While there is no doubt that the job market of today offers less than it has in quite some time, there has been an apparent exception in the market regarding the availability in driving jobs, particularly in the niche of tractor-trailer driving. While this is a good thing when it comes to the job market, mainly because any job availability is a good thing, there is a less-than-ideal situation arising out of this scenario, and that is the ethically questionable practice of some truck driving schools placing misleading advertisements in the Orlando Sentinel.
In my search for such work (I was once a truck driver and I am presently seeking to get back in this saddle now that I’ve been recently laid off) I have responded to ads and internet sites indicating driver positions are readily available to those who qualify. This can be refreshing to those whose professional and educational background are limited, or the niche they once filled no longer requires their presence. What with so many industries letting people go at record pace, the Transportation Industry still demonstrates a need for truck drivers.
This is nothing but a positive thing, but there is a darkening tinge to this bright spot on the job seeking radar, and that is there appears to be local driving training companies placing ads stating that specific companies are desperately seeking drivers. In the Orlando Sentinel editions for the dates of the February 21st and 22nd, I found ads indicating Covenant Transport was seeking drivers and would help train those who are not presently qualified or holding a CDL.
Because I am seeking a driving job, it only made sense to me to make a call to what I thought was Covenant and offer my services as a driver. What I have since found out was that the ads were not placed by Covenant, but one of the local driver training companies, and the ad placed on Monday the 22nd was placed by Roadmaster. Now, this may not appear to be too dishonest at first glance, but there was nothing in the ads I viewed that indicated they were place by any other company than Covenant Transport.
I discovered the actual placing company of the ad by calling, and this furthered my discomfort in the situation because once I called, I indicated my past experience in the Transportation Industry. I made it clear that until the layoff I was dealt on the 5th of February, a little more than two weeks ago at the time of this writing, I have worked in the industry and I am a CDL holder. I have a Class A CDL driver’s license. However, since I have not driven full time since August of 2006, I stated that I would require some retraining to come back up to speed. Now, keep in mind that when I made these statements, I was first under the impression I was speaking to someone from Covenant Transport, not Roadmaster Driving School.
This is why I felt compelled to write this article. While I talked with the representative on the phone, I was leaned into believing that because I have not driven for a while, I would require retraining in order to be qualified to drive. This I knew to a point, but my perception is that I would only require retraining with a driver trainer with a company in order to ‘get that taste back in my mouth’ and the feel of the truck, in order to ensure I could be a proper asset. However, I have no reason to believe that I must start over and attend school all over again, particularly since I know the school can be as much as $6500 for three weeks of training with Roadmaster and all they would do is train to obtain the Class A CDL, which I already have. It would then be the policy of the company hiring the new CDL holder to attend further training with a driver trainer. This I know because I have been that trainee and I have held a management seat in the industry.
I wanted to communicate to the public that may not be indoctrinated enough into the transportation industry to understand that this is a less than transparent business practice. Furthermore, I wanted to express to the readers that there are other options to obtaining a Class A CDL driver’s license than through a company exercising such practices. I recommend that doing some homework on the subject just may make a difference in the cost and potentially the quality of one’s CDL training. There are other companies and schools out there offering training, so there is certainly no monopoly on the part of the companies placing these ads. Beyond that, there is something else regarding the information I received over the phone that should also be gained to satisfaction by those who are considering this career goal.
The information I received over the phone made it sound as if the industry was starving for drivers and that people coming from former six-figure careers are rushing to this industry and this job, now that other opportunities are drying up. The language used made it sound as if this sort of position would not only solve one’s employment problems, but could place one’s financial situation back onto the rise as there’s so much money to be made as a driver.
It would be thorough and proper to offer a different perspective on this situation. As said, I have worked in the industry until a recent layoff earlier in February. First of all, I wasn’t fired (I have never been fired) but was laid off due to the fact that the company I worked for was struggling financially. In fact, numerous trucking companies nationwide are suffering and many have failed. The management position I held was dissolved because the account failed, due to that account servicing Circuit City, which failed. Furthermore, I have worked with and communicated with an amount of drivers that I couldn’t tally due to it being so many. Hundreds would be a fair guess. Has it been my experience that these hundreds of drivers and all the drivers they’re driving and working with are rolling in the dough? Are they somehow excluded and insulated from the economic recession?
Not in any way whatsoever. In fact, these people are enduring numerous hardships due to the economy.
For the average driver to make a living that would pay the bills (these people are never ‘rolling in the dough’, so dismiss the picture from your mind), they need to accumulate about 2,500 driven miles on a weekly basis. 3,000 miles is what’s sought by the average driver just to have some money to do what they need to do in life just like everyone else. But this amount of miles is not what these drivers are achieving in this market. In fact, what I’m being told by drivers is that they’re making but a fraction of this, in the neighborhood of 1,500 miles weekly. Some have reported less, and all the drivers I have talked to have told me that if I am seeking to get back in the saddle and drive, I am making a huge mistake unless I just have no other options on the table.
So, let’s go back to the situation revolving around these ads and Covenant Transport. I personally called Covenant (seeking a driving job and circumventing the middle-man of Roadmaster) and received information starkly different from what I was told during the first couple phone calls made. First of all, they’re far from hurting for drivers, but have halted hiring altogether numerous times simply because of no position availability. So, what they’re doing is creating more team driving scenarios to both create jobs and increase revenue.
Many drivers will not choose to drive with a team but would rather drive solo. Driving solo means the one driver is the only one in the truck doing business. However, the limitations of the truck are rather significant compared to a truck with a team, mainly because of the rules governing driving. A driver is allowed 14 hours of working hours daily, with 11 hours driving in those 14, and must take a minimum of 10 hours off after the 14 hours in order to accumulate another 14. There are more details to this, but when there’s a team in one truck, there are two drivers with these hours of availability, meaning the truck can keep moving almost continually.
This is good business from an economic standpoint, but consider the environment these drivers endure. Many teams are formed by two people who know one another, such as a married team or two people who know one another. They have determined before forming the team that their life situations blend well enough to team up and work together. But if a team situation is forced upon drivers, then they’re going to have to adapt their life situations to one another. That means their families will have to accept compromises for one another. I was told I had no choice but to accept being on a team for a minimum of six months; with who I have no idea, nor do I know if this team mate would even live in my region of Florida, let alone the country. This team mate would have to accommodate my living needs, and I would have to accommodate his. In all honesty, this would not be an atrocious situation in these tough times, but this is vastly different from the Utopian picture drawn by the representative from Roadmaster.
It may be the case that teams are moving more because they make more economic sense than drivers who are forced to stop moving per law, but any team member can tell you there are challenges to a team scenario. Even if the two people get along well and their situations blend just as well, they have to live for weeks at a time in a truck that almost never stops working. One has to sleep in a truck that is either rolling down the highway or docked with forklifts rolling around in the trailer. Motionless sleep is rarely afforded to the off-duty driver, who really has no off-duty time. The average truck has driver space comparable to the square feet of a walk-in closet, at best, and these two people are going to share that space, 24 hours a day for weeks at a time. They’ll be roaming the 48 states for weeks and receive at most, one day off per week driven. This would be fine, if they were next door neighbors, got along great, and knew their families operated on identical schedules. Outside of that, challenges are sure to arise.
Should the driver be offered a solo driving position, the area driven would more likely be within a region, such as the eastern states or perhaps the southeast only if the driver is from this Floridian area. The driver would likely be out for two or more weeks at a time and then back home for a day per week driven. But the reports I have received from drivers out there is that they often sit for days at a time, holding down a parking space in a truck stop or highway rest area for days between runs. This has been a common report from numerous drivers I have talked to over the past year and a half.
For those of you out there who are seeking work, do some investigative work before you accept at face value the information provided by any driver training company or these drivers-needed ads seen in the papers. Furthermore, investigate the costs associated with the various driving schools, as well as the quality of training. While some schools, like Roadmaster, may get one through school after three weeks and $6500 in training costs, other schools may offer a better deal. Mid Florida Tech, for example, offers 320 hours of intensive training. I recommend you call for the price of this training as I believe it would be a fraction of what’s paid at Roadmaster. With this article, you’ll find links to obtaining more training options.
While there was once a market where employees could demand more for their time and work, the market lately has been more of an employer’s market. The employer can demand far more from any employee and pay them less, or show them the door if they don’t agree with the latest conditions. It is what it is; just don’t assume that this is any different in the world of the truck driver, despite the propaganda.