We the wife and I are looking at FFE too, would be nice if you could send us a update when you get there and how things go, We are not doing the change till July as we are in a contract till then.
Page 7 of 8
It's interesting how this thread stays alive. I posted some info here a couple years ago during my first few months of driving for FFE. Looking back through the thread, I have to say all of the information is pretty representative of the company. And I imagine pretty representative of most large companies. FFE does probably have the classiest orientation, tho. That hotel is really nice and they do feed you pretty well.
I ended up driving for FFE for 18 months and can fill in or correct some gaps in the info presented elsewhere through this thread. Just for reference, I was a brand new driver when I went to orientation in Lancaster, TX. I did not learn to drive from them (not available in 2010 I was told), but learned at an independent driving school near my home near Bakersfield, CA.
* If you can shift gears reasonably well, you should have no problem getting through that part of the initial evaluation. You are not expected to float gears, just to get up and down through them on a "backroads" route through very uncrowded streets. Double clutching is fine, and grinding is tolerated unless that's all you do. We tested in a 1-year-old Freightliner Columbia with a 10-speed, which is likely what you will end up driving if you make it. The only guys who had trouble with this were guys who had learned to drive at a school that had auto-trans trucks. They couldn't shift at all.
* They have someone come into the hotel at some point to do a pee test on you. I can't for the life of me remember if they did a blood test, but I don't think so. When you are finally hired and out driving, they will throw random tests your way, for example having you route to a test facility in between dispatches. No big deal.
* FFE does have teams who run blood plasma in special reefer trailers. These guys, we were told, are paid very well. However, this is not newbie territory. The plasma drivers have lots of years of experience with the company and/or hauling blood or organs. So don't get your hopes up.
* When I went in I had no outstanding tickets, no accidents and - being new - no points on my CSA or DAC. (CSA was just being implemented at this time.) They are pretty stringent about this stuff, tho, and several guys disappeared from the class when it was discovered they had too many infractions.
* FFE does hire owner-operators. There were several in our orientation.
* If you haven't driven for awhile, what they did in the case of a couple guys I talked to (one hadn't driven in 10 years, don't remember the other's story) was assign them to a City driver for a week. If they did okay, they got a truck. If they did really bad, they got sent out with a trainer for six weeks like us FNGs.
So anyway, as I say I drove for them for 18 months. And it was a mixed bag of good and bad. Here's a quick look at each:
BAD ' Despite their claim to get you home every three weeks, that only happened to me maybe 3-4 times. Most of the time I was out 4-5 weeks. This was one of the main reasons I coudln't do it any longer. Just out there too long. For some guys, this is no big deal. It was to me.
' No matter what how much I begged or #####ed, they could not get me home on the few days I requested it (Thanksgiving, Christmas and my wife's birthday). This despite the fact that these events occurred after my 3 weeks were up. And despite the fact that I actually scheduled my 5-day vacation (after the first year) for December 22-27. Instead, I spend Christmas going to New Jersey.
' As noted elsewhere, you start at 27cents/mile and go up to 30/mile after the first year. This is on the low side compared to other companies, at least according to other drivers I talked to. Plus, that "average" mileage of 2700 or so miles per week? Out of 18 months of driving, I got 2700/week maybe 6-8 times. The rest of the time, it averaged 1500-2400, sometimes considerably less. That's because I couldn't do that miles; it was because I didn't get the dispatches. I sometimes had weeks of 300-800 mile dispatches, many of which would require long waits loading or unloading. In other words lots of wasted time. As a result of THAT, my wife and I figured out that I AVERAGED about $375/week during my time at FFE. There were at least a dozen weeks when I got Zero paycheck, after taxes and health insurance (I was paying for my wife and two daughters as well as myself).
' The waits, especially at meat plants, were sometimes insane. At various JB Swift plants, I waited 24, 31 and 36 hours, for example. Despite what the propaganda says, drivers do not get paid for this time because it's not the company's fault. They got you there at the assigned appointment time. It's the shippers fault.
The waits really bugged me a lot. So much wasted time. When I finally got used to it, I considered a 1-2 hour wait at a shipper or receiver to be instantaneous. The norm was 4-5 hours.
' About twice a month, I would get dispatches that were impossible. You know, 1,400 miles and the delivery is the day after tomorrow. In the morning. WTF? These really stressed me out early on, since I wanted to do good. Spent a lot of time talking to dispatcher (or more accurately, emailing them; they ask you don't use the phone unless it's an emergency like you're upside down and on fire.) in the first six months. After that, screw it. I just did the pickup, filled out the "late for appointment" forms and did my best. Most of the time that was enough. Sometimes I'd acually have someone call me at 5:30 in the morning at give me crap about why I wasn't rolling yet.
' My first year at FFE (November, 2010 to November, 2011), I made a total of $17,000. That's BEFORE taxes. I made more than that on unemployment, and I'm currently making more than that on Social Security. Something to think about. My last six months with the company was not a whole lot better. That is to say, despite what you read on these "estimates of what you'll make" on any company website, if you don't get the miles, you don't make that money.
' Even on the best of weeks, FFE trucks are governed at 62 mph. So on a perfect day when you can drive all day and it's relatively flat, the best you can really hope for in 11 hours of driving time is high 500s or low 600s. I think the most I got in one day was 640 miles and that due to literally driving until my last minute of duty time. And a good tailwind. Most of my "good" days were right around 590-610 miles.
' The people at FFE are great. Pretty much 99% of them I had dealings with ' with the possible exception of some of the shop managers, who are overstressed and overworked.
' With a few odd exceptions, Road Service will jump on any problem you have right away. I once had a blowout 100 miles from anywhere, New Mexico and a guy arrived to put a new one on within 2 hrs. I ran out of fuel (long story) in Bumf**k, Texas in the middle of a blizzard (outside temp: 8 degrees), and a guy arrived to fuel me up before I froze to death. The exception to this was that my batteries were going away and instead of putting four new ones in, the shop put only one. So in short order, the three bad ones killed the good one, and there were mornings when the only way I could start the tractor was to jump off the reefer. I kept bugging them about this, but it wasn't until everything died completely that they actually did something about it. Had me towed to a Freightliner dealership and put four new batteries in, and charged FFE a small fortune for it - that they could have saved by just doing it at the shop. (WTF? I don't know)
' You will get a new truck every so often. I don't know exactly how this works, but the newbies get used trucks. Mine had 240,000 on it when I got it. However, when truck gets to 450,000 or so, they will make you turn it in and give you a new one.
' There are no forced dispatches, at least any that I ever got.
' When they hire you, or when you quit, they will give you a Greyhound bus ticket back to where you live.
I finally quit because I had turned 62 and could get Social Security. (which as I mentioned was more income than driving.) If I was younger, I might still be driving for FFE. But at the time I quit I was pissed off at them much more often than happy. More likely, I would have looked around for a gig closer to home that would get me there more often. I currently drive a transfer part time, hauling asphalt for a local paving company. 2-3 days a week and home every night is pretty nice.
Holy CRAP they abuse you OTR guys. I've grossed on the high side of $15k year to date (Jan 2013 to now). You made that in a YEAR of working? My neighbor's kid did better than that mowing lawns in the summer. I guess my current viewpoint is not that far off base...regional and local short hauls are where it's at presently.
Thats not abuse ffe is a starting company its a foot in the door.New equipment easy dispatch and fast turn around times mean they try after one yr of service (to pay for the schooling) you are free to go elsewhere thats what we sign up for nothing to hide plain and simple..
Page 7 of 8