Top 5 Things to Consider When Choosing the Right Trucking Company
Venturing into the wild and wonderful world of trucking brings a myriad of questions including, “How do I know if this is the right company for me?” With so many points to ponder, it’s easy to get lost in the early stages, become overwhelmed, and find yourself unsure which company to run with. On the other side of the equation are drivers who take the first job with the first company…and spend the next few years complaining about their company and the entire industry.
So, to avoid becoming a miserable trucker that leaks toxicity on everyone they meet, let’s take a look at 5 things to consider when choosing a trucking company. (Hint: It’s more than money)
Understandably, this usually tops the list, but it’s just one factor. Most drivers (OTR anyways) are paid by the mile. While higher mileage rates are desirable, they aren’t the best option when the lanes are shorter and can’t provide the income you desire. Look for companies with dedicated lanes, fair rates, and regular pay. You’ll always hear about the companies that pay $100,000 a year, but know that there are always conditions, and most times they can’t be met. But you can expect a good income for the hard work that you do.
Sign-on bonuses are not always as good as they seem. Naturally, conditions apply, otherwise, drivers would simply hop from one company to the next and freight would stand still. Understand that sign-on bonuses are often paid over a period of months and have a length-of-service requirement. For example, to claim that $1200 bonus you will need to stay on with a company for at least one year and you will receive an extra $100 each month for the first year. It might not be worth it. While money is great and is the typical draw for drivers, let’s look at few other considerations.
Most drivers savor the peace and quiet of solitary life. They don’t want to spend their time in an office cubicle where everyone wanders in to chat about their own mundane lives, keeping you from getting your tasks completed.
But when you find yourself with questions or problems on the road you need to talk to someone. Learn how roadside breakdowns or tire blowouts are managed. Ask about the availability of dispatchers and how to reach them after traditional office hours. Are they responsive to emails, texts, and phone calls? Can they be reached directly? No driver wants to encounter problems and find themselves stuck for hours because “the person you have reached is currently unavailable.”
Being alone on the road is different than being lonely on the road. Whether you bring along a friend or loved one for an occasional run or you want to hit road long term with your significant other, ask about the company policy on companions. Some companies will gladly accommodate, while others, citing insurance liability, demand only the driver be present in the truck.
Another consideration is having a pet in the truck. Many drivers travel the highways with a dog or a cat as their jumpseat companion. I’ve even seen birds and iguanas. Again, some companies offer great flexibility, while others opt to keep their company trucks pet-free.
When I first entered the trucking world, I had an interview scheduled with a local company that had great trucks. I checked them out online and learned as much as I could. When I sat down for my interview, I mentioned that I read their values that included “family-oriented” and “honest.” I asked how they lived out their values and as we talked, it became clear that this company didn’t just talk and those weren’t just buzzwords on the website. They knew their values and how to show them. Don’t get trapped in a company that doesn’t know how to live out their values.
Low Turnover Rates
Annual turnover rates vary from 12% to 90% depending on the carrier type. If you see a company that has a stable roster of drivers you can anticipate that the company is better managed and treats their drivers well. Generally speaking, smaller companies have a higher retention rate than larger companies, largely thanks to the familiarity amongst the employees and management, so don’t be too quick to rule out the small carriers.
When I kicked off my career in trucking I spoke with a recruiter at a mega-carrier who advised that, in addition to a lower mileage rate that I wasn’t prepared to accept, I would spend my resets on the road and I could expect to be home once every 4-6 weeks. I ended up working with that smaller company, the one with values, that had me on the road Tuesday morning until Saturday, and home each week. For me, this worked well. Others are content to live life on the road for weeks at a time.
Without exception, trucking changes your personal life, regardless of the type of driving you choose. It’s up to you to find the fit that works best with your lifestyle. Know what you are looking for, what you are prepared to accept, and walk away when you need to walk away.