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Swift Transportation - What The Recruiter Didn't Tell You
Swift Transportation of Phoenix, AZ
What The Recruiter Didn't Explain
Swift Transportation of Phoenix, AZ is the nation's single largest trucking company with over 17,000 trucks and 22,000 employees. With all these trucks and all these employees, your recruiter just doesn't have the time (and probably not the gumption) to tell you what you really need to know about the company or how to be successful with Swift.
I am writing this article in order to help you decide if Swift Transportation is the company for you, or rather, whether you are a good driver candidate for Swift.
In this article, you will find information about all the nitpicking details your recruiter won't tell you. Some of it will be agreeable, and some of it no so sensational. The secret is knowing this information and best using it to your advantage.
Please keep in mind that this article is written from one driver's point of view in the mindset of helping you make decisions. This will not be a bash on Swift nor is it an all-knowing gospel. I have not worked for Swift as a driver manager (the direct supervisor of drivers), a fleet manager, terminal manager, shop technician, pay roll specialist, customer service representative, or a load planner. Yet, these are all people you will have to work with on a weekly or even daily basis as a driver. (Ironically, however, I have discovered that occassionally, you do have to step in and indirectly do most of these jobs for yourself if you want to survive. “If you want a job done right, you got to do it yourself,” holds true sometimes with Swift.)
A little history on your author is probably in order. The real gory details can be found in my blog, but this sums it up: I obtained my CDL in early 2010 and drove for Swift for 5 months before accepting a job offer in a separate career field where the grass looked greener by six digits. As it usually goes, my luck didn't hold up and the grass turned very brown, very quickly. Down on my luck, I came back to Swift in July 2011. I am hoping that they treat me well and I will treat them just as well for the next year and a half. About that time things at home will be changing and I might be able to come off the road and work locally for them or someone else, or even move into the desk side of logistics as a Driver Manager. Perhaps I might even attend a university for and get a degree in Logistics, Business Management, or Finance.
So, as you can see, I am not one to have chosen truck driving as a career and do not consider it my end profession. I do not, however, see myself as just a truck driver. I am a professional driver. You learn a little something about that in orientation and in this article. But for the moment, suffice it to say that, I am not ashamed of having a big rig parked in the drive way of my home, which is nestled in a rather upscale suburban community. In fact, I'm proud of it because I'm doing what I know I have to to put food in my little girl's belly, clothes on her back, and affordable health care when she needs it.
There are certainly many other more experienced and more qualified to write such an article as this. That said, if you are a current or former employee of Swift and you believe you have some constructive, unbiased information to add to what I write or corrections, please feel free to respond. Please refrain from accusing Swift of "sucking goat balls", or anything like that. Constructive, informative, and intelligent conversation only!
Swift Recruiting - Taking That First Step
My advice to anyone calling a Swift recruiter is to have a 50 gallon reserve of patience. They are extremely busy answering questions, the same ones they just answered last week, yesterday, and oh yeah, five minutes ago. Both recruiters I dealt with were not very talkative and you will be put on hold at seemingly random times and more than twice. Again, they are very busy people and patience is the key. Make sure you have your list of questions ready to go when you call and a pen in your hand. Be prepared to write quickly and in shorthanded notes. Elaborate on those notes immediately after you hang up while the information is still fresh in your mind. However, if I do this article justice, the only two questions you should need to ask is, "Did you get my application on the web site," and, "What else do you need from me?"
Swift's School or Some Other School
I did not attend their school but instead, went to a community college. It's a personal preference, but if you can afford the school upfront, Swift will immediately begin paying back in weekly installments for tuition reimbursement. Or, find financing separately and their payments ought to be able to cover your payments to the creditor. The maximum amount fluxuates often enough that I’ll just recommend adding that to your list of questions to ask the recruiter.
I can tell you that if you do go with Swift's school, you will have a weekly deduction for at least a year to pay for training, and have to work for them for two years to get that money back. I can also tell you that quitting earlier than the minimum obligation will likely incur steep penalties.
As you can tell, my preference is a private school away from Swift, either paying my costs upfront or private financing through a credit union or student loan. Just make sure you find a reputal school.
Bonuses, Contracts, etc.
Finally, if the recruiter makes any promises of sign on bonuses or anything else, make sure you get it in writing with his or her signature on a page that details the entire contents of said bonus or contract. Nothing said over the phone is provable or legally binding.
Both times I hired on for Swift, I attended orientation in Decatur, GA, in the metro area of Atlanta. Both orientations were nearly the same and I believe it is mostly a standardized process at all hiring terminals.
You will be bussed to the terminal from where you live, or you can drive yourself. They will pay the cost of your fuel to get there up to the cost of the bus ticket. Keep your receipts and be sure to ask who you give those receipts to in order to get reimbursed. Again, make sure you keep at least a copy of the receipts because those receipts have been known to get "lost." Worst case, just hold onto those receipts until April next year. You’ll be able to partially recoup that money and all your other driver-related expenses on your taxes. More on taxes later.
Orientation is not paid, but the hotel, breakfast and lunch, and transportation are all free. Transportation back home if you are not hired is on you. So, don't come to orientation if you have any doubts that you will not be hired. That said...
Let me stress this point: by coming to orientation, you will be ordered by the Department of Transportation to submit to a legally binding drug test that, should you fail or refuse to take, WILL go on your DAC report and likely prevent you from EVER being hired by ANY company!! The results will show up on any background check done by anyone, trucking related or not. It could also affect your non-commercial driving priviledges. So, don't think you can slip by the system. You will not! Do not try!!! The consequences should you fail will run far and wide. You have been warned!
Also, don't come to orientation unless your are prepared to leave immediately with your mentor in the afternoon on the third day. You may not get a mentor on the third day, but if you do, you need to be ready to leave with him or her. They may have a load on them with a hot delivery time and they may be having to go out of route just to pick you up. Don't waste your time, their time, and the orientation staff's time by not being ready to go. As well, don't come to orientation unless you are prepared not to be back home for around six weeks, give or take a week. Your mentor may live on the west coast but you may live on the east coast. When he/she takes home time, you'll be staying in a motel (on Swift's dime). If they live close enough to you, though, there is a good chance you'll be able to go home at some point during your training. Just don't count on it. Again, you have been warned!
In Decatur, you'll spend the night at the Red Roof Inn just down the street. The rooms are double occupancy or else you can pay $20 a night plus taxes to have a room to yourself. I did the latter because I was already going to have to spend 6 weeks with a mentor--a few more nights to myself were worth the end $80 bill I can claim on taxes. Plus, I'm not one to spend the night in a room with a complete stranger who hasn't even been drug tested or had an extensive background check completed yet. You'd be surprised at how many go home the first and second day for these two reasons alone. No way was I taking the chance of getting Mr. Crazy Pants.
The motel provides breakfast. Orientation provides lunch. Dinner is on you. Breakfast at the Decatur Red Roof Inn was severely lacking. There is an IHOP just around the corner and I highly recommend taking your own vehicle to orientation, regardless which terminal you attend. Be sure to check Google Maps for stuff near by.
Every day at orientation is boring. By the end, you'll be itching to meet your mentor. The Decatur terminal has good orientation instructors that do their best to keep boring topics as interesting as possible.
The most boring of boring. Do NOT be late! You will be sent home immediately if you are late. "How can you pick up and deliver on time if you can't even come to your job interview on time?" Yeah, that's right: You made it to orientation, but really, it's a job interview. Treat it as such: Don't come in wearing a wife beater and shorts hanging down past your butt crack and no belt and sandals instead of shoes! Will you be sent home for this kind of clothing? Maybe, maybe not, but c'mon! Make a GOOD impression! Collard polo, nice pair of jeans or slacks, and closed toed shoes are ideal. Don't forget the belt. Remember, I'm not only telling you what to expect but also how to excell.
The first day consists of taking attendance, getting drug tested, taking your physical, and listening to instructors talk about company policies, etc. You will have to undress and turn your head and cough, boys; girls, you will likely have to do something similar. The doctor may or may not be of the same gender, so cowboy up and just get through it. Again, this is a job interview where even the contracted doctor can prevent you from getting hired, so keep your dirty comments about the female doctor if you're male, or male doctor if you're female, to yourself. Why risk her or someone else hearing it? Tattle tales abound!
The second day is mostly lectures, videos, and paperwork. If you make it through the first and second day, congratulations. You have not only survived a brutal onslaught of bordem, you likely have a job but nothing is certain until you're "coded."
On the third day, you will see more videos, hear more lectures, and do more paperwork. This day will be the day that, if there is an available mentor, you will meet them. (Experienced drivers will get their trucks that day if they have a truck available.) If there isn't, the staff will work with you to get you bussed back home if there is a wait longer than two or three days for a mentor, or another night in the hotel if your mentor will be there tomorrow or the next day. If you are given a driver code, pat yourself on the back: you're hired!
What To Pack:
Most mentors will have SOME storage for you. Some will not. It is their home, afterall, and you are just a guest. You need to pack as light as possible. Try to fit everything in a gym-type duffle bag or smaller. Be sure to bring a sleeping bag or some kind of quickly-removable linen. You will be sharing the bottom bunk in a few days.
Case in point: Don't bring a huge around-the-world hard-sided suitcase. You (and your mentor) will thank me for it.
Experienced drivers: bring what you can fit on the bus or in your car.
Meet Your Mentor
Hello! I'm your mentor! I may be white, black, male, female, gay, straight, company driver, leased operator, you never know. What do I mean by that? Swift is not a dating service. Females can ask not to go with a male mentor, and males can ask not to go with a female mentor. All new hires can select a smoking, non-smoking, or no preference. Outside of that, it's whomever is available. They do not ask you if you hate country music or if you'd prefer to be with an owner operator because you are looking into being one yourself.
It's a temporary thing and 6 weeks might seem like a long time--and it will, believe me--but it does come to an end eventually.
The First 50 Hours
Your time on the mentor's truck is measured in driving hours. You need 240 driving hours as a inexperienced driver to upgrade to solo status, which usually takes about six weeks. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It depends on freight and how you and your mentor manage your time.
For your first fifty hours of drive time, the mentor MUST be in the front seat with you, logging on-duty time. The truck is run as if you were the only qualified driver on board (called solo status). All driving will be done by you, except the first evening you meet your mentor.
The first evening, the mentor should get to know you, asking questions of you and vice versa. They are really doing this to make sure that you aren't some psychopath just waiting for your opportunity to make a statement and kill them in the process. So don't fret if you don't drive the first evening. Just sit back and relax in the passenger seat. You'll be driving soon enough wishing you could be back in the passenger seat or even in the bunk.
The Remaining 190 Hours
After your first fifty hours of logged driving time, the truck is upgraded to team status. For your remaining time with the mentor, the truck will rarely sit with both of you sleeping at the same time. When you're driving, he/she will be sleeping, and vice-versa. This is how mentors make their money because they get paid their regular rate while you drive versus the split pay of a normal team. You will make your measly salary of ~$65 per day. You can expect a take home pay of about $375 or so for the first 4 weeks with the mentor. You will get a raise after that to about $425 take home. All this depends on how you setup your tax deductions and what state you live in.
This period of training will be very difficult to adjust to. You will have to learn to sleep in a bed that is moving a 62+ miles per hour on less than ice-smooth roads. Don't be surprised if you find yourself waking up in mid-air after a particularly bad bump in the road. And if you have back pain normally, be sure to bring along a pharmacy's worth of Tylenol, Advil, or whatever suits you. You're going to need it. Never had back pain before? You will now. So bring your own kind of medicine cabinet, too.
This is by far the hardest thing for new drivers to learn. Even if you practiced an hour per day, you'd spend less than 5% of your day in reverse. When you spend that little time doing the hardest part of being a truck driver, you need to maximize your opportunity to do this under the supervision of an experienced mentor.
That said, the first five times you back, your mentor should be outside watching and heavily instructing you on what to do. And not only what to do, but why. After that, if you back into a dock keeping your eyes only on your instructor's hand signals and not the mirrors, you are doing yourself no good. Swift requires at least forty documented backs in order to upgrade to solo status, but in reality, it takes hundreds to get good at it. I didn’t get any confidence in my backing until I had been driving solo for seven months.
The key to backing is the approach. If you analyze the situation and correctly decide on which type of back to use and correctly execute the approach, the trailer will just go right where you wanted it to, like it read your mind!
Cross your fingers and pray that you get a mentor who is not only good at backing but even better at explaining it. If you get a weak mentor who is either not good at backing or unable to explain it in a way you can understand, your abilities will suffer for it. Unfortunately, if that's the only thing wrong with your mentor, it probably won't be enough to convince terminal staff to change mentors. And besides that, there is no guarantee you will get a better one. You’ll just have to “learn the hard way.”
When To Change Mentors
This brings us to when to change mentors. There are a number of reasons you could need to change mentors. Most of the reasons are obvious and self-explanatory, but some are not. I will touch on all of them, but go into more detail on the occasions you might not realize where you should change mentors.
First, the obvious reasons. Swift Transportation, as you will learn in orientation, is just like any other company when it comes to drugs, alcohol, workplace discrimination, and sexual harassment. They have a zero-tolerance policy. Do not do it, do not participate in it, do not have knowledge of it and let it go unreported, and certainly do not let yourself be the target of any kind of harassment or discrimination. This especially includes your mentor.
My first mentor was a middle-aged black male who, because I was a male, thought it would be okay to be as perverted as he wanted to about any female he saw, from preteen to elderly. He made the crudest, most vile jokes anytime he was awake. That was the extent of his ability to have a conversation. I am a young, married man but far from home. I enjoy a good dirty joke every now and then, but he took it too far. Obviously, I got off that truck as fast as I could. There were other reasons I wanted to switch and we'll get into those next.
So, that covers the obvious reasons. Let's get into the lesser known reasons to switch.
You should know that company policy is that your mentor is NOT your boss. They are somewhere between being your peer and colleague and being your boss. They have authority when it comes to the safety and operation of the truck, but they have no say in any disciplinary actions, pay roll, promotion, etc. If they tell you to turn somewhere, take a specific exit, or tell you to stop, you had better do it. But if they tell you to get out and wash their truck for them while they sit inside and watch, politely tell them you are not their slave and then call your developmental driver manager. You'll know who this is when you get on the truck.
That same first mentor I discussed a moment ago decided one afternoon that upon being given instructions by the shipper to sweep out his trailer, he didn't feel like doing it. Instead, he woke me up during my ten hour break and told me to go sweep out the trailer. We were in South Texas in the dead of summer. The temperature outside was in the 100s, with heat indexes into the 110s, and God only knows how cozy it was inside the trailer. As I just suggested to you, I politely told him I wasn't his slave, thanked him for waking me, and went back to sleep. Don't let a mentor pass off their work on you, especially on your ten-hour break.
You'll have to use your best judgement to determine if they are just trying to pass their work off onto you or if there is a legitimate lesson they are trying to teach you. For example, they may wake you during your ten hour break to have you back the truck. It's not fun trying to dock when you just woke up, but this is an example of when they may be passing their work onto you, but for legitimate reasons. You and/or others might disagree, but I feel it is important that you take every opportunity to back the truck when you have a mentor there to observe your technique and offer tips on how to improve. However, you should know that this is illegal. If you are not signed into the Qualcomm and on the driving or on-duty line of your logbook, you should not be operating the truck, period! If something were to happen, both of you could be fired, fined, and even serve prison time on felony charges, depending on the severity of the incident. Again, it is up to you and your best judgement. Use common sense and make sure everything you do can pass the "logic" test (a.k.a. Bill Engvall's "Here's Your Sign" test).
Conversely, if every time you come upon the occasion to back the truck and the mentor insists on taking over, switch mentors. You will learn nothing if you never back the truck. If they never explain to you why what you're doing isn't working, if they give you instructions the whole time you are backing and never letting you decide for yourself what to do, if they never explain when to use what type of approach to each situation, you need to switch mentors. Do not stand for a mentor who doesn't take the time to teach you how to do the hardest thing a driver will ever learn.
Another reason to change mentors is hygiene. Believe it or not, many students can find themselves onboard a truck with someone with low hygiene standards and feel like they just have to put up with it. This is not true. If your mentor doesn't wash his or herself, their bedding, or other laundry and they smell like the back alleys of Chicago or New York, get out! Don't put up with it for even a minute. Politely tell them that their brand of cologne or perfume is a bit too strong for you and start getting yourself a different mentor. On the same token, make sure you shower, brush your teeth, and do your laundry. They shouldn't have to put up with Odeur de New York out of you either.
Mentors that sleep in the back during a student's first fifty hours is another mentor to steer clear of. They are supposed to be in the front seat with their seat belt on and logging on-duty time. Mentors who do this are only in it for the free miles and extra cash. They have zero interest, and probably very little skill, in teaching you how to be a professional driver. Get off that truck as fast as you can and report them immediately. All they are going to teach you is how to kill someone.
Do you know how to read a map? No, really. Can you, without any hesitation, tell me the distance between York, PA and Huntsville, AL without asking a GPS or other directions application? Can you tell me if the route Swift has given us routes us under or near a low overpass or over a weight-restricted bridge? Can you look at a potential load given to us on the Qualcomm and tell if it is doable? That is, can we pick up, make our stops if any, and deliver on time? Is the fuel we have in the tanks enough to get us to the next fuel stop? What about road closures, construction, traffic, and weather?
Welcome to trip planning, the second hardest and most complex part of learning to be a professional driver. These are only a few of the things you must learn while on your mentor's truck. And guess what: you cannot learn all of this in just six weeks if your mentor doesn't teach you. You cannot learn all of this by yourself before you get your own truck. Trust me, you don't want to have to learn it the hard way on your own dime. Your mistakes on your truck affect your paycheck. Case in point, if the mentor isn't teaching you this stuff, switch!
Finally, we humans are a very diverse species. We have different cultures, languages, opinions, and lifestyles. The United States is the crossroads for all of them. We are fortunate enough to be able to experience all of these diversities, but it doesn't come without inherent problems. Swift does not discriminate when hiring drivers, or any other employee for that matter. Sometimes this can lead to language barriers, minor and major differences in opinion on day to day routine, and general personality conflicts. The solution is to work through them the best we can. Putting two people of any racial or cultural backgrounds into a six-by-eight-foot box on wheels for six weeks is a recipe for conflict, guaranteed. NASA, RFSA, and JAXA have all done thorough experiments on this. The results were hilarious and consistent: conflict.
Just do your best to make personality conflicts work. To a point. If you have tried and tried to be professional but it just isn't working out, or if the language barriers are just too strong, you may have to switch mentors.
Owner Operator Mentors vs. Company Driver Mentors
After my first two mentors during my first stint with Swift, both of whom were owner operators driving Kenworth T2000s, I wondered what I might have learned or done differently if I had had a company driver for a mentor. Well, I got the chance to answer my question when I came back to Swift and had to go through the entire mentor process a second time.
The answer is that I learned more. Now, your mileage might vary here, but in my experience, the owner operators were so hard pressed to make their paychecks that they cared less than the company driver to teach me what I needed to know. Granted, when I got on board with the company-driver mentor, I had already had two other mentors and some solo experience. But even so, I learned more from the company driver mentor who didn't have to worry about a mortgage payment on a home and on all the truck expenses. Swift, after all, isn't known for it's lease operator program. I hear from other drivers that it's one of the least profitable programs when compared to what other companies provide, but I'm no expert. This is only the rumor wheel talking; take what you will from it. It is entirely possible that the best mentor Swift has is a former college professor turned sightseeing-driver who's only costs are the truck and is an excellent teacher. You just never know.
Truck Stop Loyalty Cards
Every truck stop Swift has you fuel at offers a loyalty card. These cards allow you to get points and free showers. The points are redeemable for food or merchandise in any of the same brand's locations. After a certain number of gallons of fuel you earn one free shower you can use any time within the next several days, all depending on the brand and other factors.
Your mentor will (should) show you how these work. Be sure to register for your own cards while you're on the mentor's truck. Some brands will hand you a card right then and there, others will issue a temporary and mail you a plastic copy in a week or so. However, it is likely that your mentor will insist on using his or her loyalty card even when you are the one driving. Each mentor is different but if they insist on using their loyalty card, don't make a big deal about it. You'll be earning your own free showers and points soon enough. Besides, the mentor will (again, should) be asking for "team" showers from the truck stop fuel desks. This allows you your own shower, free of charge, on their single shower credit. You should NOT have to pay for showers while on your mentor's truck.
Solo Driving and Swift
Congratulations! You survived the rolling extended-stay motel of your mentor's truck. No room service was a bummer, I bet, but it's all behind you now. Well, almost. You still have to hurry up and wait during the upgrade process.
Upgrading to Solo
Once you've driven the minimum 240 hours, your mentor will drop you off at a terminal, likely your home terminal if it can be helped, so you can begin the upgrade process.
As with orientation, I'm assuming the process is similar wherever you go. The following description will be from the perspective of someone having upgraded twice at the Decatur, GA terminal.
It starts early in the morning. You'll be given the exact time to show up. You'll be required to pass a written test of about fifty questions. It isn't a hard test and has only a few tricky questions. After that, you'll hurry up and wait for a driving test where you travel a certain distance doing all the things you should know to do: double-clutch, turn signals, hazard lights when needed, honking the horn when reversing, etc. The consequence of not passing is that you get to start all over with a mentor. So pass!
However, if and when you do pass, you are encouraged to attend a log class. This log class is just a refresher course on logging legally and, at the Decatur terminal, is usually done in conjunction with the Thursday orientation. You don't absolutely have to attend this class right away; you can attend it at a later date. I would suggest taking it before you go out solo because it is easy to forget about. I would also suggest trying to arrange your arrival at the terminal you plan to upgrade at on the day this class is taught. The class is held only on certain days and what day depends on your terminal. Try to plan ahead.
Your friends in safety also have set you up on a blind date with a simulator. Though they were kind enough to let you choose the date. There is just one thing, however, and it is that you don't have quite as large of a window to choose when to go on your date. Also, not every terminal has a simulator. Again, try to plan ahead.
Now the only question left to answer is: Does Swift have a truck available for you? This, my friend, varies from terminal to terminal, week to week, and is based on driver retention. All I can say is, if they don't have a truck available that day or the next, enjoy the bus ride home if you didn't bring your own car to orientation. I have heard of up to a three-week wait for trucks to come available. I have also heard of new drivers being bussed to the next closest terminal in order to get a truck. Just be patient and keep an open mind. You will get a truck eventually, if not right away. Also, you might want to ask a Fleet Manager if there is any local work you can do while you wait for a permanent truck. This will, at least, keep you earning a paycheck.
By the time you do get your truck, it will usually be late in the afternoon. Your first objectives are to cover your ### and cover your ###. Make sure you are very thorough when they hand you a sheet with the graphic of a truck on it and tell you to mark any damage. Unless they give you a brand new truck, which they would likely never do for a brand new driver, that paper needs to look like Da Vinci's notebook when you're done. The second thing you need to do is make sure you have your PrePass and every possible permit Swift will let you have. Missing a permit when it is needed can be a pain and will slow you down or even cause you to lose a load.
Now it's time to visit the Swift shop for the first time. Hopefully it's your first time. Have you ever been to a car dealership's service department? It is a lot like that, only, the car dealerships have much better customer service. There are two departments. One is the service desk where you will likely stand up to forty-five minutes waiting to be seen should you ever need your truck worked on (and you will). The second department is the parts department. This is where you'll need to go to grab a few basic but mandatory items. At a minimum, you must walk out of the parts department with the following items if your truck doesn’t already have them:
- Enforcer and King Pin Lock
- Hazard Triangles
- Charged Fire Extinguisher
It is recommended you leave with the above, plus:
- 1 Gallon Washer Fluid (bring your own jug)
- Replacement light bulbs for every type of light on the truck and trailer
- Hose clamps of varying sizes
- Wiper Blades
- 1 Gallon of Oil (bring your own jug)
- Power steering fluid (bring your own jug)
- Several glad hand seals
- 1 Gallon of Brake Fluid (bring your own jug)
If you didn't do a double-take on that last item and ask, "What?" you need to go back to CDL school!
Check your truck for these items before going to the parts department; it may already have some of these inside. Depending on the person behind the parts counter, you may or may not get all of the items from the recommended list. If not, I suggest you buy them at your first opportunity. These items are tax deductible. Tip: A brand new enforcer and king pin lock set are $80 at the time of writing. Ask for a used set if they have any as they are cheaper and do the same job just as well.
The last thing you need to do before you move in is to pre-trip the truck extensively and then drive it around the terminal for a half-hour to see if there are any serious issues under the hood. Look for check engine lights or any other dashboard light staying illuminated. Listen for any unusual grinding, popping, creaks, moans, buzzes, whirrs, etc. Feel for any resistance, shaking, pulling, etc. in the steering wheel, especially when you step on the brakes. Check the various brakes for proper operation. Make sure your heat, air conditioning, and radios work. Make sure you can roll down both windows. Make sure the city and air horn both work. Check both the interior and exterior (especially the cabinets and under the bunk) for bugs or rodents, or signs that they have been there (their poop). If you find anything, immediately get yourself a place in line at the service desk and get the truck fixed. If the problem is serious enough that it could be several days to fix, perhaps consider asking for a different truck.
Now it's time to move in. You may notice that, as a new driver, you're not likely to get the newest truck in the fleet. In fact, your new-to-you truck is probably not new at all, having 300,000 or even 400,000 miles on it. It's going to be scuffed up both on the outside and on the inside. The smell of the interior might remind you of your high school locker room after a hot August flag-football game during P.E. class but before anyone has had a chance to shower. My advice: hold on to that truck and don't whine about its age. Swift doesn't like to hold on to trucks much past 500,000 miles. When they get rid of it, if you have a proven, accident-free track record, you will likely get a much nicer, newer truck; maybe brand new if you're lucky.
Your First Loads
Welcome to the developmental fleet. First few weeks on your own, you will be placed into a kinder, gentler developmental fleet. You will have a driver manager whose sole purpose in life is to babysit new solo drivers. By the vary nature of their job, they are very busy people. This new life on your own will be a very shocking toss into reality when you have a question and it takes being on hold for thirty minutes to get your answer in only ten seconds. Things go slower here in the developmental fleet. Your freight will usually be easy pickup and delivery windows, mileage may be good or bad, you may even get the loads that the planners can't get anyone else to take but you don't know enough to turn them down. Life in the developmental fleet goes one of two ways: super easy like a nicely-greased fifth-wheel or really ugly like the sound of a trailer being dropped without its landing gear extended. How it goes mostly depends on you. Just be patient and flexible. Eventually, you'll prove yourself and start getting better loads and more miles.
Your Permanent Driver Manager
The first step in proving yourself and getting more miles is to meet your permanent driver manager as soon as possible and make a good impression. After your time in the developmental fleet is up, you'll automatically be assigned to a permanent driver manager. There is no real rhyme or reason behind the choice other than who has the fewest number of drivers so as to keep everyone balanced.
There is such a thing as a good driver manager and a bad driver manager. Each terminal has their fair share of good and bad. Cross your fingers, pray (if that's your thing), hope for the best, but be ready just in case to make lemonade out of oranges.
Back to making a good impression; you still need to make a good impression whether you have a good or bad driver manager (a.k.a "DM"). To do that, act like you're back on the unemployed side of life coming to an interview. What would you do if this were a job interview?
A few tips:
- Shower immediately before seeing your DM.
- Have good breath; brush your teeth, floss, AND rinse with mouthwash.
- Having minty breath is fine since you just brushed but but avoid mints, gum, hard candy, etc. Some people find it unattractive or get distracted by those things.
- When you greet your DM for the first time, be sure to offer your hand first for a hand shake. Make it a firm hand shake but don't be over zealous about it either. Shake again when you leave. This goes for males and females.
- "Yo! Whaz up, ma brotha? How's it hangin'?" Seems kind of stupid for a job interview doesn't it? So don't use slang, Ebonics or any words that are too personal. You just met your boss, not your bro'.
- Be very humble. Tell them how you appreciate the opportunity Swift is giving you in this depressed economy and how fortunate you are to even have a job.
- Don't talk too much. They are likely going to have information to pass along to you and, like everyone else you've met in the Swift organization, are extremely busy. They don't need or want you whole life story. The whole meet and greet should last no more than 10 minutes, assuming there is no other business to take care of.
How NOT to Make a Good Impression
A driver manager's favorite thing to do is to compare drivers that infuriate them. It's almost a game of who has the worst problem-child. Understandably, though maybe not politically correct, it is these drivers who get the least help, respect, mileage, and thus, the smallest paychecks.
What do these drivers do, or, do they not do, that angers their driver managers so? The biggest reason is that they complain when they have no realistic basis for their complaints or their performance is lacking and still expect Swift to jump through fiery hoops to accommodate the driver's desires and expectations. For example, a driver who has 2,000 miles driven for the week, it's only Sunday (Swift's weeks start on Tuesdays), and calls to complain that he has not received a preplan yet for his next load. He delivered his last load four hours ago and is starting to run low on his 14-hour clock. We could admire his ambition and eagerness to work, but his call to complain about not having another load yet is likely unwarranted. Maybe a Qualcomm message politely reminding whoever reads it that he is available to pickup a load if there is one nearby would have sufficed. It is much more taxing and time consuming for driver managers to answer phone calls than to read a Qualcomm message.
Another example would be the driver who calls their driver manager upset that they can't make any money with Swift citing lack of mileage. It is true that Swift pays its drivers the lowest starting rates of any company (at least, that this driver knows of). In fact, the first year you work for Swift, it's possible that you won't make much more money than what is enough to feed yourself, let alone send money back to the spouse for paying bills; all of course depending on your individual situation. However, in many of these "I-can't-make-money" complaints, if we were to review the driver's logbook we'd see that he or she would run low on their 70-hour clock and take a 34-hour reset when they had at least 8 hours falling off at midnight. Or that when they were under a load, they would only drive 7 hours before shutting down. Or even that they weren't sending in their daily macro 10 so that the planners can see what hours you have available. (Though, the macro 10 requirement is going away soon after these new Qualcomms finish coming online.)
The complaint isn't always absurd, but the point still remains: Use your noggin before complaining because, more likely than not, the reason you're not getting miles isn't because of anything Swift is (or isn't) doing. It usually is the result of something you're doing (or not doing).
Another way to make a bad impression is be that driver who has an attitude, knows everything, and makes demands instead of requests. A good driver manager will take on the attitude that he or she works for the drivers, not Swift, but still understand that they are the manager when necessary. But any driver manager, good or bad, will not likely have much patience for drivers who make demands. That driver *manager* is your boss. Respect him or her and never make demands or give ultimatums. You will lose every time.
If you had to answer a question multiple times a day when the answer to the question is clearly marked in the driver's handbook, you'd be frustrated, right? Yet another example of something that happens every day because a driver didn't look for the answer himself before asking for a spoon-fed handout. In other words, you're an adult so be self-sufficient. Don't go running to Mommy and Daddy back at the terminal for something you could learn if you just did your homework like a good little driver.
How To Keep Your Job
News flash: Job security doesn't exist. It really never has, even as far back as medieval times, but that's a topic for later debate. What I mean to tell you is that your job at Swift is in jeopardy even before you thought of becoming a driver and it doesn't get any better just because you survive orientation, mentorship, and get your own truck. Why? Because Swift intends for it to be in jeopardy.
Swift has a business practice and a goal that conflict with each other. While they want to keep driver retention numbers high, they strive to keep costs low. In order to keep costs low, they pay you very little for the first year, expecting you will not likely stay with the company even that long, knowing that this is even partly because of the low salary. So, they aim for 80% retention; they expect 20% of their drivers will quit each week. Let me put this in perspective. Do you remember how I said they were the largest trucking company with 22,000 employees? I'm estimating that about 75% of its employees are drivers, or 16,500 drivers (leaving about 500 trucks not in use at any given time due to being in the shop, waiting for a driver, or waiting to be sold and swapped out for a new one). This would mean that 3,300 drivers quit each week! It would only take 5 weeks to replace its entire driver workforce. Of course, realistically, this isn't the case but it is not a figment of my imagination either. Just go to any terminal and it's likely you'll see their retention goal written up on the wall somewhere.
So, you get the point that you're job is in jeopardy even before you had it and that you're advertising your own replacement on the back of the trailer you're hauling, right? How do you keep your job then?
Easy! Just do four things: Pick up on time, deliver on time, don't hit anyone or anything on your way there, and when you get there, don't idle in your truck all night. Here's the ironic part: you had to train and pay a lot of money so you could get a CDL and do the first three things, but it's the last item that will be the hardest and most likely to cost you the most: your job.
It's true, keeping your idle percentage low enough to not get written up and eventually fired is extremely hard. Swift understands that it's hot in the summer and cold in the winter, but they also understand dollars. For every hour that you run your truck, you cost them about $2.75 or more with today's diesel prices. A 10-hour break costs the company almost $30 per truck. That's almost a half-million dollars per day for all their trucks. That's not including the time drivers idle their trucks while at a shipper, consignee, and at a truck stop but not on their break.
The only advice I can give you is to ask other drivers about how to keep your idle time low. One of them will surely be able to pull you in the right direction eventually.
Swift is in the process of renewing its fleet. The company does this every few years, I'm told. I've heard of some companies constantly replacing trucks in a slow trickle, but it seems that Swift likes to do it in massive pushes. So, presently, the company has a mix of Vovlos, Columbias, Cascadias, and ProStars. And not to forget the Kenworth T2000 and T700 for owner operators.
The Volvos range from some of the smallest available to the condos, and are generally the oldest of the Swift fleet. Though, recently, Swift has purchased some new ones.
There are a few of the infamous Freightshaker Columbias, but they are about as old as the Volvos and I suspect they are on they way out.
The ProStars are the next oldest but from what I've seen, Swift is still continually taking deliveries of new ones.
There are also a handful of Kenworth AeroCabs. There is mix of company and owner operators here.
Finally, entering stage center, the Freightliner Cascadia. Swift seems to be leaving the troublesome Vovlos in the dust, favoring the Cascadia. I had an opportunity to drive one during my second mentorship and another during my upgrade road test. My mentor's Cascadia was fantastic compared to some trucks. It's no Peterbuilt mansion, but it was sizable enough on the inside without being too big outside. It had no sign of the shaking or vibration that Freightliner is known for, while the Cascadia I drove for the road test had only a slight hint of it.
Colors are changing, too. Instead of all white company trucks and blue Kenworth T2000s for owner operators, it's a rainbow of colors now. You'll find blue, silver, white, black, burnt sienna, magenta, and violet. Though, there are more white, black, silver, and blue than the other colors, all of which are a part of the company's logo or color scheme.
So the once all-white Volvo and all-blue Kenworth that were so iconic of the name "Swift Transportation" are out, and diversity is in.
Here is another case of diversity. Swift's trailer fleet is a mixed bag of old, middle-aged, and new.
The Old (and Undesirables)
Swift oldest trailers are hands down M.S. Carriers and any trailer with a "T" prefix. These trailers are hard to open (and keep open due to broken latches), hard to close, and can be nearly impossible when it comes to sliding tandems. If you're unlucky enough to have one of these assigned to you for a particular load, I would suggest you bring along a hammer, vise grips, ear plugs, and a ton of patience. Also, most of these trailers are over ten years old so be alert that you don't bring one to a shipper or consignee with an age limit requirement. To do that, just make sure you read all the information in your preplan and dispatch for any such notes. You will not be paid detention if you fail to see the note on these kinds of loads and end up wasting the day tracking down a newer trailer. (Believe me, your entire day will be shot.)
Trailers that start with 5 and 08 are the middle siblings. Flip a coin with these. You might find a good one or you might find a bad one. It's hard to know for sure until you try to retract the landing gear or try to open or close a door. These are just starting to show signs of age and can be problematic or trouble free. It could go either way.
Swift recently starting purchasing new trailers. The new ones start with the year they were built followed by four digits. (The new trucks also follow this nomenclature.) So, a trailer built in 2010 will have a number like 102356. Any trailer 2010 or newer is almost guaranteed to be trouble-free at the time of writing.
Swift does have a refrigerated and flatbed fleet, but I have had no experience with these trailers. Same goes for the doubles and triples I've seen out west. And finally, Swift also has a few 14' tall trailers with trailer numbers that start with 14. Of course, they are easy to spot anyway just because of their unusual rectangular shape.
Swift has 37 terminals strategically placed across the U.S. However, you may find yourself wondering what's so strategic about a particular terminal's location as you make your way through back, back, back roads, such as on the way to Manteno, as this driver did. Anyway, none of them are identical and none of them do things exactly the same. They all have one thing in common though: they all should be avoided if possible. We'll come back to that in a minute.
Most of the terminals have bathrooms with at least one shower. The showers (and bathrooms) are cleaned by a contractor every few hours, but I would have to say that their effort in the showers leaves much room for improvement. The showers themselves leave a lot to be desired. The showers are, at best, the level of quality you get at a Pilot, but without the towel. They are of course, free however, so you get what you pay for.
Also, most terminals have some form of seating and a TV with basic cable channels. The furniture enjoyed by your tush varies from terminal to terminal, but can be as simple as a fold-out chair with no cushion at all to worn out sofas and LazyBoys.
Several terminals have laundry facilities. You might find only one washer and dryer or you might find a dozen. Most terminals do charge for using the laudry and the amount varies. Some, however, are free, but there is usually a long line for those, of course. Bring your own soaps, softeners, and anti-static dryer sheets, of course. There is no machine or cashier to make change so be sure to bring your own roll of quarters.
A few terminals have free coffee. Some only make it in the morning, others make a fresh pot a couple times a day. None of the terminals this driver has been to offered any other soda fountain or ice. You can buy sodas and sometimes breakfast juices from vending machines. Some vending machines have been known to take your money but not deliver your treat. Also, at select terminals, there may be a permanent or mobile food vendor with limited hours. If not, your food choices are either pizza or Chinese, or whatever else you can find that will deliver.
Most terminals have ample parking for your personal vehicle if you'd like to park it there while you're on the road. Just check with management first to make sure it's okay and that they won't have it towed. Parking for you and your truck, however, can be tough, especially close to or on the weekends. This is hit or miss really.
The easiest place to lose your job is at a terminal or in the vicinity of the terminal. Terminals are where the people that have the power to fire you stay and play. Everything you do at a terminal is seen via security cameras, management staff, and shop employees, not to mention the other drivers.
Got a case of road rage? You had better cure it at least thirty miles before you get there. Have a bad memory and forget to honk the horn or use your flashers when you reverse? You had better remember. Hate the way the seat belt fits? It doesn't just save your life, it saves your job. Have a dream of one day being a NASCAR driver instead of a truck driver? The yellow flag is out indefinitely. Wish you were at the beach and so you wear flip-flops or sandals? You had better trade them in for work boots or tennis shoes because the only thing you'll be feeling between your toes is gravel, diesel, and other unpleasant substances. Do you regret not becoming a world-class gymnast so you jump out of your truck pretending it's the Olympics? You'd better hold on with three-points of contact or you'll be regretting more than just the Olympics.
These are all things (but not everything) safety employees look for when they do random safety surveys. Get caught by the wrong person doing any of the above and you can bet your job is in jeopardy. So, avoid terminals if you can, but if you can't, be extra careful to do all the right things you'd normally do anyway, right? You will never know you when you are being watched or by whom.
It's not possible to stay away from the terminals indefinitely. Your truck will need repairs and maintenance. So, eventually, you will have the misfortune of experiencing the nightmare that is Swift Shops, the worst department of the company.
I said this wasn't going to be a bash on Swift, but here, I have to allow myself an exception. If there were some way I could express just how much I loath the idea of taking my truck to the shop for anything directly to the company, I would. As it is, this article is my only pressure release valve and it it's about to burst.
If you find yourself in need of a repair, major or minor, or any maintenance, expect to complete at least a 34-hour reset. Even something as simple and routine as a light bulb or tire replacement will take the better half of a day. To make things worse, Swift has been shortening business hours and closing the shop completely on weekends at many terminals. This is understandable given the near-depressed economy we are dealing with right now. However, a major side effect is that it lengthens the queue to get your truck serviced. To top it all off, the mechanics are in no hurry to finish. To them, a constant queue of trucks needing repair is job security.
Customer service is usually lacking too, but this depends on each individual and whether or not they are having a good day. Most of the time, though, I would think it's safe to say you can expect not to be greeted with a smile, or even greeted at all. It's almost like you are an inconvenience. (What happened to job security?)
A typical encounter with the shop will go something like this:
You'll arrive at the terminal, usually either with a loaded or empty trailer. If the issue you're seeing the shop for is only with the truck, drop the trailer in an appropriate spot (in the middle of an isle is not an appropriate spot, by the way), and the head over to the queue area. Usually, there will be signs indicating which of the several lines you should enter. Use your best judgement here but leave yourself enough room to get out of line if you need to. Park the truck and head towards the door marked "Service Desk".
Once there, if your lucky, you can explain what you need to the person behind the counter. Usually, however, you'll have to wait, either because there's a line of drivers ahead of you, or there isn't even anyone behind the counter, or both! Once, I waited forty-five minutes for the service writer to even acknowledge me.
Once you fill out the work order, follow whatever instructions you're given about where your truck should be. Then, wait. Eventually, your truck will be fixed and you can get back on the road again (“making money with my friends’).
Take anything of monetary or even sentimental value out of the truck. You never know who is going to work on your truck and what kind of principles they lack. Don't think it will happen to you? Swift has a sign in every shop saying they are not responsible for anything left in the truck! Why do they put this sign up? Because they know how easy it is for someone to steal something from your truck while it's in the shop and do not want to get involved in a dispute over missing property. On the other hand, it would be just as easy for a driver to lie and say something has gone missing and then demand compensation. Also, as of this moment, I have never had anything stolen from my truck, and the reason for this aside from having had mechanics with principles is what leads me to my next point.
If you want to maximize your mileage and minimize your down time spent on repairs, you should try to schedule your visits to the shop in conjunction with your home time. Yet again, another reason to have your personal vehicle parked at the terminal. Having your truck serviced while you're at home not only minimizes your down time, but it also keeps you from having to turn in your truck if you're going to be home for more than three days (Family Plan drivers excluded).
Swift mostly hauls household goods, commercial products, and dry or canned groceries. There are exceptions of course, and in reality, if it fits in a dry van, refrigerated trailer, or on a flat bed, Swift has probably hauled it at least once.
Swift's largest customers are Wal-Mart/Sam's Club, Pepsico/Quaker Oats/Gatorade, Campbell's, Kellogg, Kimberly Clark, Unilever, Lowe's, Home Depot, and Federal Express (FedEx). Most of Swift's freight is drop and hook, but they do more live loading and unloading than they claim. It's very rare to have a driver load or unload. Swift prefers to pay lumpers rather than let you do the work, even if it's cheaper, because they don't want you to risk injury. An injured driver will likely lead to workmen compensation claims and a truck that isn't picking up and delivering loads. So while you are cheaper, the chance of you injuring yourself is always more expensive than paying a lumper.
Let's talk about your weekly mileage. Swift is at the mercy of the economy and the weather just like any other company. They try to evenly balance the freight across all drivers, and thus, evenly distribute miles, but with as many drivers and trucks as they have, it's just not practical. Some weeks you will get over 3,000 miles, but the very next week, you might sit for a day or two and only get 1,300 miles. Summer months are better than winter months. I've heard of planners sending a load out to multiple drivers at once and whomever accepts it first gets the load. How many miles you will make each week depends a lot on several things, but two of the heaviest dependencies Swift has absolutely no control over, zero, zilch, nada. The first is the economy and amount of freight available. If Swift's customers aren't getting orders, they don't ship. Simple as that. The second and more important is you, the driver. If you stop to eat-in at Denny's instead of getting it to-go, taking twelve-hour breaks instead of ten, showering in the middle of your day instead of at the beginning or end, or otherwise not managing your time wisely, you will not make very many miles. Subsequently, your paycheck will suffer.
Historically, being a truck driver meant picking up a trailer and delivering it somewhere. Today though, as with everything else in this world, it's more complicated. It's about time management and your ability to adapt to unexpected changes in your plan. This is what makes you a professional driver, not just a truck driver.
Getting rich as a driver for Swift is highly unlikely, but for the informed driver, making a decent paycheck is certainly possible. Many of the common complaints I hear from other drivers are about an incident that caused them to lose a load or an unnecessary delay, and thus, a loss of money. At first, I was surprised to find that many of these drivers were ignorant of the rules for the additional pay available beyond what they make in CPM, or at least, incorrect in their understanding. As time has gone on, I am less and less shocked because all of these drivers have one thing in common: they are not on good terms with their driver managers and either have not tried or refused to try. Your best ally at Swift is your driver manager, but he can also be your worst enemy. Whichever way it goes depends mostly on you, a partly on the disposition of your driver manager, and a minor amount of luck. I know these rules because I did two things: made allies and friends out of the staff at my terminal, and I was persistent in my attempts to obtain a copy of these rules as driver managers see them. I justified my requests on the basis that if I knew the rules myself, I would not have to bug the driver managers every time I felt shorted on my paycheck. I would only bug them when I had a valid reason. Personally, I feel I shouldn’t have had to go asking for this information as it should have been made freely available to drivers, but it isn’t and, in any case, they saw the logic in my argument.
Being a (The?) starter company, Swift pays its drivers the lowest rates among the largest companies. If you survive the first year though, things can and will get better. Recently, Swift removed all information about its pay rates from their web site. I do not know the real reason behind this or if they will ever repost it. It is available on the terminal kiosks, however. What follows is the pay rate for all types of pay as they are at the time of writing. How the company will feel about my posting this information (if they ever discover that I have), I do not know, but I believe that it is the right of any employee at any company to know how to be compensated appropriately and any employer's attempts to hide such information dishonest.
Sliding CPM Pay Scale:
Additional Pay Available:
Border Crossing: Canadian border only. Payment for time spent in customs clearance at the border. Company drivers paid at $25.00 per in/out combination crossing; $50.00 for owner operators. Author's note: I do not know if this is automatic or if you must request it. Until I find out, I suggest the obvious: ask for it and triple check your pay.
Breakdown: Payment for a 24 hour increment of time when the driver's truck is not in service. Company drivers paid at $50.00 per 24 hour increment. Request should be made for loaner truck if necessary. Driver may not be at home during breakdown period. Owners do not qualify. Author's note: Must ask driver manager; breakdown is not paid automatically and you will not get it if you don't ask. You may not be at home, but you may stay with friends or family if greater than 50 miles from home. Otherwise, you must be in a hotel. Your DM should issue you an advance to pay for the hotel. Hotels are only paid one night at a time. If the truck is not fixed by checkout time the next morning, you should either get a ride over to the dealership and sit in the drivers lounge until check-in time, or perhaps you can convince your DM to issue you a second advance if you are absolutely sure you will be there another night. Don’t forget to scan the hotel receipt!
Cancelled Dispatch: Payment for time spent under a load that is cancelled. Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 in the Central and West Regions and $13.00 in the East Region; $18.00 per hour for owners in all regions. Author's Note: You will more than likely already be getting detention pay for when something like this happens. The difference between this and detention is that this pays from the moment you get to the shipper whereas detention begins paying only after the first two hours. You cannot get paid for both detention and cancelled dispatch for the full time you are there (double-dip) but cancelled dispatch can be used to fill in where detention didn't start paying for the first two hours. This pay is especially important for when a load is cancelled after you already picked it up and left the shipper. I have never had this happen but it can. Regardless of circumstances, this pay is NOT automatic and you must ask your driver manager for it.
Local Drop Delivery: Payment for time spent on a local drop trailer delivery under 25 miles. (Author's note: In other words, for loads under 25 miles.) Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions. Author's note: This is in addition to the CPM noted on the pay scale above and it is automatic.
Detention: Payment for time driver is detained at a customer location. Company drivers are paid at $4.00 per quarter hour. Owner Operators are paid at $7.50 per quarter hour. Maximum pay for company driver is $96.00. Maximum pay for Owner Operator is $240. The first 2 hours at the customer are not paid. Pay applies unless otherwise stated in the driver's pay package or contract. Author's Note: This pay is automatic but there are a few stipulations. First, you must not be late, your fault or not. If you miss the appointment for any reason, you will not get detention. Second, if you arrive early and sit for more than 2 hours but not more than 2 hours past the appointment time, you will not get detention. For example, your appointment is for 14:00, you arrive at 09:00, but do not leave until 13:00, you will not get detention. If you leave at 16:15 or later, you will get $4.00 for every 15 minutes thereafter. In short, it does not pay to arrive early unless you have another load already scheduled on you. Thirdly, if you leave the customer, for any reason, you will not get detention automatically. You will have to call your driver manager and justify why you left and why you should get detention even though you left. The only reason likely to justify leaving is that either the customer or law enforcement told you to. Even then, it might be difficult because you'll have to explain why they told you to leave. You must also send another "Arrived at (customer)" macro upon your return. Case in point: Avoid leaving a customer if you can help it. Fourthly, you MUST hit "REPLY" to the messages sent to your Qualcomm starting the third hour you're there. These messages must be detailed and thoroughly explain what is holding you up at the customer. Payroll can and will kick out detention pay if your message isn't clear and understandable. They do this because they have to be able to, in turn, charge the customer the detention they are paying you and be able to prove it was a valid charge if the customer disputes the charges. I also recommend prefacing your “REPLY” message with something like this: “RESPONSE TO AUTOMATED 2-HOUR MESSAGE:” Change the number to whatever the appropriate number is, such as 3 if you’ve been there for 3 hours. The reason for this is that your DM will see this message. Without that preface, he/she might think you were trying to tell him/her something specifically. This way, they’ll understand you are just replying as you were told and not trying to get their attention specifically.
Exception/Other: Payment for time in service for work other than described in established additional pay codes or x/calls. Company drivers are paid at $12.00 per hour in the Central and West Regions and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators are paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions. Author's Note: This is a sort of catch-all for those instances where your issue doesn't really fit any other type of pay, yet, your cause is justifiable.
Intermodal-Dray Work: Payment for time spent on dray work (to and from the rail yard) under 25 miles. Company drivers are paid at $12.00 per hour in the Central and West Regions and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators are paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions.
Delivery or Pickup of a Local Live Load or Unload: Payment for time spent in pick up or delivery of a local load under 25 miles that requires a live load or unload. Company drivers are paid at $12.00 per hour in the Central and West Regions and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators are paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions. Author's Note: Essentially, you are paid an hourly wage from start of pickup to completion of delivery plus the prescribed CPM on all loads less than 25 miles. Hint: Get as many of these as you can and never turn them down.
Full Hand-Load or Hand-Unload: Payment for loading or unloading the entire trailer without assistance and BY HAND (no fork lift or pallet jacks). Company drivers are paid at $80.00 per full-load/unload. Owner Operators are paid at $100.00. Pay applies unless otherwise specified in driver's pay package or contract. Author's Note: Do not load or unload a trailer unless your dispatch specifies it as a driver load or unload. You will find it difficult convincing management to pay you when you weren't supposed to touch the freight in the first place. Even if it is a driver load or unload, make sure you check your pay and check with your driver manager that the pay went through. This pay is not automatic. If the customer refuses to load or unload the trailer and you must do it yourself, do no do anything until you've received a written confirmation via your Qualcomm that you are approved by Swift to load or unload the trailer AND that you will be compensated for the work. You must log On Duty for this time. You may double-dip this with detention; just make sure you follow all the rules for detention.
Driver-Assisted Load/Unload: Payment for driver assisting with loading or unloading freight. Company drivers are paid at $30.00. Owner Operators are paid at $60.00. Same notes as full load/unload apply.
Bracing: Flat Bed company drivers are paid at $10.00 per load for bracing. Linehaul, dedicated, and owner operators excluded.
Chocking: Flat Bed company drivers are paid at $10.00 per load for chocking. Linehaul, dedicated, and owner operators excluded.
Cleating/Uncleating: Flat Bed company drivers are paid at $10.00 per load for cleating or uncleating. Linehaul, dedicated, and owner operators excluded.
Pallet Jack Load/Unload: Payment for loading freight using a pallet jack. Company drivers are paid at $20.00 for loading or unloading using a pallet jack. Owner Operators are paid at $45.00. Author's Note: Notes from hand loading/unloading also apply here.
Throwing Pallets: Payment for placing freight on pallets. Company drivers are paid at $20.00 for throwing pallets. Owner Operators are excluded. Author's Note: Notes from hand loading/unloading also apply here.
Shrink Wrapping: Payment for shrink wrapping the freight when required. Company drivers are paid $20.00 for shrink wrapping when required by the customer. Author's Note: Notes from hand loading/unloading also apply here.
Layover: Payment for a 24 hour increment of time with no load/work available. If the driver is detained at a customer more than 32 hours, layover may be issued in addition to detention pay. Company drivers are paid at $50.00 per 24-increment. Driver must be available to work, must not have turned down a load for any reason, and may not be at home during layover period or on 34-hour reset. Owner Operators do not qualify for layover pay. Author's Note: Pay is not automatic. You must ask your driver manager for it.
Road Test: Payment for performing road tests. Company Drivers are paid at $20.00 per road test. Owner Operators are paid at $36.00 per road test. Owner Operators will be the last choice resource for performing a road test. Author's Note: You must be a qualified mentor to do road tests.
Stop Pay: Payment for additional drops or pickups under the load. Company Drivers are paid at $15.00 per stop. Owner Operators are paid at $35.00 per stop. Pay applies unless otherwise specified in the driver's pay package or contract.
Local Truck Recovery: Payment for riding to pickup an abandoned truck and get it ready to roll. Mileage will begin as soon as the truck is rolling. Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions.
Trailer Move/Spot: Payment for time spent moving or spotting trailers. This is for both moves that are billable to customers and those that are not billable. Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions. Author's Note: if you find yourself moving several trailers for a customer, make sure you get the trailer numbers. This pay is not automatic. Never let a DM tell you he can’t pay you because Swift can’t charge the customer; see emphasized text above.
Transload: Payment for time spent transloading work. Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions.
Tarping: Payment for tarping a load. Company drivers are paid at $23.00 for tarping a load. Owner Operators are paid at $30.00. Pay applies unless otherwise specified in the driver's pay package or contract.
Window/Gate Work: Payment for time spent working at a dispatch window or security gate. Company drivers paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions.
Yard Work: Payment for time spent in local yard work. Company drivers are paid at local hourly rate of $12.00 per hour in the Central and West regions, and $13.00 per hour in the East Region. Owner Operators are paid at $18.00 per hour in all regions. Author's Note: This is work at a Swift terminal or drop yard. Customer yards would be paid via trailer move.
Sweeping: Sweeping out your trailer is considered a standard part of your job with each load and is not eligible for additional pay. Trailer sweeps for time spent on clean up of multiple trailers would be paid under Exception.
HazMat: Swift doesn't do much Hazardous Materials freight. I've done three in a little over a year’s worth of driving. But when I did, I was paid an automatic $35.00 flat rate. I do not know if they pay differently for Owner Operators. Even so, I do recommend getting your HazMat permit if you can. It looks good on your resume (because it means you’ve already passed an extensive background check) and it will also make you more valueable and marketable should you decide to leave Swift at some point.
Per Diem: Swift offers a per diem program where they reduce your CPM by a certain rate and return some of that amount back to you after your taxes are deducted. This is intended to simplify your tax filing at the end of the year and reduce the amount on which you are taxed. However, the company takes a couple pennies for itself in the name of administrative costs to operate the program. Also, the amount you take home doesn't come anywhere close to the standard daily rate allowed by the IRS. This driver has opted not to use the per diem program because I intend on claiming everything I can on my taxes and the per diem program only complicates my particular situation. I highly recommend discussing this issue with your tax consultant or an accountant specialized in the tax codes related to the transportation industry. There are also do-it-yourself self-help books on the topic that might be worth a look.
Swift's Pay Schedule:
Swift direct deposits your pay into your company fuel card (ComData card) by default on Tuesdays unless you specify a differed account. The pay week runs from 00:00 Thursday to 23:59 Wednesday, Phoenix time. Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time, so consider this when you're trying to convert to local time. Your first twenty loads will need to have their bills of ladings and all related receipts turned in by Wednesday at 23:59 Phoenix time. After that, you'll be eligible for expedited pay and just need to empty-call the load by that time in order to be paid for the mileage and all associated additional pay. However, receipts will still need to be scanned in in time if you want them reimbursed that week. Be careful, you do have a limited amount of time to scan in those reimbursable receipts, so get it done sooner rather than later.
If you have a problem with your check, your first resources are your driver manager and the payroll office. If those fail, you can ask your fleet manager. Your final step to resolve any issue will be your terminal manager. (This isn’t entirely true—you do have one more step you could take, but if it takes going above your terminal manager to handle a ligitamite pay issue, I personally would look for employment elsewhere.)
When You’re Broke Down
At some point in your time, your truck will break down on the road. A tire will blow out or a leak of some sort will leave you stranded. This is the time you call OnRoad.
The first thing you do is pull over in the safest place you can find. On the highway, try to pull as far over to the shoulder as you can but don't park in the grass. It is the easiest way you can roll a truck going 0 MPH. Put out your triangles like you learned in CDL school. Then call OnRoad. I would not recommend sending Qualcomm macros. In my experience, it takes twice as long to get a response via the Qualcomm than to just call. Depending on your problem, they will send out a repair truck, a tow, or ask you to roll to a nearby repair shop. If you do not feel safe moving the truck, do no let them convince you otherwise. Ultimately, you are responsible for what happens to that truck and those you share the road with.
Be patient as it can sometimes take several hours for a repair truck or tow to get to you. If the truck will run, try to stay with it and keep cool or warm. If not, use common sense on the best action to take to stay alive and as comfortable as possible. I highly recommend moving the truck to a repair shop if it is safe to do so as this is the fastest way to get back to making money.
Swift's Dedicated Opportunities:
Swift has many dedicated routes. Walmart/Sam's Club, Costco, Michael's, Dillard's, and more. Each account has its pros and cons. Some require you to live nearby. Other's don't. Some pay by the hour, by the load, by the day, or a set CPM package different from the main one I discussed above.
To qualify, you will likely need to have a minimum of six months tenure with Swift, with 100% on-time service, no service failures, and no accidents. (There are some occasional exceptions.) If you have that, then it's a matter of applying and waiting in line for a spot to open up. Sometimes though, those dedicated accounts will come to you. You may get a message one day asking if you're interested. Just bide your time, do a good job, and they will come, especially if you follow my recipe for making a good impression and reputation.
Welcome to Swift, the get-you-started company. Or, welcome to Swift, the hold-out-and-it-will-get-better company. Really, it is what you and a little luck make it. So, I wish you the best of luck; the rest is on you.
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Good info here, thanks for taking the time to put it all in one place.
Just three comments:
1. if you have gone to a Swift school you will be bored to tears at orientation for the first day and a half as everything that is done or talked about at orientation was already covered at the academy.
2. be aware that Swift also runs trailers that are 57 feet. These trailers, like the 14 feet tall trailers can only be run in certain parts of the country, know where it is legal to do so. Also the 57' trailer begins always with 75. You may see some trailers that start with a 73, these are trailers that once were 57' but cut down to 53'.
3. it may be because I am a regional driver, but I get local pay for any trip that the loaded miles are 100 miles or less. I do have to ask my DM to check for local pay on these loads, but I have received as much as $65 extra on top of my mileage pay.
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Welcome back to Swift Highflight!....now go find an empty.....out there(points to a row of trl,not one is a swift trl) sound familiar?
How do you have the time to write all that?????
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- california norte
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This is a really good write-up, should be a booklet passed out to all new Swifties at orientation!
1. I believe the owner ops are up to $20 bucks an hour vice $18 as stated above.
2. Always shower and shave, put on clean duds before seeing anyone if the Swift offices Yes, thank you for saying that!
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And how do I have time to write all that? I didn't do it all at once. I did it over the course of about 2 months. Oh, and honest to God, I wrote it all on the virtual keyboard on my old iPhone 3GS. Not a lick of it was written on an actual keyboard! I can type about 70 wpm on a regular keyboard, and about 40-50 on touchscreens. Too much a geek I guess.
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And thanks for the complement! Nice to see people enjoying the fruits of many a hand-cramp...
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I did not know they had 57-footers. Interesting. I have not seen a single one. Are they on special accounts?
Yes, regional gets paid differently if you look at the table. What I didn't explain, and I should have, is that with different accounts, not only does the basic pay scale change but so does what you get paid for extra pay. For example, I was just on a Wal-Mart dedicated route. There, I was paid $10 per stop after the first one. OTR drivers get paid $15 for every stop in between the pickup and final destination. That's just stop pay; everything else is subject to change to.
Want to know what you should be getting paid? Call payroll and ask to speak to the person in charge of the "pay package" for your specific fleet/account. Be sure get the name of whomever it is and write down what you find out. And, please, feel free to add that information to this thread.
Oy. Those MS Carriers trailers. I think I could count on one hand the number of times I picked up an MS Carriers that didn't have a busted or stubborn something or other. Sliding tandems was darn near impossible. Locking pliers are my friend, and even that only worked sometimes.
This is great information.
03.12.2012 #9... Now, your mileage might vary here, but in my experience, the owner operators were so hard pressed to make their paychecks that they cared less ...
This is an unfortunate fact. But the sad truth is that an O/O should easily be able to make it as solo. If they train it should be just gravy. But too many can't figure it out and then fall back to training to increase thier revenue stream.
Overall great post. It should be a sticky.
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Layover: Payment for a 24 hour increment of time with no load/work available. If the driver is detained at a customer more than 32 hours, layover may be issued in addition to detention pay. Company drivers are paid at $50.00 per 24-increment. Driver must be available to work, must not have turned down a load for any reason, and may not be at home during layover period or on 34-hour reset. Owner Operators do not qualify for layover pay. Author's Note: Pay is not automatic. You must ask your driver manager for it.
You can get hosed on this.
I delivered Friday, with a PTA of 1230.
I get a pplan Saturday at 1200, picking up Monday at 2000.
No real reason to turn down the load, so I have to accept it.
Now I am under a load, but am sitting for 3+ days before I can pick it up.
And since the load was given before I sat 24 hours, no layover pay.
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