I figured I would post my experience in hopes that it may help others since most of the posts are older.
I got to orientation on Sunday August 31st. I rolled in about 3am and class started at 8am the following day. I can't stress to this enough. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE ALL OF YOUR PAPERWORK AND BRING IT WITH YOU!!!!!!!! There were multiple still sitting on the yard on Friday because they didn't bring their paperwork while I was sitting at home.
-Copy of your paid 2290
-TWIC card. If you don't have one, bring your birth certificate or passport and your SS card
-Copy of LLC if you have a LLC.
-Tag information if you are running your own tag.
-Copy of your long form for your medical card and your physical medical card.
If you bring these things, you will save yourself a lot of headache.
Day 1. Got in class at 8am. They have food and drinks in the back of the room for breakfast. Mostly fruit and honey buns and things like that. Dean, the man who does orientation, basically welcomed us to Mercer and gave us the run down on what we would be doing during orientation. The first day is basically doing the drug test and a few people from other departments coming by and talking to you and turning in your paperwork so that the permit department can get started on everything.
You can choose a few different divisions. They have 48 state and mid America (east of I-35). They also have long haul and short haul. I chose to be in Mid America short haul so I had to fill out the appropriate paperwork.
For lunch, they ordered us pizza and we ate in the classroom.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time on day 1 because there is a lot of wasted time. I will say, when you have down time, and trust me you will, go get your truck inspected. This way, you have plenty of time to get anything fixed that needs to be fixed and if you're going flatbed, go ahead and go talk to the store so you can get your headache rack on the first night. You also go pick out your trailer on day 1.
You finish up about 5pm then you are free to go to the drivers lounge and get a shower or watch TV or grab a van and go get food or do whatever you want to do.
Day 2. Starts at 8am and it is 1000mph all day. You have no free time. The entire day is finishing paperwork. They will take your lunch order that morning because you will be meeting your coordinator and eating lunch with them. We got Manhattan grill and I strongly suggest the Manhattan burger. Very good.
When you go meet your coordinator, they will ask where you want to run and when you want to be home and set up your preferences. It's basically a meet and greet. They will give you a book with some papers you fill out that shows what securement equipment you have or will be getting from the store so they he/she isn't looking for loads for you that require equipment that you don't have.
After lunch, it's back to the class room for more videos and visitors from other departments talking to you and going to get your truck inspected and picking up your trailer and getting your securement equipment. If you fail inspection, you can fix the problem yourself or they have people on site all day that will fix your truck for a fee.
You will finish up about 5pm then you are free to go do whatever but I suggest getting your headache rack on and your securement equipment in place. You have to put the rack on yourself or pay someone to do it. Myself and 2 other guys put ours on ourselves. We all 3 helped each other out and we worked on them from 5pm until about midnight getting everything set up. It saved us all money and we were all very thankful that we helped each other.
Day 3. This is a "get everything done that you haven't done already" day. If you are finished then great. You can get cleared and get your permits and fuel card and get on the board to get a load. You have to go back through inspection WITH YOUR TRAILER to get cleared. I had to go to flat bed orientation at 8am it lasted until about 9:45. Then, I had to go get my TWIC card at 10:30 because I didn't have one already. They take you to a building about 15 minutes away. It took about 5 minutes to get the card and that was it but they took the people back to the yard that had gone to get their cards that morning so I was waiting until about 11:30. My coordinator called and said lets get lunch so he ordered subway for us and we had lunch together. After lunch, I went to the "log class" at 2pm. It takes about 45 minutes but it basically goes over the e-logs. By the time you get to this class, you have already had the e-log process explained to you 1,000 times but you have to go to this class anyways. After the class, you can go meet your log auditor. This only takes about 5 minutes. After you meet that person, you can go get your fuel card and set it up and go see contractor relations to set up your mercer app on your phone so you can see the load board.
What time you finish up on day 3 depends on you. I failed inspection because the ABS light on the trailer didn't come on with the key on. I called freightliner and they said it's not supposed to on my truck because ABS is wired through the brake circuit instead of a continuous power circuit. Everyone had left by this time so I had to wait until the next day to get inspected again.
Day 4. I went and spoke with the safety director about my ABS light. I explained to him what was going on and he said they have had that problem with freightliners a lot and that it is fine because it's working properly. He called the inspection guys and told them it's fine so I went back through and passed.
After inspection, I had to go weigh to get an empty weight ticket. It is $7 CASH. Do not try to go pay with a card. There is an ATM in the drivers lounge if you need cash. They do not take cards. There are a lot of 1 way streets around there so go weigh after you get inspected.
I was cleared and ready to go around noon on day 4 (thursday). Of course, this is a long holiday weekend so not much freight was moving toward Alabama to get me home. I ended up calling my coordinator and told him I would just dead head home for the weekend and we could set up something for next week.
I got home and found a few loads I was interested in leaving out Monday. My coordinator called me Friday morning and I told him about the loads and what I wanted and he set everything up.
So far, I am very impressed with the way things operate. Everyone seems like they are very friendly and they will do whatever they have to do to get things going for you. I will keep updating this as I go. If there are questions that aren't answered in this post, feel free to ask on here or PM me.
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Here are a few other highlights.
1) You are assigned a load coordinator, a truck pay person, and a log auditor.
2) You are paid before and after every load. You can get up to 100% of of the fuel surcharge and 50% of the linehaul before you ever pick up the load. It is loaded on your EFS card. You don't have to use it for fuel. It is your money. After you deliver and scan your bills, you will get the remaining pay either on your EFS card or direct deposit which ever you prefer. The money before the load always goes on the EFS card. The money after the load can go wherever you want it to go and any money on your EFS card can be transferred to your bank.
3) Trailer payments are $535/mo for 60 months for a Great Dane freedom LT 48x102 flat bed. They all come with 2 tool boxes between the spread axles and 12 sliding winches. They also have a 4 year warranty on everything except tires and brakes. That warranty is through Great Dane, not Mercer. Step decks are the same as the flats but they are $720 a month. Van trailers can vary and I believe they are $585 a month I can't remember exactly and I don't have my sheet in front of me.
- You can get new or used. If a trailer has been used for 12 months, then you only owe 48 months on it etc. How ever many months the trailer has been used, subtract that out. If you get a used one, you will have a balloon at the end that could be up to $6000 depending on how long it was used. If you go new, there will be a balloon but it will be covered because part of your payment every month is put into escrow to take care of it.
4) Because you don't get paid weekly, you have a daily cost. If you have a monthly trailer payment for example, that payment is divided into 30 days and it is "due" every day. For example, I have a 2016 Great Dane flat for $535 a month. That breaks down to $17.84 every day. If I deliver a load every day, $17.84 will be taken out of my settlement. If I go 3 days without a settlement (such as a weekend) then $53.52 will be taken out of my next settlement. All deductions are done this way so if you aren't careful, you could end up owing $100 a day. Keep your deductions low. If you can, buy your securement equipment outright instead of doing a payroll deduction. I had the $3,000 to buy my equipment but I wanted to keep the cash for a rainy day.
Picking up a fork lift in Atlanta and taking it to Cincinatti Monday. After that, loading just over the river in Florence, KY and heading up to Chicago with 10k pounds of insulation. I'll make more on those 2 loads than I did in a week at my previous company. So far I'm not regretting my decision.
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