In part one of our series, Choosing A Truck Driving Job Part I: Factors That Effect All Companies, we talked about different factors and considerations which will affect your experience at any company you go to work for, including:
- The Elusive “Best Trucking Companies” and the Mythical “Perfect Trucking Company”
- Competition and Politics Within Each Trucking Company
- Different Divisions Working Together, or at Times, Working Against Each Other
- Competition Within The Company
In part two, we’re going to talk about people. Ask any member of any successful team, “What is it that made you so successful?” If they really understand the dynamics of any team, the answer is usually the same – “Having the right people”. It’s no different within trucking companies, which are indeed teams, although they may not always seem like it. You will likely discover that at any company there are people who don’t like you, people who don’t care about their jobs, and people who aren’t very good at what they do. Does this sound like a team? Does the company seem to be functioning like a team? Well, the reality of it is simple – being on a team doesn’t mean that everyone gets along, everyone cares about the team, and everyone is good at what they do. It simply means that everyone is working together to make the company function – even the jerks – which every team has.
So what you have to do at any trucking company is to make sure that you are the best driver you can be, the best person you can be, and surround yourself with the best people you can find. Even in a large company, there will only be a very small group of people that you will be working with directly. Choosing a Truck Driving Job Part II. From the time you first head out on the road, there may only be 10-15 people that you ever have direct contact with for the entire first year! Having the right people is absolutely critical to your success and happiness at any trucking company you work for.
“Your People” Can Make All The Difference
So one of the biggest factors that determine whether or not you will be happy at a particular company will be the people you are surrounded with. If you have an outstanding dispatcher, almost any company can be a great one for you to work for. I’ve been there. If you’re getting great miles, great loads, being treated well, and getting home on a good schedule, then the company is a great one to work for, right? Pretty much!
If you’re not getting along with your dispatcher or he/she is not doing a good job, you’re not going to get the loads you’d like to be getting and life at that company is not going to be good. Here’s a huge piece of advice – get to know your dispatcher’s boss! Understand that dispatchers in general do not have much authority. Normally, the load planners make the ultimate decision about which load the driver gets assigned to. At times, you’re going to need more help. Often times your dispatcher’s boss will have more pull with the load planners than your dispatcher will. If you get to know the boss, you may be able to get more help when help is needed. Maybe you’re not getting enough miles. Maybe you keep getting stuck in the Northeast. Maybe you need to get home a little bit early or stay home a day longer. Choosing a Truck Driving Job Part II , Your dispatcher will not always have the authority to make this happen – but the boss usually will. Get to know the boss and work together with your dispatcher and the boss as a team. (Choosing a Truck Driving Job Part II ) if you really want things to go well for you, take the attitude that you will do favors for them first! Prove yourself as a driver. Run hard, be safe, and be reliable and they will normally take good care of you in return. If, on the other hand, you get stuck with a dispatcher that just doesn’t care about the drivers, and believe me there are some like that, then that same boss is the one you will turn to when you’d like to try working with a different dispatcher.
Always keep in mind that there will not always be good freight available, either. Some of the factors that will greatly affect the amount of freight available at any given time include:
- The economy
- The region of the country you are in
- The day of the week it is
- The time of the year
- The number of drivers in your area waiting on loads
- and a whole assortment of other factors
You have to take the good with the bad and understand that things won’t always go your way.
The driver’s work ethic and attitude
This is the most important factor of all. Over the years I came to realize that most companies can be good companies to work for if you understand the things I’ve said above, the things I will say in the next few parts in this series, and you are a kick ass driver! But if you’re lazy, hard to get along with, unreliable, unsafe, inflexible, or have unreasonable expectations, you will not be treated well by your company and you will not be happy working there.
Whenever a driver would approach me in a truck stop and complain about how horrible the company is that he/she works for, the first question I always asked myself is “what is this driver doing wrong?” Is it always the driver’s fault when things aren’t going well? Of course not! Some companies are just crappy companies to work for. Or at least, some of the people within those companies are crappy to work with – like certain dispatchers or load planners. But the vast majority of the time, whenever a driver complained about their company and I sat down and listened for a little while, the truth would eventually come out. Often times it was things like:
- I’ve told them I want to be home every Friday by 5:00 and they don’t do it half the time
- I told them I hate the northeast and they keep sending me there
- I’m from Florida and I hate the snow. I don’t want to drive in it and I told them I won’t
- I can’t see good at night and I told them I don’t like driving at night and they keep giving me loads that I can’t deliver on time
- I hate driving through the mountains and I told them keep me in the Midwest but they won’t
I always thought, “SHOCKING! that things aren’t going well for you! You’ve stated your demands so clearly!” Obviously you’re seeing the pattern here. The driver feels his/her demands aren’t being met so is refusing to do anything he/she doesn’t want to do. I’ve seen this over and over a thousand times. Sit down and listen to the drivers that are unhappy and 90% of the time it’s their own fault. They aren’t willing to do the things that other drivers are willing to do to get the job done for the company. And hey, this is coming from a truck driver!!!! If I was a dispatcher or a load planner for 15 years, that would be totally different. But I drove for 15 years and I’m telling you that most of the time the driver either doesn’t get along with people or doesn’t understand the trucking industry in general, how it works, and what is expected of him.
Unreasonable driver expectations, in my opinion, is the number one reason for the high turnover rate in the industry, and the number one reason that those drivers that are unhappy, are unhappy. Not always of course. And much of the turnover can be traced to poor company policies or poor employees within these companies. But knowing what you can do to help yourself as a driver is the most important thing that will influence your driving career. If you will do your job, most of the time things will work out well.
Do These Things And You Will Be Much Better Off:
- Be safe
- Be efficient
- Be cooperative
- Be very patient
- Work hard
- Communicate well with your company
- Prove yourself as a driver first, ask favors second
- Learn to understand your company and the trucking industry in general
- Surround yourself with the right people
- Get to know the right people
- Have discipline
- Be responsible
- Take the good with the bad
- Learn to handle that rig like a Jedi!
- Learn all of the factors that affect the freight you will get, like:
- The economy
- The season of the year
- The region you are in
- You’re ability as a driver
- The company’s freight lanes
- the people you surround yourself with
- your attitude
- and many others…
If you understand these things and you’re doing your job the best you can, then overall you will be in a good position to succeed at any company you drive for. In the next few parts of this series, we’ll talk about some of the factors in your life that will help you determine the best type of job for you.
Brett R Aquila
15 Year Truck Driving Veteran
Check out the others in this series