Students and new drivers that are trying to break into trucking as a career, always have one question that I receive on a daily basis: “What about Swift, Werner, CR England…?” Instead of constantly answering this question one at a time, I thought it would be easier and more efficient to post about it.
The biggest obstacle for newcomers to the trucking industry is actually getting hired and to begin building that all-important one year of actual driving experience. It is an even larger obstacle today, due to the economic situation. Not all trucking companies accept students or recent CDL graduates. In fact, the companies that do can almost be counted on both hands. These are the trucking companies that I often refer to as “starter” companies.
“Starter” in this sense, does not mean that they are new companies. Swift, Werner, CR England and the others have been around for a long time and are very large trucking companies. “Starter” simply means that they are some of the few trucking companies that will accept students as drivers. Why do students always ask about these “starter” companies? Because they are the largest and most well-known trucking companies that offer student acceptance. I always make it a point to advise students and recent CDL grads that you cannot expect to receive your license and immediately land one of the really good trucking jobs. Nor can you expect to go right out and get hired driving locally. There may be a very few rare occasions, but for the most part, this simply does not happen.
So, where does this leave the student? A newcomer to trucking must have between six months to one year of verifiable driving experience before a company will even look at them for the possibility of being hired. For the most part, one year is the magic number. So how do you receive this one year of experience? Through attending an accredited CDL school, you will meet the regulatory mandated hours required for the minimum driving “experience” trucking companies need before they can place you behind the wheel. From there, you will begin building the real time driving experience through the trucking company and continue on with one year of driving, thus building the driving experience that the trucking insurance carriers require.
So who will you most likely be placed with? Swift, Werner, CR England, USA Truck, PAM, Lisa Motor Lines, FFE and Covenant or the few other known “starter” companies. You have no other choice, because these are the companies that accept and/or will train students. This is the only way to obtain the one year of verifiable driving experience, period. To begin a career in trucking, you are going to have to begin with OTR (over the road), 99% of the time. So, what is my answer to the question, “What about…?”
No matter who the trucking company is, you will always hear both good and bad things about them. This is just the nature of the business. No company can make all 100% of their employees “happy.” This is just human nature. The bottom line is this: if you are wanting to make trucking a career, then you are going to have to begin with one of the “starter” companies, again, 99% of the time. These trucking companies do provide important facets to the trucking industry … (1) they offer training for newcomers to trucking who may not have the up-front money needed for CDL training and (2) they provide the means for students to achieve the actual driving experience required by the insurance carriers.
Nobody can tell you that whoever you decide to go with, that it is all going to work out just as you planned. This is OTR trucking that we are talking about. In today’s economic situation, if trucking is what you want to do, then grab on to one of the “starter” companies and get going. You are not ever going to get started in your trucking career if you constantly spend your time asking, “What about…?” The situation that comes is out of your hands, except for one thing: attitude.
Attitude plays a major role in how your trucking career plays out. You are going to have to accept what comes in trucking. There are going to be good days, and there are going to be bad days. It’s all about individuality. Go into trucking with a positive attitude. Work professionally and act like a professional. Pick up and deliver your loads on time, submit legal, well written paperwork, speak to the dispatcher, load coordinator and everyone else professionally. Do not worry about the “bad” things that will surely come…this is OTR trucking. When they happen, deal with it and move on.
Understand, that driver turn-over will continue. The key, is sticking it out and getting that one year of driving experience under your belt. After that, if the company you are with is not working out, then move on to something better. You now have the experience that the insurance carriers are seeking. The biggest obstacle standing in your way could, very possibly, be you. If you begin with a company with the attitude or fear that they are going to treat you badly, then most likely, they will. These “starter” companies, as I call them, could turn out to be a very good trucking job for you. Who knows? Alot of
it will be based on your attitude and professionalism.
I know that many of you have read and heard the “horror” stories about many trucking companies. On the other hand, I know many drivers who have driven for “starter” companies for years and are very happy being there. Could it be attitude? Could it be accepting the good with the bad? I believe it is. Over the road trucking is a tough vocation. You are never going to find a trucking company where there are no problems. Problems are a part of trucking.
As a newcomer to trucking, you first have to stop looking for that perfect company. There are very good trucking companies out there, but many are not “starter” companies. If they are, they may not be accepting students due to the economy. Companies such as Roehl Transport and Millis Transfer are excellent companies that offer training.
Do not let the term “starter company” keep you from beginning a truck driving career. These are big companies that have been in business for many years and they provide a much needed service to students. Accept this as the way things are. Many drivers and trucking sites are coming together now more than ever, working to bring change to the trucking industry. If a company treats you poorly, then report it. Post it in the trucking forums, post it on the blogs…let the world know. Help to bring about change.
If you are having problems getting hired by one of the better known trucking companies, this is to be expected and you need to go with one of the starter companies. It is the only way you are ever going to begin building the experience that is required. Again, just because they are known as a “starter” company, does not mean that it will be a “bad” experience. There are thousands of drivers very contented with many of these companies. Attitude means a lot.
One thing I do know is that you will never begin your trucking career if you never take that first step.
© 2009, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.