I've been with Schuster for a little over five months. This is my detailed report.Pay
Schuster is a medium sized OTR reefer and van fleet with company drivers (Cents Per Mile) and a few owner operators (Percentage of the Load). Schuster will recruit student drivers but they usually like to see at least six months of experience. They'll take student drivers out on the road until both the trainer and new driver feel confident.
- Schuster has a base pay of 40 CPM with a 2 CPM quarterly safety bonus (approximately $500 - $600 more or less, depending upon the total number of miles driven during the quarter). If you shop around to other companies you'll find many pay 30-some-odd cents per mile, or say "up to" 40-some-odd cents per mile. Other companies make ridiculous earnings claims, and either can't deliver the miles [so it doesn't matter what your base CPM is], or there are so many fine-print requirements to earn this penny and that penny that the driver is kept chasing an elusive pot of gold. Schuster pays 40 CPM empty and loaded, so that's what you're getting; with the safety bonus you're getting 42 CPM—no fine print.Miles
- I typically get 2,600 – 3,000 miles a week ($1040 - $1,200 gross
). Average length of haul is somewhere between 800 – 1,200 miles. If you want to focus on California, you'll be doing 1,600+ miles there and back. It seems like the drop-and-hook and live ratio is about 50/50.No Forced Dispatch
- No forced dispatch means you can refuse any load with justifiable reason. For example, if for some reason you weren't able to get a good nights rest and can't see yourself safely completing a tight 600 mile load, you can refuse it. This is not coerced
dispatch, it is truly no forced dispatch
but the average professional driver should only refuse 2 – 5 loads per year.No Forced Routing
- It is up to you to choose the best route. Nobody is watching over your shoulder, or going to ask why you decided to take the route you chose unless you're doing something utterly ridiculous—like driving toward Washington in order to get to Florida. Also, pick one “no go” sector of the United States and Schuster's load planners will not send you there.Equipment.
- Trucks are swapped out after approximately 450,00 miles or so and kept in great working condition. Most trucks have a diesel powered APU (auxiliary power unit), and if not they are equipped with an electric TriPak to run air conditioning or heat when the truck is shut off.Staff
- The work environment is friendly. No one is walking around with a chip on their shoulder. Many of the drivers you'll meet have been with the company over 5, 10 or 20 years. I've popped my head into the orientation classroom three or four times over these past five months and out of the small handful of people in the class, there's always been one or two guys returning to Schuster—that's a good sign.Home-Time
- Schuster makes every effort to get you home when you're up for home-time. They have never failed to get me home, and a few times I've swapped loads with drivers because Schuster needed to get the driver home.
Orientation lasts four days but it's a breeze; it's held at Schuster's terminal in Le Mars, Iowa—the ice cream capital of the world. You'll have your own room at a nice hotel. Breakfast is provided by the hotel, while Schuster covers your lunch and dinner. Cheryl handles orientation and she's a very nice lady; you could picture her making a great kindergarten teacher. Orientation basically consists of filling out a mountain of paperwork, watching safety videos. . .and trying to get a nap in without Cheryl catching you.
Late model single bunk Internationals and Freightliners.Freightliners have an electric kill switch, air bag dump switch, and some have a 5th wheel release lever in the cab. I don't know what extras the Internationals have. I mention this because some companies get the absolute basic model trucks and the extras are definitely helpful.
All trucks have an APU or TriPak.If your truck does not have an inverter or three-pong socket coming off the APU, you can purchase a 2500 watt inverter directly from the shop and have it installed (approximately $280 with install kit). Fifty dollars will be deducted from each weekly paycheck to pay for the inverter. The shop also has Cobra CBs available. A three-prong power source is critical for saving money on food expenses by being able to cook your meals in the truck.Qualcomm with NaviGo GPS. I suggest buying a cheap computer keyboard from Wal-Mart and plugging it into the USB port on the side of the Qualcomm. It's much nicer to use a real keyboard.All trucks are equipped with a trip scanner so you'll never have to stress about getting trips scanned on time, or walking through the rain or snow to go get them scanned.All trucks and trailers are kept in pristine condition. Anything that needs to be fixed will be fixed. Trailers are late model and all have push-button tandem release—you won't pull junk.Trucks are governed at 65 and will get to 67 with good fuel economy (get into the habit of turning off the truck as soon as you pull the parking brake, then immediately turn on your APU or TriPak if you need air conditioning or heat). Trucks can reach 70 Mph with exceptional fuel economy and/or several quarters of proven safe driving.All trucks have a deer guard.
The driver lounge has a partial kitchen, microwave, snack and beverage machines, wide screen TV, a few recliners and cafeteria seating, wifi service and laundry machines. A large bowl of free fruit is usually set out for the drivers. A grill is available anytime you want to barbecue. The lounge is professionally cleaned periodically. Four large restrooms that each have a shower (bring your own towel and soap).Two four-wheelers available to drive into town when you need to.Truck and trailer wash bay and a large shop.Fuel pumps are at the terminal and DEF is available in the shop.Oil, radiator fluid and washer fluid (bug juice in the summer) are available in the shop. Just walk in, grab what you need and write it on a sign-out sheet. If you need 5th wheel grease, just pull your truck around to the back of shop, back up to the door and slap some on. I mention this because they don't have a “ask for a hall pass to use the restroom” attitude at Schuster. You've got your big girl panties on, so get what you need and get moving.Schuster's office and shop staff have always been pleasant to me, and treated me like I am a fellow human being who is part of the team. They have an open door policy. You can walk right into Steve Schuster's office if you need to speak with him. Steve is a blue collar guy who doesn't have a silver spoon attitude.
As far as dispatch goes, nobody is breathing down your neck or treating you like an easily replaceable number. As an example, although you're technically supposed to only pick one “no go” sector of the US, I took issue with some loads and was invited to sit down with my dispatcher and his boss to discuss the possibility of a workaround—and they're going to try to keep me off those loads. I'm not suggesting this is the place to be picky, but stressing that Schuster treats you like a human being. I even told my dispatcher I was going to drive the truck right through the front doors of the building and shove my CB so far down his throat he'd have to fart just to key the mic and he still kept his cool.
. . .okay that last sentence isn't true, but the rest is.
The shop is fast, and will fix whatever needs fix'n—period. I had a broken arm rest—replaced; a seat cushion with an odor from the previous driver—replaced; APU went out—parts were ordered, and it was fixed. Schuster has no desire to have you sitting around not making money. If it's an overnight job Schuster will put you up in the local hotel. The shop communicates directly with dispatch and truly maintains a “we need to get this guy back on the road” attitude.
I want to be clear that no company is perfect, and to ensure this report is both honest and thorough, I will cover the negatives.
Because Schuster hauls mostly reefer freight, expect to flip-flop your sleep schedule every two to three weeks or so in order to deliver a load in the middle of the night. Keep in mind, you can refuse the load, or see if you can work out a swap, but don't expect to get away with that each and every time a late night load comes your way.Schuster just simplified their trip sheets a little bit, but I still find them to be excessive for what I'm used to. I'm getting faster at filling them out but more simplification would be an even bigger boost to driver morale. Trucker's tend to have an extreme allergy to paperwork, and I'm no exception.There's standing head room in a single-bunk Freightliner, but I do miss my double-bunk sleeper because the single-bunk model's closet is too short to hardly qualify as a closet. Plus a double-bunk would allow me to have a buddy or my son occasionally ride around with me. . .and then I could have them slave over filling out the godawful trip sheets.The laundry machines should be free. . .but at least they're only a dollar. I figure they should probably provide us free ice cream. I am not a recruiter for a two-bit con-job trucking company; absolutely nothing has been withheld or sugarcoated about my work experience with Schuster. If for some reason a person's experience with Schuster is markedly different from my own, perhaps trucking isn't for them. I've been trucking a little over three years: one year with a wretched company, a few weeks here and there with horrible companies, two years with a good one, and now five months with a great one.
I'll see you at the terminal.