Time for an update.
After having driven here as an O/O for about 8 months I've learned a few things that might help the next O/O make a decision.
This is relative to both corporate out of Michigan and our local office outside of El Paso in Anthony, Texas.
1) Frankie is about the most amazing dispatcher and office manager you could ever work for. There's simply not enough good things that can be said about him. He goes above and beyond every time and genuinely cares about the guys he works with. He always makes the effort to accommodate, be a great leader and makes himself available at all hours, which can't be easy on him.
He's got 3 decades in the industry and knows exactly what he's doing and how to problem solve. He does what he says he's going to do every time (even if it isn't as fast as you might like given he's a one man operation), and he shoots straight. Typically with a brilliant sense of humor. He's categorically a good man.
2) Pro Tech Diesel is our local 'shop' where we do all our inside repairs. Ritchie is the owner and Heather is the boss in the office. They're both solid people who are responsive and professional. Every mechanic in the shop is the same, great at what they do and communicative. Their prices are reasonable, and even when you can get a better price elsewhere, you might not get the same level of attention. Having them as our shop has been a great though expensive experience.
PMs and Oil Changes are at about market price, everything else is the standard $85/ Hour. They're also receptive to input and work arounds when possible.
3) Roadside Assistance if responsive and fast. These calls route through the Burton Yard up in Flint, Michigan and they're all helpful and professional people.
4) Driver Manager Michele O is a rock star. Like Frankie, she's reasonable, honest and helpful everytime you call with just about any issue you might have. The same can be said of the dispatchers up in Michigan. Most of them are helpful, and really cool. I've only interacted with 2 that were consistently abrupt, rude and unhelpful. Both are females and I don't recall their names off hand.
5) Bob in safety is awesome. Reasonable but strict. Just what you need in a safety guy. He covers the bases and explains his motivations when correcting you on misdeeds lol.
6) Tolls are covered and the office is quick to reimburse cash payouts for permits, Tire Pass for the trailers or tolls. Scales are covered too.
7) First year base plate is paid.
That's it for the Pros.
1) If you're a company driver, the equipment is worn out, slow and smelly. Being on a dirt lot, it's ALWAYS dirty. They do have a Blue Beacon account, but good luck having the time to wash the equipment.
2) The trailers are always filthy, underinflated and you'll never find a trailer with double locks on the right hand side or with pressure equalizers or auto inflators. You'll waste hours every month inflating by hand or trying to find a Love's Tire Pass that will touch them due to underinflation. None of which you'll be paid for.
As an O/O it's particularly frustrating dealing with sub-par leased trailers. They waste your time. They're in bad shape and they destroy your fuel economy.
3) As stated, the dirt lot in Texas will leave your newly washed truck filthy every time you gear up to go out. Frankie will let you wash out your truck if you bring your own gear, but it's a cumbersome process.
4) Pay Rate is low. $1.22 a mile with Fuel Surcharge at present won't begin to cover your cost of operation for O/Os unless your truck is paid for and not equipped with a DPF system or is in good repair.
5) Breakdowns. If you have a breakdown and don't have a maintenance account or funds at the ready, be prepared to be charged interest on any loan over $1k. Coming in the door broke with a 2013 Kenworth T-660 that needed a lot of TLC, I have had several breakdowns and have been charged 8.5% on top of the bill. Talk about getting it in the butt dry. There's also an unwillingness to help which seems counter-intuitive, being that O/Os are their bread and butter. I had to plead my case extensively to get help and it was only after agreeing to sign a Promissory Note and allow them to keep my pay for a month, put $2k down and allow a Title Lien on my truck.
Pretty friggin brutal for a guy who's always early to deliveries and never turns down loads.
As an aside, they have been burned in the past and this is why they're reluctant to spot payment for repairs and I can appreciate that, it's smart business. Charging me interest when I'm already in the hole is a touch underhanded and unnecessary if you ask me.
They also declined to help because Mercer called to verify employment and they thought I was going to leave and burn them, and again, I can understand reluctance given those parameters. Luckily I had the brains to put in writing, the week before the breakdown, that I was intending to stay for several more months and would only leave after my debt was repaid.
This action saved my bacon.
The general sense of unwillingness to help indicates that the relationship can feel a bit one-sided. That might not be the reality, but it feels that way.
6) 2 Week Hold Back on Pay.
This one item creates massive cash flow problems and makes staying current with your books a real pain.
If you've ever had rapid pay, this isn't it, and it's tough to keep floating, especially if you have break downs.
7) Heavy Loads.
Everyone tells you you're going to be pulling light to medium weight loads to get you to sign and Chieftain is no different. I have a fixed 5th Wheel (stupid on my part, I know). Once I'm over 40k lbs (which is almost always) I can only take on 3/4 tanks of fuel. This leads to more stops, wasted time and a harder time planning my fuel purchases ( I have regular places I stop with good prices). This is mostly my fault, but we were all promised light loads and fair weather routes. Neither has been the case.
In Frankie's defense, some of this is out of his control and being a one man show, it's more work for him to spot check every load for weight to accommodate me, and that's understandable. I've explained my motives to him and he gets it and does try to work for my benefit, so that's a plus.
8) Ambiguous Settlement Sheets.
There's nothing harder than trying to figure out your running balance when the information isn't provided, which makes planning and budgeting a nightmare.
9) Getting Receipts for repairs.
This has gotten better, but you won't get them unless you email and ask for them.
10) New Mexico Weight and Distance Permits.
Every time you hit the port of entry you'll be taking a 30 minute break to remit payment or get an EFS code.
11) Omnitracs / Qualcomm is $28 per week, and buying your own or providing your own ELD is not 'allowed'. The parameters are set to hyper-sensitive and will trigger 'Critical Events' when you're not doing a thing wrong. Even Swift gave you a minute of free time to work the terrain with a heavy load, so if you wanted to grab a little road speed to help save fuel for the next hill climb, you could, but not at Chieftain. The unit will trigger the second you go over the machine's idea of the posted limit (which is typically wrong).
12) No Pre-Pass or Pre-Pass elite (with the built in toll accounts for Fast Track, etc.).
You can buy them, but the price is hardly worth the expense.
Without taking cheap shots or tearing the company down, I'd say that working here isn't worth the time or effort for what you get back out of your time away from home.
I've come to understand that unless you're working for percentage of a load, most places aren't worth working for given the industry standard for pay. Chieftain falls into that category easily.
The biggest lesson they could learn is implementing rapid pay and having more transparent book keeping practices, as well as having a more helpful attitude in tough times and a better staffed office in terms of number of people actually working.
Once my debt is re-paid, I'll be putting in my notice and moving on to a top 5 company that's already accepted me and my old KW.
To their credit, they're not as bad as the mega carriers on the whole, but there's better options out there.
EL Hollingsworth / Chieftain / Help Expedite
@Sandman 660 If your carrier gave you quick pay they would probably be one week away from going broke like most carriers. The only carriers I've saw that quick pay are Landstar, and Mercier, and Celedon plus a few others. And none of them are where I would like to work.
When Lanstar had a article on one of their top IC BCO drivers being very lucrative by driving hos freightliner century and being proud that after everything was said and done he would pocket $60,000 for the year after costs. I thought wow! I will never go to Landstar I can earn more as an employee. Why the article was written I don't understand.