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Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry

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Driving With Blinders On


Years ago, while I was working in the oilfields of Oklahoma, I decided to start another business. Since trucking was in my blood, I chose to open a hot shot service. Though there was “talk” about an oilfield crunch, I estimated that I could still have a viable business for the next three to four years. There were several very successful hot shot services in the town, and plenty of room for one more. I purchased a nice dually with a trailer, capable of pulling 16,000 pounds. After establishing all the required business red tape, my newly formed hot shot business was up and running. For the first several weeks I was nearly worn to exhaustion by the constant need of pipeline, fittings and various oilfield supplies. However, it was a “good” exhaustion, even though like many in the oilfield, it was keeping me running seven days per week.

In my fourth month with the business, suddenly things changed. In 1982, President Reagan was talking about something called “Deregulation.” Two weeks later, the oil boom of Elk City, Oklahoma had literally disappeared. Oil rigs that had darted the horizon were gone. The big oilfield money was gone. I had gone from making a very large amount of monthly income to a “new” job that only paid $740.00 per month! Needless to say, things were bad. But, who or what was at fault? Looking back, all the signs were there. Eventually, I was able to come to terms with what actually had gone wrong . . . I had been driving with blinders on.

There are always two sides to a story. Several people around town had voiced their opinions about this as “not being a good time” to start an oilfield business. My banker had asked me, “Are you sure you want to do this?” A close friend who owned a hot shot service at the time, casually stated, “Just be careful.” On the other hand, there were those business owners who could not stop talking about how great things were. They were always there to tell you their success stories. There were even those who could not stop talking about how their business just kept growing and they were expanding! I took all of this information in, but I never really processed it. Why? Because I had made up my mind that I was going to start a hot shot service, and that was all there was to it!

Today, I relate this story to the trucking industry. As in any industry, there will always be those who are doing well. If everybody failed at an industry, there would be no such industry. For one driver to tell a “newbie” to trucking that there is big money to be made in OTR driving, only because he or she is successful, is very misleading. For 500 drivers to tell a “newbie” to trucking the same thing, is also misleading. How can that be? Because there are eight million CDL drivers in the United States today . . . will all eight million tell you the same thing? “Success” stories can always be found in any industry, does that tell the entire story about that industry? Are you hearing the “other side” of the story?

For my hot shot service, I chose to “listen” to the success stories, and decided to ignore the “failures.” Within the trucking industry, there is a 128% driver turn over rate with the OTR companies. This clearly shows that for every one “success” story, there are 128 “dissatisfied” stories. I want to reiterate my belief that you can make a decent living with over the road trucking . . . there are those making a very good living at it, and yes, there are success stories. However, you MUST keep in mind that there are MANY others who are not successful when they first start out.. You have to know the entire picture . . . you have to hear both sides of the story . . . any story. It is the only way you will be able to come through with a clear and accurate decision process when choosing schools and jobs.

For those who want to let their success stories be known, they fail to understand that by only giving their “good” side of the story, they could be leading you down a road that you do not want to travel. What works for one person, does not mean it will work for everyone. By having both sides of the issue out in the open, it can only help in making the right choice. Take for example, these trucking companies that experience a high turn over rate. Why? Do you think that maybe there is something wrong with them? If there was nobody willing to give the “other side” of the story, what would ever change? If students and new drivers are aware of any scams and lies practiced by a company, this will bring about two things:

1. The student or new driver will not bother applying for a job at that particular company . . . and

2. The trucking company will either go out of business or better yet . . . CHANGE!

Would it not be best to bring about “change” to these companies and schools which would benefit all drivers? Or should we all remain silent and pretend that all is well within the entire trucking industry? The problem lies with people who take every “negative” thought, opinion or comment to mean that ALL companies and schools are “BAD.” They are still missing the picture . . . they are missing the message. That message is to provide the entire truth about the trucking industry . . . the OTR industry. All one has to do is check the trucking forums on the internet. Sure, you will find “success” stories . . . but DO NOT overlook the thousands of “negative” stories. They are not negative . . . they are truth . . . they are the “other side” of the story! Many of them do eventually make it all work, but not until they’ve had to learn some rough lessons, which could have been avoided.

If all drivers just sat back and never said anything “bad” about trucking, then thousands of students and new drivers will come into the industry expecting success at ANY company or school. How is that helping? But, by voicing the truth about the problems drivers face on the road, with their particular carrier, with the truck driving school they attended, and so forth, things can change. Those companies who abuse drivers by adding false information on their DAC report . . . those companies that promise .34 CPM and then only pay .24 CPM . . . those companies that say you will be home every weekend, but you’re out for three weeks on your first run . . . those schools that give a price of $3500, and then in the end hands you a bill for $7000 . . . those schools that promise guaranteed employment, and then fail to deliver . . . all of this can change. If both sides of the story are known, it can force change by exposing wrongful tactics and practices.

We can all sit around and “talk” and complain about the poor practices within OTR driving . . . we can all lean back and tell a “newbie” that, “Yea! Trucking is great!” …..or . . . we can all send a message to those companies and schools that practice poor policies “that we are going to educate newcomers to the industry” . . . we are going to tell them the good side of trucking AND the bad side of trucking . . . we can all let these students and new drivers know what to look out for and which companies and schools have a great reputation and those that have a terrible reputation. Hopefully, they will take notice and either change their ways or we will close them down.

Or . . . we can keep driving with blinders on.

 Allen Smith

Truth About Trucking

© 2008, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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11 Responses to Driving With Blinders On. - Post a Comment

  1. duane

    AMEN to that article! You hit the nail right on the head,I have been driving blind for years,and just recently got fired for ONE incident after only 2 months of employment and now cannot drive for anyone else because they reported to dac.

  2. Jim McClung

    I couldn’t agree more. I have been researching the trucking industry prior to entering for several months now. I started with company websites and calling recruiters with the 20 questions. Their answers for the most part didn’t match the information their company’s website offered. Sometimes the answers were more optomistic …sometimes less optomistic than the website information. Then I ran across your e-book, puchased and downloaded it and got answers as to why things are what they are at OTR companies and everything became much clearer to me.

    I began talking to recruiters at schools and asking more questions. Most of them asked why I was asking them for this and that and said that my mind must have been “poisoned” by reading the trucker’s blog sites and listening to “whiners” that expected something for nothing and I should not listen to them anymore.

    I was told that the turnover rate in the industry was what it is because newbies had false expectations. GEE!, I wonder where they got these “unreasonable” notions from? Reckon somebody lied to them?…… Paint me a rosy picture and I will expect roses.

    One of the things which amused me is the fact that I could not get a square answer about what is acceptable in regard to blood pressure. I was told the max is 140 over 90 by one recruiter (I knew this couldn’t be right) and 180 over 110 was a permanent dis-qualification by another.

    The conclusion I arrived at was that many people sign up for school without a chance in hell for one reason or another of ever being able to qualify to drive and must pay thousands of dollars to find this out. That should be a crime for any industry to treat newcomers like that. It’s fraudulent!

    As for me, I took your advice for my particular situation and signed up for Schneider Traing Academy. I go to my DOT physical / drug screen appointment on Monday. My class begins on the 20th of September and I’m off to the open road with my driver trainer on Sunday afternoon to Monday morning the 5th of October.

    Schneider seems to me to be the most forthright and their website info vs. recruiter info seems to match up the best. I’m sure there are negative blogs on them somewhere out there… I just haven’t seen any yet.

    Wish me luck!


  3. daryl

    128% turnover = 1.28 employees who leave for each 1 who was on the payroll….as an average.

    example; 5 employees…..who then leave…..and each is replaced once during a 12 month period….100% turnover.

  4. admin

    Thanks for the comments, guys! That is why I’m hoping that together, we can change things!!

    Good Luck!!


  5. Linda

    Excellent article, Allen! And very, very true. And, for Jim-keep everything said in this article in mind in your journey thru Schenieder-and, yes, I said THRU. They are a good company to start out with, and their training used to be excellent. They’re a good company for a new driver. But, things change after you’ve been there awhile. Schneider, like so many large carriers doesnt want experienced drivers-even if they got their experience with them. Just remember to keep your nose clean and your options open-this is one of those 128% turn-over companies for a reason (yeah, I know they tell ya different, but they use creative accounting in more ways than one). I should know-was with them over 16yrs.

    And the 140/90 bp is the standard for 1tr certification only, I believe-if they keep lowering it, if we have a pulse, ity’ll be too high!

  6. Mary A

    How very true
    I remember my son running across those very
    same problems mentioned in this Article.

    Mary A

  7. Ellie Taft

    it’s a great article Allen, I have only 8 school days left and then all the test’s begin, 2 pre-trips, (one bus, one semi) it’s the bus I originally wanted ,but was told here that here in Ga. I needed a semi class before I got my bus license, this was told to me by my school. ….whatever follows from here is hard to tell, but thanks for all your help, I still wish I knew where I could get a good picture of a truck engine so I could learn the different parts better., to me it is still greek, never being under the hood of a truck before, and the pre-trip just doesn’t sink in, any hints? thanks again. ellie, ps, if anything I have learned my “set ups” for the semi as in stright backs, alley parking,etc.

  8. admin

    Hi Ellie,

    Since you asked, within the next 2 weeks Allen is going to be videoing a PreTrip Inspection of his own.
    This has been something he’s been wanting to do for a long time. Between his work schedule and running the helpdesk for Truth About Trucking( you can sure testify that’s he answers his e-mails in detail…:))
    it’s been difficult having the time to do it RIGHT.
    Allen’s ” on the road” at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll be reading ALL the comments

    Thanks to you and everyone for all your input.


  9. pierce

    So true,great article.
    Also want to thank all at truthabouttrucking
    for your hard work and helping to improve trucking

  10. John T. Tookes

    Thank the Organizer of this WEBSITE&PAGE.
    I’ve been fooling around about a quarter million miles
    mostly getting screwed in the unmentionable (*)
    I live in the southeast,united states. THERE “S only
    been a few good companies to me.
    Celadon/Mr Russell & Harvey Gainey & Alabama’s
    Own MR Wiley sanders & Stephan Sanders(the son)
    I drove and sleep on the job in that truck about 6 months. I wasnt smart enough to put on my Blinders
    like a horse or a Jac—- unmntable! and keep driving
    i got extremely upset people having time to tie-u-up
    with qualcom stupidity* driver Must shower eat sleep etc. thanks guys for a dear hear,if God is willing i’ll be back! JT@ the duckey rides again! peace

  11. Allen Smith

    Thanks John,

    I’m working on a new book, but it’s still in the research stage. Should be ready in a few weeks and will give a state by state listing of best trucking companies. Listen to the BTR Show tonight for details.


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