In last week’s blog, my panel of three expert drivers spoke out on the topic of driver shortages and compensation. In this week’s blog, we will explore the topics of recruiting, training and student drivers.
Let’s talk about recruiting. What are your thoughts?
“Just last week I read a recruiting ad that claimed that team drivers could make $100,000”, commented Desiree Wood. ‘Could’ is the operative word I suppose but in reality the context of the ad was to mislead. The ad was for a lease program which depicted 2 people at a carrier known for extremely low pay to drivers but their recruiting ads tell a different story. The ad does not say what costs will be paid back to the carrier from the gross “could make” amount, if the lease payment is based on both people . . . (driving) . . . or other hidden charges. This is a carrier that should be training candidates to become qualified drivers but instead they are selling trucks to people who know very little about what the trucking industry is really all about.
Drivers are bombarded with less than accurate information and this lack of respect is a contributor to industry burnout among qualified candidates hoping to make truck driving a career. There are many qualified men and women in the trucking industry already that remain at poor paying carriers until they burn out simply because they cannot trust carriers to deliver the pay or benefits they advertise. . .
It is stressful to be away from family support, work long unpaid hours in extreme weather conditions and have to share difficult living situations while having to adjust to odd sleep schedules. When candidates are recruited into truck driving, frequently they are unaware of all of these factors, nor (are they aware) . . . that they will be expected to drive 11 hours per day on top of the unpaid labor they have performed. Truth in Logistics would help define qualified candidates but this common sense approach takes aim at the inner commission structures in the recruiting and student trucker industry.
Turnover benefits certain people in the trucking industry. Unethical lease programs in training, targeting recruitment at folks who are not ‘qualified’ truck driving candidates, running team freight with two poorly experienced and compensated drivers; these are profit strategies at some carriers”.
What are your thoughts on driver training?
“I thought there were standardized licensing criteria through the driving schools,” stated David Robson. “These are the minimal requirements. When the driver gets a job with a company then it is up to the company to make sure he is qualified to drive and work their equipment. Not one company I have worked for has every given me a pre-hire evaluation for Hours of Service, pre-trip or load securement. These should be evaluated as much as the pre-hire “road test” evaluation. I’ve had a few companies not even give me a road test. They just threw me the keys and said there is the truck, have fun. . . Personally I would like to give every new applicant a pre-hire test for hours of service, pre-trip, and load security. If he passes the road test and seems like a candidate, then depending on his test evaluations, I know where this driver needs training to get up to compliance.”
Stephen Large observed that “standardized training is a good idea but who would decide what standards to use and each company does different types of work, so training at one place needs to be different than at another carrier. For example, Bison Freight Lines hauls van loads of dry product which is loaded by a forklift and does not move and you sweep out the dust from the trailer after you unload. . . TransX pulls reefers and hauls frozen meat and fresh produce which takes a set of skills to make sure that the temperature controlled loads are properly looked after. . . All the drivers have to drive similarly, but now look at Mullen or Richards or Triton. They have some trailers that would use the same skills as the others, but they also have multi-axle trailers and other specialized equipment and haul oversize and overweight loads which require a COMPLETELY different set of skills. . .
As for mandatory recertification, I do not see a lot of benefit, other than perhaps hours of service or some of the newer technology should maybe be refreshed periodically. I have been through a couple of courses where the instructor had so little hands on experience, that the course was pretty much useless to anyone with 20 years of experience! . . . There is no sense enforcing something that does not prove anything! This industry is already bogged down with enforcement of a bunch of stuff that does nothing to improve safety or quality or any other problems that are common to trucking in North America”!
In the last blog, we spoke about paying drivers for pre-tip inspections. What constitutes a proper pre-trip inspection?
“A proper pre-trip should take 15 -30 minutes, depending on the equipment,” stated David. Stephen observed that “a properly done pre-trip inspection should take an hour or more! On a 5 axle truck and trailer, there are 18 tires to check tread depth and air pressure, 18 wheels, with at least 100 wheel fasteners, 6 oil filled hubs, at least 30 lights, 4 mirrors, 4 windows, 2 wipers and washers, a horn or two, a muffler or two, two or more doors, a fan with belts and a radiator with coolant, an engine with a compressor, turbocharger, power steering pump, etc., a transmission, a driveshaft with at least 5 u-joints, half a dozen air bags and some springs, 10 brake pots, 10 brake drums, 10 s-cams, 10 slack adjusters, 20 brake shoes, a 5th wheel and a king pin! Now you have a few hundred lines and hoses to check! Of course nobody checks all this stuff, but on the trip inspection sheet, this is what the driver is expected to look at before driving the truck each day”!
Would proper pre-trip inspections help improve CSA scores?
David commented that “it would reduce the scores immensely as air brake systems and lights are highest on the violation scores. My experience with other drivers shows me that very few know how to check brake light operation or air brake systems. I have detected many proportioning and tractor protection valve leaks during a proper pre-trip as well as line connector leaks. If you are shown a proper routine, you can cover everything on the schedule one inspection in 15-30 minutes. I just find that very few drivers are shown a proper way to do a pre-trip inspection”.
Stephen expressed a different view. “In my opinion, even if all this stuff was inspected faithfully, the scores would not improve immensely . . . . The roadside officers, who do the random inspections, are trained to find something wrong with nearly every truck! For example; there is an older, experienced officer in my area who has an extreme hate on for older trucks....he thinks that anything over about 10 years old should be cut up and put in the scrap yard. This winter, he stopped me for talking on the cellphone and gave me a $172.00 fine. While he had me stopped, he did a full inspection on my 32 year old Kenworth and 32 year old 16 wheel lowboy trailer. After making several trips around and under my truck and trailer without finding anything wrong, other than no front brakes, which were not and still are not required on that truck, he decided to give me a ticket for (Articles of cargo not secured). . . .
A couple of months later, the same officer gets me again, and again, spends quite a while checking out my truck and trailer only to find nothing wrong with it, so after all is said and done, when he has me prove that the air-powered wipers work, the windshield washer fluid tank goes dry just as I pushed the button to show that it works. I had more washer fluid with me (it was springtime in Alberta and the roads were sloppy), but I was only allowed to refill the tank after receiving a violation notice for (WW system not functioning as specified). The way the laws are set up and the way the officers word the violations, there is always something they will write you up for, so the NSC scores do not really reflect how safe or unsafe a company is. The log book and all the rules that go with it are the same. . . there is always something that they can write you up for, even if you have done everything legal, there are too many contradicting rules”!
Let’s talk about student drivers.
“Pay for a student truck driver is extremely low but because this is not clarified in the recruitment process, it becomes a major contributor to turnover in the first few months of entering the industry. While one may expect low wages for entry level work, truck driving requires a great deal of personal commitment and sacrifice due to the nature of the work”, commented Desiree.
“Another recent pay scale change that was sent to me outlined how 6 month student truck drivers, who have been expected to drive as a team, would be receiving a pay increase of .02 cpm with much fanfare in the memo. This is a carrier that has very low pay in the industry and cut wages in 2008 by .03 cpm. While the memo is written with a level of excitement that drivers will be receiving a pay increase, the wages still do not restore 2008 levels. Experienced drivers at this carrier are only restored .01 cpm and the memo goes on to say that $700/per week gross is guaranteed with a stipulation that the driver must be available to work each day, Monday thru Sunday of that week, and must check in with their fleet manager each day to verify.
This is a carrier that has several thousand trucks and has a phone system that drivers find incredibly difficult to have any live person answer their calls during normal business hours, and pretty much forget about it after hours.
(A driver can make) . . . $700 per week gross, all things being perfect for a job that requires 11 hours of driving per day. . . (This includes) . . . the 2012 pay increase that this carrier feels drivers should be jumping for joy to receive. That wage calculates out at $9.09 per hour but in a seven day work week a driver could not legally drive 77 hours. It also does not account for waiting times at shippers, inspections, drop/hook of trailers, searching for trailers, cleaning trailers etc. . . .
Misleading pay increases, bonus ploys, recruiting ads, added regulations, unpaid wait times, they are all contributors to industry burnout and turnover. Would this recipe not eliminate ‘qualified’ persons from an industry and leave room for more ‘unqualified’?
The current state of truck driving requires candidates to live on such meager wages that they may not be able to afford much more than food, a cell phone bill and send a few bucks home in the first 6 months in the industry”.
The last word goes to Stephen Large.
“To improve the industry, the pay needs to be better and the quality of life needs to be better! That will get better drivers to drive (and keep driving). Better drivers will have fewer accidents and other problems. That will improve the image that truck drivers have. Then more people will be interested in driving for a living. The newer drivers will have someone to look up to and to learn from. The equipment will last longer and look better and cost less to maintain and be worth more when it is time to replace it”.