No one ever becomes a truck driver for the purpose of being exploited by his or her trucking company. But unfortunately, some trucking companies are unscrupulous and do just exactly that: exploit the new truckers who work for them. Add the elements of surprise, isolation and regret for a perfect storm.
However, since we are committed to helping you save money (directly and indirectly), we will share with you what we have come to learn as one of the "dirty little secrets" within the trucking industry so that you may avoid it.
As a disclaimer, we have never had this happen to us, so we don't know all of the pain that is involved, but we will -- in order to help you avoid being lured into the trap -- attempt to describe it.
Avoid Being Exploited: Go Into the Trucking Industry Realistically
As any person looking to gain new employment in a truck driving job knows, there are a myriad of choices regarding employers, trucks and trailers.
Some of the big rigs require specialized training to drive and some of the trucking companies won't hire a driver unless he or she has a minimum amount of experience (like one, two or three years of recent, verifiable Class A trucking experience).
Removing those trucking companies from the pool of potential employers for new hires leaves those who will:
From Which Group are Truckers Being Exploited?
Those who obtain their CDLs independently of a trucking company have a great deal more freedom than those who have what is called "company paid CDL training" or "tuition reimbursement."
Those who opt to obtain their training through a trucking company are the ones who may (sad to say) put themselves in a position of being exploited.
Of all of the bad feelings in life, none is so regrettable as those we put ourselves into -- which is why we are writing this page.
How the Trap of Being Exploited Gets Set
Here's the scenario. Someone (with stars in his/her eyes, no less) may be broke. The economy has been bad and folks sometimes burn through all of their savings and maybe even go into debt trying to get back on their feet financially. (We understand, since we once had a high balance on our credit card statement.)
If no employment becomes available in your chosen field and since there are jobs to be had within the trucking industry, the person may think that it's time for a career change.
However, getting financial aid such as federal student loans can be hard to come by. Even if he or she wanted to get a CDL independently of a trucking company, the option may simply not be there.
So, the lure of a job at the end of company paid CDL training looks pretty doggone attractive. Who can resist having "automatic employment" at the end of schooling? It sounds almost divine.
But it's what the trucking company recruiters don't tell you that you need to know.
Once You Step Into the Trap of Being Exploited
You probably know of the phrase "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Well, what this means is that someone somewhere has to pay for you to eat lunch. Even those wining-and-dining timeshare incentives are paid for by those who have signed on the dotted line before you ever arrive. So, in trucking, if the company is paying for you to be trained, they expect something out of it. It's called a contract.
Contracts for company paid CDL truck driver training may vary, but they usually have at least two components:
Imagine that you've entered into a company's training program. You've signed the contract thinking that all is well. You make it through the program and are assigned to your first truck. As a newbie, you may be assigned to drive a ragged out hunk of junk truck that has already had most of its useful life used up. It may require a good bit of repairs just to keep it going. The more your company-issued truck breaks down, the more time you'll spend waiting and not driving (and hence not earning money).
Some of the "bottom feeder" trucking companies (the unscrupulous ones) know that they have you on the hook. So they may not feel compelled to get you home on a regular basis. If you have a family back home, it may be weeks or months before you see them. In fact, you may be purposely kept out on the road so that the company can "recoup" its investment from you.
If the truck you're in is costing the company more than they want to pay in repairs, the easiest way to avoid paying for repairs is to simply not run the truck. That means that you'll be sitting in it without driving and without earning money. They keep you poor (no income) and owing them at the same time! Guess who is being exploited? You are!
The old Tennessee Ernie Ford song "Sixteen Tons" with a miner owing his soul to the "company store" comes to mind.
Being Exploited through Utilization Tricks that Don't Make Sense
Now when someone enters the trucking industry he or she may think that the hiring trucking company wants to utilize him/her, to make as much money as possible from the truck/trucker combination. (That's what we would do if we were running such a business.)
But unfortunately some trucking companies don't utilize their trucks or employees well (and we don't understand why). You're on the hook by way of a contract and that is all they may care about. Whether or not you feel that you're being exploited is the least of their concerns.
If you don't finish school or the contract, you still owe. That's free money for them. If you're not prepared to stick it out no matter how bad your utilization gets, don't sign the contract.
OK, what options do you have if you're being exploited in this situation?
In the second scenario, you'll still owe the trucking company for the cost of the company paid CDL training. In addition to that, you could get a black mark on your DAC report as well as your employment history. You certainly never want the reputation of being a quitter.
Given the litigious attitude of some folks in our world today, we wouldn't put it past an unscrupulous trucking company to trump up charges against or sue a driver who quits (or even complains) about the way they do their business.
We addressed part of this issue on a page where we responded to an inquiry called "attending driving school."
You may want to read the post from BigJohn54 on this page for more information on what trucking companies are looking for.
Money saving tip: To avoid the situation of being exploited as a new truck driver, here are our recommendations:
One other thing: Do not think it is possible to learn how to drive a commercial motor vehicle in a short period of time like 3 weeks. Some CDL mills lure prospective truckers into their schools with illusions of grandeur and big bucks. Don't set yourself up for being exploited through greed. Use common sense.Learn both the direct and indirect costs involved in getting started in trucking. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never let anyone pressure you into signing something costly.
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