    Ok so large companies must have some disadvantages right? Of course they do. At a large trucking company you are simply a number not a name. You hopefully will get to know a few people working in the offices like your dispatcher, his or her boss, and maybe one or two middle managers like a terminal manager or operations manager. If you get to know that many people... and by get to know I mean they actually recognize you by name or truck number, you've probably done either an excellent job or a terrible job over a period of many months or more likely a couple of years.

    It's tough to stand out when there are thousands of drivers at one company. So if you like that personal attention and family-type atmosphere a large company is not going to provide what you're looking for.

    Because of this you will find it very difficult to get any special consideration for anything. Doing a great job for a couple of years is going to get you an automated thank you letter and maybe a patch for the company jacket you had to buy from your own company when you wanted one. On the other end of things you may find yourself in a situation that nobody will take the time to understand your side of.

    They don't have the time and frankly they really don't care. I'm going to go deeper into this subject later on with a few stories related to this theme.

    Smaller companies in my opinion don't have too many advantages over the larger ones from a driver's perspective.

    You will definitely get to know everyone in the office and they will certainly know you. Often times if you live nearby your main office the people in your company will even get to know your family and the families of the other employees. This family atmosphere is nice in a way, but you also have to be aware of a couple things.

    For one, just like in any tight group of people, everyone tends to know everyone else's business.

    Maybe you don't want everyone at work knowing about an operation you have to have, or the tough times you're having with your marriage, or the trouble your kid got into at school. Maybe you got a well deserved raise but now the other drivers are envious and raising a fuss.

    Or maybe your excellent performance is being rewarded with more miles and a nicer truck which again causes problems with the other drivers. As you can probably tell I've been in these type of situations before and I'm not really too fond of them.

    The other concern with regard to company size is how much your company counts on you. At a large trucking company if you'd like to take some time off nobody really cares. I've taken MONTHS off at times and simply been told, �ok just turn your truck in to the terminal and let us know when you're ready to return and we'll get ya goin.� But at a really small company that's not likely to happen. You may be one of ten drivers so if you take time off they just lost 10% of their fleet! The smaller companies rely on you much more so than a big company does so you don't have as much flexibility.

    One time I worked for a small company pulling food-grade tankers. There were only eleven drivers in the company. I ran really, really hard for them and they got a little too greedy about it. It got to the point that I was running an average of about 4500 miles per week. That's a lot! As time went on the owner expected more and more. It was getting ridiculous. Finally I stayed out on the road for almost six straight weeks, averaged about 4500 miles per week, and when I returned home he booked a load for me to haul two days later. Six weeks on the road, two days at home, and I have to leave again? I don't think so.

    Well, he fired me. I had been there a year and had a perfect safety and service record. I also was second in average miles driven per week but I guess that wasn't good enough. Turns out the owner was in serious financial trouble and I found out the company closed just a few months later.

    So it turns out that he was desperate to get all the money coming in he could get to save the company. But he had a good thing going with me and ruined it. Don't you make the same mistake. Don't run so hard you'll damage you mind, your body, or your license. Think long-term and make smart choices.

    Just be aware that small trucking companies will count on you far more than large companies will. There will be advantages and disadvantages to any company you work for. It's always somewhat of a compromise. It's just a matter of finding what works for you.

    One of the best ways in my opinion to really find out what life is like on the inside of a company you are considering applying to is to talk with some of the drivers and mechanics that work there. You'll be pleasantly surprised at the honesty you'll get.

    Now please be aware of one thing though... often times a company will offer a referral bonus to any employee that refers a driver to the company. Often times it's quite significant.. in the area of $500. So when you begin talking with a driver or mechanic make it perfectly clear that you are looking for an honest opinion, not a sales pitch.

    If you were looking for propaganda you could simply talk to their recruiting department. If they want to give you their name and truck number so they can make money for recruiting you simply thank them for their time and try to find someone else. But most of the time you will get a brutally honest opinion.


    Drivers often tend to look out for other drivers. We all live the same kind of lives and face the same difficulties so the last thing we should want to do is make life difficult for one another. I've been asked many hundreds of times about my experience working for a particular company. I have never once given out my truck number or name, nor have I ever received a nickel in referral money. Often times guys were so appreciative of my time and honesty that they asked ME for the info knowing I would get paid for the referral and I politely declined. I told them there was no way they could be sure I was being honest with them if I knew I was going to get paid to promote my company. I've gotten plenty of good advice for free over the years so I just considered it good karma to give some back.

    Make sure you talk to at least five different drivers from any particular company. One or two could by coincidence be happy or unhappy with a company at any given time but if you can get a pretty consistent group of opinions from several different drivers then you know you've probably gotten a good feel for the way drivers are being treated there. Ask them if they're getting the mileage they would like to be getting, whether they get home when they are supposed to, and whether or not the trucks are well maintained. That's the three most important things a company must do well.

    Also talk to one or two mechanics. The biggest thing you'd like to know is if the maintenance program is a good one. Ask them if the trucks are well taken care of and especially if a driver's requests for small things like new wiper blades, faulty mirror heaters, and blown fuses are handled promptly and without debate. If they aren't taking the time and care to look after the trucks then not only will you be losing a lot of money while unreliable trucks are sitting in the repair shop all of the time but you'll know that the company's management really isn't concerned with the comfort, safety, and happiness of its drivers.

    A poor maintenance program is a huge red flag. Stay away from that company.

    Also, be leery of guarantees from a company. The trucking industry is by nature cyclical and unpredictable. If they make promises like �you WILL be home every Friday by dinnertime�, or �everybody gets home for the holidays�, or �you WILL get a minimum of 2000 miles per week� then you KNOW you're being lied to.

    There are no guarantees in this industry. Weather factors, fleet size, economic fluctuations, vehicle breakdowns, gaining or losing customers, changes in computer software or dispatching structure, and a massive number of other variables all lead to a naturally unpredictable amount of miles and home time from week to week and year to year.

    Staying with the theme of �beware guarantees�, let me warn you about company recruiters. A recruiter's job is to get you in the door...period. Once you've gotten hired at a company their job is done. They will lie their heads off if it gets them used car salespeople. Tons of drivers I've talked to have been promised new trucks, certain divisions, big miles, and lots of home time only to find out they've been lied to by the recruiter. What can you do about it if this happens to you? Nothing. Everyone will simply shrug their shoulders and say, �don't know what to tell ya�.

    There's one easy way to test a recruiter...tell them to put it in writing. If they promise you a new truck tell them to fax it in writing to you with their name on it so that you can bring it to orientation with you. If they'll do that you may actually get what they promised...but I'm not guaranteeing that either. Recruiting can be a dirty process at times.... so watch out for promises. They will lie to you if they think they can get away with it.

    There will be good weeks and bad ones, good months and bad ones, even years can fluctuate quite bit from one to the next. You have to take the good with the bad and try to get a good understanding of the big picture and how all of the different variables will affect your mileage and home time. If a trucking company makes guarantees, they're lying.

    If they make statements like, �we try to get everyone home on weekends and holidays�, and �you'll average about 2200 miles per week overall� then you can be pretty sure they're doing their best to be honest.

    Just be aware of the personal interests and possible agenda of the person you are talking with. Remember, you as a driver are the one in demand. You should be interviewing the company, not the other way around. You know if your record is decent then they'll be glad to have you.

    Make sure they are offering what you are looking for in a company. You may not have ever been in this position before. Up to this point in your life maybe you were hoping to get a job and were competing for positions. It's not that way in the trucking industry.

    They need you far more than you need them. Don't let them try to convince you otherwise.

    Author Bio

    Brett R. Aquila is a 15-year veteran of America's highways, logging over 1.5 million safe miles. He is trying to help Newbie truck drivers to be successful in their trade, through a dose of reality. Please visit">> for more information.

    Article Source: - Free Website Content


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