So...you've done a little research, and have found nothing to exclude the carrier from consideration. The next step is to contact them, and then interview them. Does this sound strange? It shouldn't. We have been conditioned to think that a job is a job is a job, and the employer interviews the prospective employee. In this industry, it's quite the opposite. All things are NOT equal, and you have a right and the responsibility to assure that the job you may apply for, is one that is right for you, and that you are right for the job, BEFORE they screen you for consideration.
When you apply for a job, driving a commercial vehicle, you will be asked to give up a great deal of personal information, and the application process takes quite awhile to perform. Why get that far into the process until you are sure that you want the job?
Before you pick up that phone, you will need to have a list of questions in front of you that you desire to ask, or issues that are of importance to you, so that you will be able to get some idea of what this company offers.
The list should include any or all of the following, as it may pertain to your interests or circumstances:
Pay and Benefits:
Do you offer paid transportation from my home to orientation/training site, and/or reimbursement if I travel at my own expense, and if so, what is the mode of transportation or the amount of reimbursement I can expect?
What are the lodging accomodations I can expect? Will I have a room to myself, or will I be forced to share a room with a stranger?
Do you offer orientation pay, and if so, how many days are involved for orientation, how much is offered for orientation, and when will I receive it?
Based on my level of verifiable experience, and my work history, what is the best starting base pay amount your company can offer me?
Is pay calculated on mileage or percentage? If mileage based, which program is used and in what mode to calculate mileage? Household Movers Guide? Rand McNally Milemaker? PC Miler? Are they calculated to reflect truck routes? Are they calculated in the shortest available route mode? Are they calculated to reflect practical routing? If I am paid percentage, am I afforded a copy of the freight billing with pay settlements , for each load that I haul? Am I allowed to step into the office and ask to see billing records for loads that I haul, if copies are not sent to me each week?
Am I paid for all miles, both loaded and empty? Am I paid the same for each? If not, how much am I paid for empty miles?
If I maintain a good work record with your company, what can I expect to make in the future, and how often are raises in base pay considered?
What are the average number of paid miles can I expect to accumulate per week? What are your peak months where mileages are best, and what months of the year do mileages seem to suffer?
Are there any bonuses offered? What are they, and how hard are they to attain? When are they actually paid? What will disqualify me from being paid earned bonuses?
Do you offer paid vacations? How is the pay calculated for vacation pay? Are there increases over years of service, where I may receive more paid vacation time each year?
Will I be performing multiple pick-ups or drops? Is there any increased pay associated with this service? How much will I receive for extra stops?
Will I be asked to perform labor for loading or unloading the trailer? Am I compensated for this service? If so, how is it calculated? Am I allowed to hire lumpers? Are there cases where this will be pre-arranged?
Does your company have a detention pay policy? At what point does detention pay kick in? What rate of pay is offered for detention to the driver?
Am I allowed to draw cash advances for personal expenses while on the road? What amount am I allowed to draw each week, and how and when are they deducted? If the advance is drawn for a cash expense related to operating the truck or delivering a load, when are these advances deducted from my pay? Will they ever be deducted before the related receipt for the expense is sent in?
Which expenses related to my job are reimbursed? Scale fees? Lumpers? Toll roads (If the company does not provide electronic means of paying for tolls encountered)? If I am required to fax in paperwork, are these fees reimbursed?
Do you offer per per-diem pay? If so, how is this calculated? Is this reported on my W-2 statement in box #14 each year? May I be excluded from per-diem pay if I desire?
Do you offer layover and/or breakdown pay? When does this pay kick in? What is the rate of pay for cases where I am laid over or the truck is broke down?
Are medical/dental/life insurance/retirement benefits offered? What is the cost of these benefits for myself/family coverage? Are there deductibles that must be met each year? How much per family member? Are prescription benefits offered? What is the yearly limit on that? How long after I am employed, must I wait for coverage to begin?
Does your company offer a retirement plan? If this is a 401-K, does the company offer any match to my contrbutions? What is the percentage offered? Is there a limit? How long will I have to wait for participation to begin?
Are there coverages for short term/long term disability insurance offered? What are the costs, and when will this coverage be offered to me?
Does the company offer any sick/personal day, and/or holiday pay? If so, how much if offered per event, what is the criteria that must be met, and how long before I am eligible for this pay?
Does the company offer a rider and/or pet policy? Are there an age requirements? Am I required to pay a premium or put up any bonds for pets or riders? Are only immediate family members allowed to ride? Are there any other limitations that I need to be aware of, in regard to the rider/pet policy?
Service, Operations And Hometime Expectations:
How long am I expected to stay out on the road for each tour of duty?
What areas of the country will I be traveling through or to?
What is the average length of haul for each load I will be expected to take?
What are your main traffic lanes?
Are there dedicated positions offered? If so, how long may I have to wait for consideration for one of those positions?
Will I be working under a forced dispatch policy, with no option to decline runs?
Do you operate outside the 48 states? Will I be forced to leave the United States?
What percentage of your freight goes to each region of the country, or out of the country, as the case may be?
Do you have personnel available 24 hours per day for any problems encountered while on the road?
Are the trucks equipped with electronic communication equipment? If so, are drivers assisted with directions to customer locations? Are these devices used to wake drivers at times when they might be resting? Can a driver disable sounds on these when resting?
What commodities will I be hauling the most? Will I be dealing with grocery warehouses a great deal of the time?
What is your percentage of no-touch freight?
What is your percentage of drop and hook freight?
Am I allowed to plan and choose the routes of my choice to get from loading to unloading points? If routing is not of my choosing, am I compensated based upon the dictated routing, and for all of those miles?
What is the fuel purchase policy, and what type of fueling locations are offered by your company? Is approved fueling locations provided to me in the form of a publication or via electronic means with each trip?
What is your home time policy? What can I expect on average in terms of days per month, off duty at home? If I am productive, may this time be amended to allow me more home time? Can I expect to be home for major holidays, and are requests honored for important events, medical appointments, and family concerns that will occur at times during the year? If there were to be an emergency at home or with a family member, what kind of response can I expect from the company to assist me in getting home as soon as possible?
What is your average turnover rate per year, and why do you think that most drivers leave your company?
If I were to decide to come on board with your company, and at some point in the future, I find myself dissatisfied, is there a person or department that may be able to help resolve issues that I have, or who may take the time to assist me in clearing up problems I am experiencing?
What kind of truck will I drive? How old will it be? Are newer or more comfortable trucks assigned by senority or other criteria? Will this truck be assigned to me or will I be expected to slip-seat?
Do I take the truck and trailer, if applicable, home with me for time off, or will I be expected to secure it at a terminal?
What type of engine and horsepower are the trucks equipped with? What type of transmission are they equipped with? What speed are the trucks governed at? Are they equipped with cruise control, engine brakes, and/or other comfort and safety features?
How large are the sleeper berths on the trucks? Are spaces provided for televisions, coolers or refrigerators, and storage for personal items?
Are the trucks offered to a new driver in a clean condition?
What is the average age of the trucks and trailers the company operates?
How often does company update it's equipment?
Will I have my truck serviced on the road or at a company facility? How long will I be down for routine maintenance on average? If I am in need of rest when repairs or maintenance is being performed regardless of where this occurs, will I be afforded a motel room?
Am I allowed to have the truck washed? How often am I allowed to do this? Where am I allowed to have it washed? What about trailers?
I have researched to discover the fact that your company seems to be operating in a reasonably safety minded manner, but I do have a couple of questions on the issue.
If I find that at any point and time, that driving the truck would compromise the safety of myself or the general public, such as in cases of inclimate weather, and I notify dispatch of this circumstance, will I be likely in any case to be offered any resistance by dispatch in my decision to shut down until it is safe to resume travel? If I do run into a problem, is there a person or department that I can contact for assistance? Is this assistance offered on a 24 hour basis?
As a person who desires to be as compliant with the rules and regulations, as much as humanly possible, will I be "punished" by the operations or dispatch departments, if I decline to commit to pre-determined schedules or loads, because doing so would place me in direct conflict with the rules and regulations as they pertain to the hours of service requirements that I am bound to adhere to? Again, is there a department or person I can contact for assistance in this matter? Is this provided on a 24 hour basis?
Questions pertaining to Lease/Operators:
Will your company fax me a copy of the standard lease agreement that I will be expected to sign on premises, if I am approved to sign on with the company? Does this lease agreement meet all of the provisions of the Federal-Truth-In-Leasing regulations, as specified by Federal law?
What are the required insurances that I will be expected to have in place prior to leasing on with your company? Are these insurances available for purchase through the carrier? Will I be issued individual policies for each type of coverage? What are the exact costs of these coverages offered? Are these deductions detailed in the lease agreement?
Does your company offer a clear and concise fuel surcharge policy? Is it detailed in the lease agreement?
Will I be paid based on mileage or percentage? If I am paid on percentage of the gross freight amount, am I afforded a true and correct copy of the billed amount of the freight charges for each load I haul. Am I additionally allowed to come in and see filed copies of billing at any time I choose?
Are there charges of any kind for the use of your trailer in the hauling of freight? Are there charges for any other equipment that your company will require me to have as a part of operating a truck under your authority? (Satellite comunication, Pre-pass or EZ-pass units, etc.). Are these charges outlined and detailed in the lease agreement?
Do you offer paid permits, base plates, and/or fuel taxes? If so, what are the exact charges for these items, and are they detailed in the lease agreement I will be expected to sign?
Questions pertaining to students and/or graduates that have obtained their CDL, but require further training:
Do you offer tuition reimbursement, and if so, under what criteria?
What will I be paid during training? What will I be paid as a starting rate, once I go solo?
How long is the training period?
If I have some compatibility issues with a trainer, will I be allowed to request a different trainer? Will there likely be any waiting period if this occurs? What is the company policy in the event that a trainer ejects me from his truck?
How much experience are your trainers required to have? Are they screened in any way for temperment, patience, knowledge, training ability, and are they people that have been with the company for an extended period of time?
Are the trucks that are provided for training purposes, equipped with adequate storage for a team? Will I have separate storage facilities for my personal items?
Are trainers and trainees paired together based on compatibility issues, such as smoking preferences, gender, age, and perhaps even lifestyle? (it is the 21st century you know)...
In the event that I find myself in an unusual circumstance of being sexually harassed by a trainer, will this issue be taken seriously by the company, and will the company immediately take action to prevent it from escalating into something more serious? Is there a person I can call 24 hours a day, if this were to occur?
This is just an example list of things to ask. Every person has differing needs and requirements. The thing is...you need to ask these things to decide if you desire to apply to the company...not afterwards.
When you ask these questions, you need to be aware that you may or may not receive honest and/or forthcoming responses to them. You need to listen real close to the answers to determine if there is hesitation, avoidance, or outright dishonesty.
A well trained individual will be ready to answer these questions, and any others you may have. If they want to read to you, what sounds like a diatribe that comes from que cards, you're not going to get anywhere, and you really just need to hang up the phone. If they want to get off the phone, then allow them the opportunity. You're wasting your time.
You are entering into a relationship that requires you to be as pleased with the job, as they expect to be pleased with you. Don't expect a company engaged in the trucking business to be compliant with the norms that are taken for granted in other lines of work.
When you fail to do research into a company, and interview them, the chances that you will not be pleased with the company are almost certain to happen. It's a common mistake made by drivers on a daily basis. Don't put money in the pockets of companies that treat people no better than the truck you will be driving.
It's the best way to drive the bad companies out of business, or force them to clean up their acts.
Evaluating A Motor Carrier - The Interview
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Wow, that was a long post....thank you for taking the time to put that all down. I only wish we'd known to ask. My husband is in school right now with Driver Solutions~going to work for P.A.M. I don't have any idea how they will fit into that interview process. I guess it's too late now for him to have that conversation with them. All I can think is that he's required to work for them one year to fulfill his schooling obligation. After that, he's free to go wherever he chooses, with whoever will take him and his one year of experience.
Great post. It covers just about everything. I wish I would have had this as a hard copy check-list back in about February 1995. Before I dropped big mulla on an overpriced driving school.
But others out there who are getting ready to set out in trucking can definitely benefit. They just have to take the time to research and ask many questions. Don't be afraid to ask, and don't be afraid to say "no" to a smiling face.
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