Monday, August 12, 2013

Off The Beaten Path

The turnover rate at the major trucking companies has been holding steady at +/- 100% and with new students making it through pathetic 2-week training schools and hitting the highway with little-to-no real real life experience, we have a lot of people out here doing the obvious when it comes to taking breaks.  And this new 30-minute break (not new to veterans, as we've always been taking 30-minutes, just not logging it!) is causing many people to flock to truck stops that they know and trust.

Flying J, Pilot, Travel Centers Of America, Petro, and Love's are the usual hangouts for most truckers.  And they're packed.  But there are many truck stops and parking lots that allow truckers to stay overnight and for several days if need be, you just have to know where they are.  Since they're not major chains, the new drivers don't know to go there, but these places are all over the country.  

It's interesting to see how an old fuel stop with no recognized brand name will be bought by one of the major truck stops and then fill with drivers working for one of the major trucking companies as if they sprung out of the ground brand new.  Every veteran driver knows of a stop off the beaten path with plenty of parking (or a few spots that are never used), good food, and easy access to major highways.

Perhaps the new guys don't know about the other options because they lack good training.  Perhaps the trainers didn't want to give up their secrets.  I know my own experience with numerous trainers turned out to be a huge disappointment.  I didn't really learn until I got out here on my own. 

Our system is set up to control drivers and keep them under the thumb of a company, not to encourage, train, and help them succeed on their own.  Even the insurance companies require several years of experience before they will let a driver buy a truck and go out on their own. 
In order to achieve this level of experience, there's basically one route to take:  go to a trucking school and then drive for a carrier who is self-insured for your first two or three years.  This is the only way to get the experience you need in order to obtain your own insurance.  

It's one way to beat the system.  The large, self-insured carriers like to have a steady flow of cheap new-hires flowing through their doors.  It keeps their turnover rate high so drivers can't plan on working at the carrier until retirement, and it ensures that a driver isn't trained well enough to become empowered to go out on their own.

There is a constant stream of misinformation about how large carriers will prevail and the owner-operators will all suffer and die out.  You hear it on the trucking radio shows, read it in the corporate sponsored trucking magazines, and see it on the fuel islands and docks. Despite this negative false rhetoric, owner-operators make up 80% of the trucking industry.  Company drivers, only 20%.  

And it's these 20% of drivers who clog the truck stops during break times and overnight stops.  If you're one of the mass groups of drivers who've eked their way through a 2-week trucking school to be called a "professional" truck driver, only to be stuck relying on your GPS which will guide you under low bridges and through non-trucking approved routes, and you can only park at the major truck stops because you weren't taught any better, then you owe it to yourself to become educated and stop listening anyone who will tell you that learning about trucking is a waste of time.

Sadly, I don't see this changing anytime soon.  Because it doesn't benefit the powers that be who are disseminating the information.  I don't agree with it, but everything's about money and if it doesn't make someone money, it just isn't worth doing.  Even if it means that lives are lost in the process.  What trucking needs is real training, and for the operators of these large trucks to be considered professionals who have a skill.  But you see, if this happens it will cost the people who rely on trucks billions of dollars.  The major carriers have figured all of this out.  And that's why they don't provide adequate training.

Until they do, truck stops will be full of trucks, accidents will continue to occur, and the HOS will be designed and crafted by the corporations and the government, instead of the drivers. 

It takes years of trial and error, common sense, and the ability to maneuver a 40-ton vehicle around this nation's dilapidated infrastructure and among the growing population of our nation, to successfully operate a semi truck.  

And training from a 2-week school trucking school just isn't enough to achieve it.


dianne said...

I'm not making the connection between two week truck driving training and busy truckstops. I agree that it takes many months to even come close to adequate training, but the correlation to the patronage at major truck stops eludes me, sorry.

Ed said...

Ed, you're a genius...I only wish everyone out there could read this post...tell it like it really is..
great stuff...

Ed said...

Dianne - The connection between the inexperienced drivers and the clogged truckstops is that new drivers flock to the major chains because it's the easiest thing for them to do.  They're not aware of smaller independent locations, or other truck parking alternatives.  

And with the new HOS, these drivers, who panic when their EOBR hits a certain hour, need to get off the road quickly.  Knowing where small truckstops are would give them options. 

We never have trouble finding a place to park.  Experience does have some advantages.  

Ed - Thanks, Ed! Two Eds are better than one!

dlg said...

Well written, son. I went to school for six weeks and had to show my proficiency to get my certificate and my license... but that is when you really start learning. You just have to put what you learned in school in the proper perspective.

Ed said...

dlg aka Momma,
Yeah well you are a better driver than I am, so you probably trained the trainer.

Joe said...

How important is the length of a driving school? I can afford to pay for school but which one. Every company I ask about getting my cdl says " We don't care which school just get your cdl and we take it from there. In Ky the community college path seems about the same time frame as the private. Should I go out of state for better training?

Ed said...

Joe, the fact is that most schools don't really teach you much. I have been wanting to do some research into a good school which has a reputation for teaching valuable skills to operators, so as soon as I have that information, I will display it here. As you can see from this survey that OOIDA did, the schools barely have any driving hours involved."7. CDL Training

OOIDA has long advocated for stricter requirement in training before receiving a CDL. Only 11% of owner-operators received any formal training from a truck driving school. One requirement that would seem essential to receiving a CDL would be extensive behind-the-wheel training and yet the median number of hours for the schools was 22.5 hours of driving. This has remained consistent in the last two surveys, 24.5 hours in 2010. Alarmingly if we look at the most common answer, the mode, the mode was 10 hours. 37% of owner-operator did receive some kind of training with 8% getting their training through a carrier."