2/19/12 Tanya Bons
For years we’ve been told about the “driver shortages” and though they did exist, they were self-inflicted. Shortages have been created and maintained by: Companies using drivers as disposable temporary labor, Driver Bonuses based on stealing drivers from other companies, Wage Stagnation, Lack of knowledge of the industry/lifestyle, and “Free Training” Schools focused on getting contracts signed, not creating drivers.
We have cried wolf too many times and now the wolf is really here and no one is listening.
WHERE ALL OUR DRIVERS WENT
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Training
For at least a decade the trucking industry has been combating an ageing population. The average age of a truck driver is forty-eight and in the last decade drivers over the age of fifty-five have increased 19%.
The advanced age of the trucking industry is due to generations of individuals believing that a college education was more beneficial. In 2005 only one out of five high school students pursued a specialized industry, skill.
Colleges have annually increased their tuitions and yet failed miserably with job placement. The average 2010 college graduate carries a debt of $25,250. In 2010 student borrowing was over $100 billion and outstanding loans exceeded one trillion. Unfortunately, 80% of bankruptcy lawyers say they have seen an increase in clients that have student loan debt and that debt is rarely discharged in bankruptcy court.
Currently the Council of Economic Advisers is estimating an increase demand for graduates that receive specific skill training to overtake those with a university degree and MDRC has found that career schools increased students’ earnings by 11%. The new Community College to Career Fund has been established to award grants to institutions that train students for careers and the Educational Department ordered colleges to show that they are preparing students for “gainful employment” or they would risk losing federal student aid. Private vocational schools are at an advantage because gainful employment has always been their goal, no placement, no students.
OUR ECONOMY IS GROWING
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring
The economy grew about 1.7 in 2011. It is estimated to grow about 2.3 in 2012. One of the first signs in economy growth is the increase in trucking.
About 170,000 trucks were taken off the road during the recession; we will need to replace those trucks, and drivers, before we are prepared for the ongoing growth of the economy.
TRAINING OUR TRUCK DRIVERS
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Truck Driver Wages, Increase in CSA Compliance, Increase in Recruiting, Decrease in Driver Shortage, Decrease in Unemployment, Variation in Driver’s Backgrounds/Educations
Job placement, job security, price comparison to college educations and even the rampant television truck driving shows have all factored into the increase of enrollment. The telephones at the schools are ringing off the hook and the email boxes are full; everyone wants to know how they can become a truck driver. If everyone that wanted to be a truck driver could attend training we might be able to delay the driver shortage and avoid some fall-out but it isn’t that easy.
Financing and funding has been a major deterrent for many. In 2009 the Workforce Investment Act, WIA, was funding 60-80% of the students attending truck-driving schools. The WIA funding for 2011/2012 has seen a decline of 72.8% in funds, a cut of over $1.94 billion. Many of the WIA offices are limited or completely out of funds.
Historically many low income, often less educated, individuals received the funds to attend the schools. In 2006 starting pay for a truck driver was $32,000, this varied greatly from the $5.15 minimum wage. WIA offered many of these individuals the opportunity to change their lives. Now the funding isn’t here and the disadvantaged individuals become even more disadvantaged.
In 2012 the majority of students enrolled in truck driving schools are self-pay. The lack of WIA funds, the tightening of the banks and the factor that most potential students are unemployed has created a beg, borrow, steal defense to pay for enrollment. This has ruled out training for many of the disadvantaged and has opened schools to a new clientele.
The 2012 truck driving school student often has, at minimum, a high school diploma, they previously held a good job prior to the recession, they are a veteran, they may have had their own business and they still have access to some money. Though these rules do not apply to everyone, many of the students fit at least one of the above categories.
Starting pay for truck drivers is now around $36,000 while minimum wage is $7.25. Students entering the truck-driving field are no longer from low income, less educated backgrounds; these new students are used to making money and sometimes double the trucker’s salary.
These new students, along with making money, are also used to holding full-time jobs. They’re not as apt to quit when things get rough; they hang in and try to make a go of it.
Many students also consider using their education, experience, and self-motivation to start their own business and become owner-operators in the future.
Truck driving schools are popping up everywhere. Colleges are throwing programs together on a side campus, contract training schools are loading their classrooms and new vocational schools are opening down the block from existing schools. Students have never had a better opportunity to choose the type of training they will receive. Students, with cash in their pockets, can enroll in programs that offer longer driving hours, improved placement and better training because they are paying themselves. The disadvantaged students will be forced into signing contracts for “free training” and the real “lucky ones” will be ushered into the partnering college programs that their WIA office prefers.
OUR COMPLIANCE, SAFETY, ACCOUNTABILITY, CSA
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Hiring of Truck Driving School Graduates, Increase in Safety, Increase in Training, Increase in Insurance, Increase in Pricing on Consumer Goods, Decrease in Current Driver Pool
The last four decades has seen a steady decrease in injuries and fatalities but the Compliance, Safety, Accountability, CSA, safety-scoring system, in its infancy, is now hoping to increase the decrease. It’s uncertain whether CSA will make a marked difference or not since it is too early to tell; CSA has graded only about 15% of the carriers.
CSA explores carrier and drivers by the seven Behavioral Analysis Safety Improvement Categories, BASIC,; driving safety, HOS, driver fitness, controlled substances, vehicle maintenance, cargo securement and crash statistics based on state reports. One third of the carriers surveyed indicated that they have made changes in their maintenance programs to be better meet CSA requirements.
The initial step to meeting CSA requirements is to have a team; drivers, mechanics, and office staff, that all work together to make sure that a thorough pre-trip is performed, infractions are recorded and repaired before the trucks leave the yard. Infractions, like brakes that are out of adjustment, can leave a severity score of 4 on a carrier’s report.
Carriers will need to review their drivers and dismiss drivers that have high CSA scores as it will have a large impact on a carrier’s insurance costs. Truck driving school students do not have any CSA points when they graduate so hiring them is a perk for carriers. In addition, students that received proper training will be able to perform a thorough pre-rip inspection.
CSA has found a higher number of citations in particular geographic regions, which has forced carriers to increase shipping rates in those areas. Increasing shippers’ costs ultimately effects pricing on goods to consumers.
OUR NEW HOURS OF SERVICE (HOS)
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Shipping Costs, Increase in Pricing on Consumer Goods
Currently the trucking industry is in an uproar over the change in the Hours of Service. The American Trucking Association, ATA, is suing the Federal Motor Carrier’s Safety Association, FMCSA, in regards to the new rules.
Previously truck drivers could work a maximum of 82 hours in a seven-day period. The new HOS, taking effect July 2012, limits a driver’s week to 70 hours. Also, drivers must take at least a 30-minute break after working eight hours. The new HOS also require a 34-hour rest period each week with two consecutive nights off from 1:00am to 5:00am. The new hours are being established to fight fatigue and increase safety on our roads.
The new HOS will cause companies to re-work routes, change deliveries, hire additional drivers, create new delivery fees and run drivers during peak traffic hours. It is estimated to cost the industry about a billion dollars to implement the new hours.
The new HOS will cause drivers to change their sleeping patterns, change their delivery patterns and ultimately, lose money along the way.
The FMCSA isn’t solving any problems; they’re creating new ones. If the FMCSA wants to tackle the issues of fatigue and safety they have to start with the basics. Commercial drivers drive when they’re tired, lie about their hours, eat while they are driving and speed for one reason; they get paid by the mile. How many miles a week would you drive if you were getting paid .34 cents a mile? - Yep, as many as you could.
If the FMCSA really wants to take distracted, tired, unsafe drivers off the road they need to mandate the way these drivers are compensated.
In the end, the new HOS rules will force some drivers into early retirement and other drivers into career changes for financial stability. Carriers will find themselves replacing the drivers that left and hiring additional drivers just to manage the deliveries they currently have. Shippers will have see negative results in their supply chains, distribution and productivity and their costs will be added to the price of their wares.
ELECTRIC ON BOARD RECORDERS (EOBR)
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in CSA Compliance, Increase in Pricing on Consumer Goods
In 2010 the FMCSA, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association, issued a rule that would require motor carriers with a 10% violation rate on their Hours of Service, HOS, regulations to have a mandatory Electric On Board Recorder, EOBR, installed on their equipment before June 4th of this year.
Currently there is a proposed rule that would make it mandatory for all drivers documenting their HOS with logbooks to have an EOBR. The proposed rule would affect about 500,000 carriers.
In May of 2006 Europe made it mandatory for all new commercial trucks to have a Digital Tachograph, EOBR. The majority of European drivers with EOBRs are paid hourly rather than per the mile; carriers paying per the mile are looked on as being deceptive.
EOBRs can track drivers’ locations, speed and hours making it difficult and costly for carriers to push drivers into racking up the miles. Some carriers will push their drivers to make the delivery on time but the EOBRs will make that pushing difficult and it will be reflected in shippers’ pricing. The FMCSA proposal will require carriers to monitor and regulate their current drivers more closely and hire additional drivers to cover their “renegade” drivers.
THE CARRIERS HIRING US
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Wages, Increase in Bonuses, Increase in Pricing on Consumer Goods, Decrease in smaller carriers, Variation in Qualifications, Variation on Hiring Processes
Carriers are entering a position where they are forced to make decisions and changes. Currently companies that could not hire students are meeting with their insurance companies and asking for the ability to hire properly trained students. Companies that previously put ads out to get drivers are now calling schools and asking how they can attract graduates. Carriers that never employed recruiters are calling schools and asking what recruiters “do” when they come in and speak with students.
Carriers are increasing wages and introducing bonuses to entice new drivers. They’re placing ads and opening their own schools just to keep up with current demand.
Carriers are keeping the “Hiring” signs up longer because they have to look at about 20 applications before they find the right driver.
Carriers, even in the midst of CSA regulations, are lightning up on some of their qualifications. They are looking at the “complete picture” of a student rather than denying everyone with a speeding ticket. Being unemployed for over a year isn’t preferred but if the student has not tickets, no alcohol related incidents, no accidents, no misdemeanors, no felonies and they have a good previous job history they shouldn’t have any problem finding placement with many companies.
Carriers will also find that as they revise their qualifications they are under more scrutiny from students then ever before. The new students are no longer desperate for employment with the first company that comes along. These students are educated, informed and planning their futures. They expect to stay with trucking companies, for the long run or until they can purchase their own trucks. Students have many options, especially with the influx of new carries hiring graduates, and students can choose the company that best fits them.
Students will find carriers they like and attend schools because those carriers recruit from those schools. Carriers that don’t “offer more” may not even have the opportunity to speak with students as many of the schools will be forced to reconsider their placement offerings to students.
Carriers that offer contract “free” training will be at an advantage due to the fact that they will not have to improve their offerings or “impress” their students. They will continue on their path of getting contracts signed, offering accelerated training and putting students behind their steering wheels. Their turnover rate will remain excessively high but they will offset that by increasing their contact default costs.
Many of the small carriers are entering a “make-it” or “break-it” stage. They can’t offer the benefits or the services larger carriers offer. Their business is increasing daily and they need to have cash available since the banks are still tight with funding.
In addition, the Transportation Intermediary Association, TIA, is putting the smaller carriers to the fire with a proposed mandatory bond in the H.R.7, American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012. The act includes a compulsorily $100,000 bond for freight brokers, regardless of company size. The husband and wife team running a business in their Kenworth will be subjected to the same bond as the largest and most successful freight brokers in the country. All brokers should have bonds but they should be relative to the amount of business a broker consumes.
THE TRUCKS WE DRIVE
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Fuel Mileage, Increase in CSA Compliance
In December 2011 Peterbilt announced a 93.2% increase from December 2010 sales and Kenworth announced a 105.3% increase. Class 8 truck sales from January 2012 bypassed sales for the January of 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Sales for trailers grew 69% in 2011. Carriers are estimating that they will increase their fleets by 16% in 2012.
Equipment manufacturers have added shifts, called back laid-off individuals hired new employees and built onto their plants. Suppliers are rationing their products and some manufactures are even setting up shop to make their own parts because growth is crippling their suppliers.
All that new equipment entering the workforce is going to need drivers. Some of the carriers will be replacing used equipment but as mentioned previously, they are estimating increasing their fleets by 16% this year alone.
THE SIZE OF OUR TRUCKS AND OUR LOADS
Industry Effect: Decrease in Driver Shortage, Decrease in Shipping Costs, Combat New HOS, Increase in Infrastructure Costs
For over thirty years trucking in America has meant no more than 80,000 pounds maximum weight for a standard load. Permits have been available for exceptions, both on weight and height, but those are exceptions.
While Americans have been hauling 80,000, Canadians have been hauling 95,000, most Europeans have been hauling 97,000 and Mexicans have been hauling 106,000 pounds.
The Safe and Efficient Trucking Act, SETA, included language allowing the increase from the standard 80,000 to 97,000 with the addition of a sixth axle. The Association of American Railroads, AAR, successfully began a campaign to overtake the proposal and circumvent the 21-31% increase in truck freight capacity. The trucking industry claims it was “rabbit punched”; they weren’t aware the AAR was opposed to the weight increase because the AAR was initially using consumer safety groups for opposition rather than directly addressing the issue. Certainly shippers are interested in the increase of capacity as it would help cut costs and increase competition between truck and rail but the trucking industry’s claim of being “rabbit punched” may be hard to swallow as the American Trucking Association, ATA, agreed to join the AAR and table the capacity increase for at least three years in order to keep peace with their transportation partner. In addition, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, OOIDA, was strongly opposed to the increase from the beginning.
Our loads may not be getting heavier but our trailers are getting longer. Around 1980 maximum trailer length went from 48 feet to 53 feet and now many of the trailers on the road are 53 feet. Some carriers believe that shippers were really at an advantage when this happened because carriers neglected to charge for the increased capacity. Today, Sec. 1404. Trucking productivity, would allow a size increase on double trailers. These “pup” trailers, at a maximum of 28 feet will now see a maximum of 33 feet. This will increase the load capacity by around 18%. We may or may not see an increase of double trailers on the roads but you can be certain the shippers will pay for the extra capacity.
FIXING OUR ROADS
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring, Increase in Road Construction, Increase in Traffic, Increase in Pricing on Consumer Goods
The House Bill, Surface Transportation Reauthorization Bill, is committing $260 million to spend on our highways, bridges and more over the next five years. The Senate is also working on their own Bill that would devote $109 billion to infrastructure over the next two years. Lastly the Obama administration recommends a $476 billion commitment for the next six years.
All this road construction will be good for the country but bad for truck drivers and carriers. Construction means traffic and traffic means trucks are not moving; no one is making money. The traffic delays may show up in shippers’ bills as carriers pass their cost down. Shippers will also pass their cost down to consumers.
CROSSING OUR BORDER
Industry Effect: Increase in Hiring
The war rages on regarding Mexican motor carriers crossing the borders to drive in America. OOIDA is suing the Department of Transportation, DOT, and FMCSA in regards to establishing a double standard on the safety of the Mexican trucks; Mexican trucks do not need to comply with all U.S. safety regulations that the American trucks must meet.
Mexican carriers must meet the Pre-Authorization Safety Audit, PASA, before they are granted the authority to operate in America. Currently there are eight Mexican carriers that have applied for authority. One carrier has been denied, two just applied and five others are awaiting their PASA results.
Regardless of who is winning or losing, it may be awhile before we see Mexican carriers crossing the border with their own authorities.
The majority of trends and influences in the trucking industry are all pointing to an increase in hiring and a negative fall-out from a shortage of drivers. There are many changes on the horizon, which should be implemented through carriers, truck driving schools, truck driving students and shippers; their success or failure will ultimately be reflected in your pocketbook.
Drive safe, Tanya Bons
Are you C.A.T.S. Certified??
12/17/11 by Tanya Bons
Pre-hire letters – have you heard the term? What are they, why do you want one and how do you get them?
Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to potential students; they are often generic but solid.
Companies offer these letters to students to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying, in writing, that the potential student is welcome to attend an orientation, at the company’s expense, when he/she has a CDL in hand. The orientation is a pre-requisite to employment.
The pre-hire letter is not an employment contract; it is an invitation to the party. The trucking companies know that if they send invitations, pre-hires, they increase the attendance at the party and they might even snatch some of the popular kids. But like invites to all the best parties, not everyone gets one. Trucking companies don’t want to fill the room with a bunch of party poopers; they want truck drivers.
The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people that meet the companies’ requirements. If the company doesn’t accept employees with two-year old felonies a student with a two-year old felony will not be given a pre-hire letter. The trucking companies won’t waste their time and money filling a room with a bunch of people they can’t hire.
The companies are not guaranteeing you a job; there are many things that effect employment. If you show up at the orientation drunk, fail a DOT physical, or you didn’t get your CDL that job “guarantee” is gone and you will be asked to leave the party.
So we now know that a pre-hire isn’t a contract or a guarantee to employment, why do you want one?
Well, you don’t want one; you want many. Pre-hire letters are, as previously mentioned, invites to the party. If you want your name on the guest list you have to get the invite. The more invites, the better your chance to end up at the perfect party.
You may be the perfect age, in perfect health, with a perfect driving record and a perfect background history; you may be the popular one but even in a perfect world you still need a plan B. Flashy websites, sexy trucks, friendly recruiters and wads of cash can pull you in but when you arrive perfection might not be; perfect. Always have a plan B for insurance; hopefully you won’t need it.
Of course, the more party invites you receive the bigger your decision becomes but it is always better to have a choice.
Pre-hire letters are a confirmation that the industry you want, wants you. There is nothing worse than spending time and money on training and then finding yourself at home, unemployed, in front of the TV. Gather your invites and wait for the party to start.
The most important thing to remember about pre-hire letters is that honesty is the food that fuels them, without honesty pre-hire letters are useless.
A pre-hire letter is based on the information you give to the trucking company via an application. You can complete applications online, at job fairs, at truck driving schools, at unemployment offices and even at the trucking companies.
You do not need to have a CDL in hand when you start applying to the companies. Many trucking companies hire graduates and pre-hire students and potential students. Before you take the time to fill out the application make sure the company hires new drivers; check their requirements and disqualifications.
Again, the most important thing to do is to be honest. If you’re unsure of information, do your research and get it right. Lacking verification can leave you lacking a job.
Confirm employment history dates. An educated guess at your employment can show up as dishonesty and dishonesty shreds applications.
Don’t omit things because they’re over ten years old; trucking companies will find it when they do your background check and that pre-hire will become post-never.
Make sure to answer every question and complete every page. If you’re confused by an application ask an admission coordinator at a truck driving school or even a company recruiter, they’re there to help out.
If you fill out an application by hand make sure to use a pen, press hard enough and print as clear as possible. Remember these trucking companies get hundreds and thousands of applications and if yours is difficult to read they won’t waste their time, you’ll be on the top of the “no” pile.
Take time to check your spelling or have someone look it over for you. You won’t have points taken off for spelling but this application is a reflection of you and you must make a good impression.
This is a one-time/six month shot. If you complete the application and are denied it could be another six months before the company bothers to review any additional applications submitted by you; make sure you do it right the first time.
Completing applications online is the preferred method for everyone. Companies usually receive the application quicker, school administrators don’t have to fax it and you’ll find many advantages. Spell checking is usually enabled on the applications, no required information will be absent and there’s no difficulty reading your writing.
You can complete online applications via truck driving schools, libraries and the unemployment office if you don’t have access at home.
So, start applying today and I’ll see you at the party.
6/5/2011 by Tanya Bons
There are factors that interfere with placement, sometimes it’s the individual and sometimes it is the school itself.
Individuals need to be aware that certain issues effect their placement…
Felonies under five years makes placement almost impossible. Felonies over ten years can be worked with but still do not guarantee placement. Some companies will never hire an individual with a drug related felony and others will never hire someone with a violent felony. Misdemeanors are also considered by most trucking companies but are less scrutinized. Some companies offer a review of the felony/misdemeanor so if it is over five years old you should apply and speak with a recruiter about the details; there is a chance you may be hired. You shouldn’t enroll in any truck driving school without prior knowledge of your ability for placement.
Alcohol Related Violations
Alcohol violations, such as DUIs and DWIs must be at least five years old to even be considered, ten years is standard. No more than one violation. Trucking companies are fully aware that a “Reckless Driving” on your record is often a plea against a DUI; don’t assume your DUI is hidden under this label.
Drug and Alcohol Testing
Positive substance abuse testing histories are very problematic for hiring in this industry. If you have failed a drug or alcohol test within the last ten years you will probably be denied placement. If a company does consider you, they will need to access your “approved” status from a “SAP”, Substance Abuse Professional. If you have not met with a SAP, placement is near impossible. All truck driving students will be tested prior to enrollment and will then be placed in a random drug pool while in school. Once students graduate and move on to their new jobs they will be tested again and placed into a new drug pool. Some companies now require hair follicle testing rather than urine. Hair follicle testing is more expensive, more accurate and more capable of finding prior drug use histories. Do not assume that just because you “quit in time” to register “clean” for enrollment into a truck driving school that you’re in the clear, trucking companies can retrieve several years of use/abuse via a hair follicle. Individuals who are users, regardless of frequency, should be aware that random drug testing pools are established for one purpose, to catch you.
Tickets and accidents in the last three years will be scrutinized. Patterns of speeding or other moving violations, within the last six years, will have a huge impact on placement in the trucking industry. Accidents, regardless of fault, will be considered; you should obtain the accident report from the police station in the district where the accident occurred and make it available to trucking companies when you apply.
Employment history is another issue. Unstable work histories or lack of histories, will effect placement. The economy has increased unemployment and has aided in the length of unemployment. If you have been unemployed for a long time, over six months, you should be able to verify what you have been doing in that time frame. Trucking companies want to know that while you were unemployed you made good use of your time, they do not want to see individuals riding the couch and collecting unemployment.
Health / DOT Physical
There are health issues that may disqualify you for a DOT physical. Seizures, high blood pressure, recent heart attacks/surgeries, diabetes treated with shots, unconfirmed sleep apnea, glasses with outdated prescriptions and even some medications. You may speak to a physician regarding any issues you have. Some of the disqualifications, such as outdated prescriptions can be corrected; others, such as seizures, are automatic lifetime disqualifications. Some individuals with disabilities may be able to obtain waivers from the Department of Transportation that will enable them to drive a semi-truck.
Age is not a major factor in truck driving placement. Those under twenty-three will have a more difficult time due to insurance regulations and those in their late sixties and over will also find placement more problematic but not impossible.
Along with an individual’s issues, truck driving schools themselves also factor in on placement. It is important for you to know where truck driving schools place their students and how many of their students get placed.
Private Truck Driving Schools
The best bet for placement is a private school that is not “company sponsored”. Private schools place their students with many different truck driving companies and they rely on this placement for future profitability. If they aren’t placing students they’re not doing their job and no job equals no school. The downfall of these private truck driving schools is that they usually require payment, $3,000 to $6,000, before you enroll. Luckily many accept government grants and some even have financing programs in place.
College Certified Programs
College run truck driving schools are usually less expensive than private schools and work with many of the same companies the private schools work with. These programs are not as adamant about placement since their funding is supported by the colleges and not necessarily dependent on student enrollment. Most of the colleges accept government grants and some offer student loans. The downfall of these schools is their programs are more collegiate and some can take longer, months verses weeks, to complete the program.
Company Sponsored Training Schools
The “free truck driving schools” are the most difficult to find placement in. These schools are sponsored by a truck driving company or companies and have you sign a contract rather than pay to enroll in the school. The company sponsored truck driving schools enroll many students at a time and their profitability comes from both placement and from repayment of uncompleted contract agreements. If the school signs up a class of fifty and only ten go on to complete their contract the school will still make money because they charge the forty students that didn’t successfully complete the contract. Contracts vary from company to company but many require the students to successfully complete their schooling, obtain a position with the preferred company and stay with that company for at least a year. Anyone signing up for a company sponsored truck driving school should understand the contract they are signing and question the school regarding the amount of students actually fulfilling the contract. Many of these schools offer accelerated training programs and that can have an effect on the student’s ability to successfully obtain their CDL.
Do your homework before enrolling in any truck driving school and know your ability for placement; you’ll soon be on a profitable journey into the truck driving industry.
12/11/11 Tanya Bons
Truckers that have a Body Mass Index of 35 or more are going to be hunted down in the name of the 2012 Sleep Apnea witch-hunt. If you are a male trucker with a BMI of 35 or more, are over 45 years of age, snore, have high blood pressure and are Hispanic or African-American sleep with one eye open, they might already be at your bedroom door trying to get in.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board have declared war on drivers with a BMI of 35 or more, even though they admit it might be a BMI of 30 or maybe even 40, that plays a role in sleep apnea.
There are no true statistics to provide this hunt with facts. The National Institutes of Health “estimates” that 18 million people, about 4 percent of men and 2 percent of women between the ages of 30 and 60, have sleep apnea. If 18 million sounds high, consider that 30 million have insomnia.
The FMCSA combined their data with the data from the UPenn sleep study to confirm that sleep apnea increased truck driving accidents. The results, sleep apnea did not show a statistical increase in motor vehicle accidents, the data confirmed that younger, inexperienced commercial drivers are at an increased risk of causing commercial motor vehicle accidents.
The Stanford University Medical School also did a study. They reviewed forty-two accidents by truck drivers and concluded that only seven of the accidents were “fatigue” related. They also reported that more than half of the accidents had occurred while the truck driver was in a personal vehicle, not the commercial vehicle.
The results, Stanford found that obese truck drivers cause more accidents than non-obese, AND obese drivers are more tired than non-obese drivers. Maybe we should be watching the drivers’ donut consumption rather than their sleeping habits.
One of the strong backers of the Sleep Apnea witch-hunt is Mrs. Wanda Lindsay. Mrs. Lindsay just received a $3.25 million dollar settlement for her husband’s untimely death, which occurred while they were stopped in traffic. A truck driver, who states that he had turned his head to see a wreck on a service road, plowed into the back of the Lindsay car doing 65 mph or more killing John Lindsay.
The truck driver was possibly diagnosed with severe sleep apnea; there is some confusion as to when he was diagnosed and an interesting rumor that states he had been turned down by thirty trucking companies due to his sleep apnea.
This accident obviously had horrific effects but the truck driver states that he was awake and had just glanced away for a moment, he hadn’t realized that the traffic came to an abrupt stop. Though he was, without a doubt at fault, can we say that sleep apnea was at fault for his inability to stop?
The money associated with sleep apnea is at the very forefront of this witch-hunt; $200 for a consultation, $1,000 and more for a sleep study, $3,500 follow-up fees, $500 to $4,000 for CPAP devices, $2,500 to $3,000 for sleep apnea dental devices and up to $50,000 for surgery. The CPAP market raked in $2.3 billion globally in 2010 and 60% of that was in U.S. dollars.
Yes I believe truck drivers do lack sleep, more than non-commercial drivers, but I don’t think that we should be discriminating against the “bigger boys” and pulling them off the road for weeks, (it can take up to two weeks to get results for sleep study tests), without something more substantial to back the hunt. And with actual figures that say more accidents happen in non-commercial vehicles shouldn’t we focus on the four-wheeling public rather than truck drivers?
Symptoms / Causes of Concern
- A Body Mass Index above 30, 35 or 40 (no exact BMI has been proven to be the magic number)
- Loud snoring (snoring itself does not automatically qualify you)
- Interruption of breathing while sleeping (five or more times during one sleeping cycle)
- Feeling tired during the day
- Consuming caffeine to keep alert
- High blood pressure (although this could be more related to obesity than sleep apnea)
- Diabetes (although this could be more related to obesity than sleep apnea)
- Being male (although females can also have sleep apnea)
- Being African-American or Hispanic
- Being between 40 and 60 years of age (although children can also be effected and those over 60 see a drop in sleep apnea cases)
Truckers need to be aware of the facts of sleep apnea to protect themselves and their job. AND If they do have concerns that they might have it, they shouldn’t lose sleep over it, they should get tested.
You have decided that you’re ready to commit and hit the road as a trucker but then you check into the costs of truck driving schools. You’re unemployed, or underpaid, and you certainly can’t dish out three grand or more to attend a school, there are options.
The first option you want to check into is State and Federal grants. WIA, the Workforce Investment Act, has many different grant programs available that often pay the entire training cost.
You may be eligible for funding if you are a dislocated worker. Dislocated workers have been let go/laid off from their current job and are unlikely to return to the industry due to a permanent plant closure, foreign competitors or lack of skills. Dislocated workers can also be self-employed or unemployed people who can no longer make a living due to natural disasters or the lack of skills to obtain a job that can support the household.
If you are not eligible for the dislocated worker program you may be eligible for TAA funding. Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) funding is available to people that may have lost their job due to foreign competition/trade.
To get more information about WIA, the Workforce Investment Act, that provides funding you should contact your local unemployment or job office/center and ask about getting a training grant. These programs do take some time for approval and often run out of money early so it is advised that you make contact with an agency as soon as possible.
If you are currently in a rehabilitation program or if you have had to switch careers due to an injury you may be eligible for training funds. Contact your local rehabilitation office.
Some truck driving schools offer Contract Training. Contract Training is when a trucking company offers you “free” training if you sign a contract to work for their company for a set amount of time, normally a year or more.
Contract Training can be a viable way to obtain training but is should be a second choice, not a first choice. Contract Training requires a detailed contract that is not only confusing but highly in favor of the company. Some contracts include large amounts of interest and exaggerated pricing for the training you receive. This may not be an issue, unless you cannot fulfill the contract.
Obviously, if you are signing the contract you expect to complete the transaction successfully but there are factors that interfere. You should review the sections that refer to your abilities to obtain a CDL. Some contracts mention that you can be expelled from the program, even before the end of the first week, and you will still be responsible for the full cost of training.
If you have a family emergency and have to delay training or you must quit your job to be home with the family, you can find yourself owing the company thousands of dollars for reneging on your contract.
Truck driving school graduates should drive for the same company for a year, ticket and accident free, but signing a contract that you will do so is jeopardizing your ability to move on and up if the opportunity provides itself.
As always, when signing a contract, know what you are agreeing to.
Many schools offer loans through financial companies they work with. Loans can be obtained by individuals with bad credit, often with a co-signer, but be wary as some of these loans have outlandish interest rates. As with the Contract Training, when you sign, know what you are agreeing to.
Another option, if you are currently employed, may be loans or grants made available through your company. Some of the larger companies offer their employees incentives to get training or education and truck driving courses fall under some of these approved programs.
Contact your Human Resources Department and ask them if they offer funding for truck driver training.
Many Native American students are eligible for funding through their tribal council or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These programs often pay the full tuition for truck driving school so you should check with your local chapter for eligibility requirements.
If you or an immediate family member is/was a union member you may have funds available for training in an educational annuity. Often people think of using an educational annuity for higher learning but many can be used for vocational training, including truck driving school. Check with your union for more information.
Credit Cards are a great way to fund truck driver school. If you have a good credit history you can often get a new card with an interest free period. Depending on the length of time, you may be able to pay off the full tuition before the card accumulates any interest. Most truck driving schools accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.
Some schools may offer alternative financing, such as putting a deposit down and paying the balance before you graduate. You can check with your chosen truck driving school and ask about additional options for financing the class.
Most college-sponsored programs accept VA loans. Check with the college to verify that it does offer the loans and how much out-of-pocket costs you will have to endure. Some colleges will send students through with no upfront cost to them, others will have the students pay all tuition and fees upfront and wait for reimbursement from the government. Some private schools will also accept VA loans so check with all local truck driving schools.
After you complete training and venture out into the trucking industry you will find that many of the companies offer tuition reimbursement. Though this program does not help you pay for school, it will help you regain the costs of training. Companies will need a receipt from the school and they will issue a stipend, normally on a monthly basis, that will pay you back for your training costs. (Reimbursement not available for individuals that received training with a federal/state grant).
The monthly stipend varies from company to company and it does take a substantial amount of time to get all your money back but it is a nice bonus and can help with credit card payments or loans from family members.
Call or visit local truck driving schools and speak with the admission coordinator, they will help lead you through funding options. Read and review all contracts, know what you are signing and enjoy your journey.
WREX 13 came out to our school on Ipsen Road and did an interview with Ken Bons, owner of Spirit CDL. Ken talked about the demand for truck drivers and the availability of jobs.
Ray Kalis, in charge of operations at R.L. Leek, also spoke with WREX 13. Ray was one of Ken’s students a few years back and now Ray, and a few other previous students, work for R.L. Leek, a freight hauler located in Rockford.
Please give us a call at 815-332-7000 to get more information about our truck driving school. (Oh - if you see Ray make sure to ask him what he thinks about Ken Bons and his crew of instructors. And Ray - you’re still one of our favorites!)
I have been in the truck driver training industry for several years now and it still dumbfounds me as to “how” individuals choose their truck driving school.
A lot of people choose a school based on the price. If you call a truck driving school to see if you can afford the training and the price is more than you thought ask about financing, grants and how others pay for the class.
Truck driving schools in close proximity are usually comparable in price, under a $500 difference between them. If one school is vastly different in pricing, about a $1000 difference, you should find out why. Currently our truck driving school is about $1,000 less than the nearby competitors; the large price difference is due to the fact that we just opened our doors, (April of 2011), and we need to prove ourselves under our new name. The large discounted pricing attracts people to enroll regardless of our offerings - but it shouldn’t.
There are some people that decide to purchase items based strictly on price. I won’t disagree, sometimes price is the best way to make a decision especially if the comparisons are generic, but pricing should be a consideration, not a decision decider when it comes to choosing a truck driving school. Not all truck driving schools are equal and if you base your enrollment on pricing alone you are making a very “snap” decision that could effect the rest of your career.
The second basis people use is location. Yes, people that plan on driving all around the country for a living won’t consider a truck driving school that is an additional 20 minutes or so down the road. Just because a school’s location is closer to you doesn’t mean that it is the equivalent of the one farther from you. It is ludicrous to drive a fifteen minutes to go to Walmart in the next town when there is a Walmart within walking distance but truck driving schools are not Walmarts. If you are comparing Walmart to Walmart by all means, shop at the one closest to you. If you are comparing truck driving schools make the decision based on your needs and the merit of the entity, not just the location, know what you are comparing.
Also, if you decide to attend a truck driving school outside of the state you reside in please check to make sure your new CDL is transferable. Individuals living in Illinois must be tested in Illinois to receive an Illinois CDL there is no other way.
So those are the two craziest, yet common reasons, for enrolling in a particular school.
What are good reasons to choose one school over another? The basic answer is: drive time, quality training, placement and instructors.
Let’s take drive time for starters. You may have been informed that one-on-one training is the best because if you’re observing you are being cheated out of driving time. This advice is actually incorrect; the observation time is remedial time and does not count against your driving time. If you weren’t in the truck observing another student you would be sitting at a computer or studying the pre-trip, you would not be driving. Students attending schools with remedial observation time actually spend more time in and around the trucks than students with one-on-one training.
Also, anyone who is learning a new skill knows that at times the repetition of practice can work against you. Sometimes you just have to step away, take a break and then come back refreshed and ready for action. When your time is scheduled for one-on-one training you can’t jump in the back, renew and let someone else drive; regardless of how worn out, frustrated or exhausted you feel you must go on.
Drive time is the time behind the wheel actually driving, it does not include pre-trips, observation or simulator time. It is behind-the-wheel, in-charge of the truck, pushing in the clutch and turning the steering wheel - that’s drive time.
Drive time is one of the most important factors when considering a school. Schools vary on drive time but 32 hours should be the minimum. Again, the more drive time, the better. I can guarantee that a student that receives more (instructed) drive time will be a better graduate and a better driver.
Quality training is another concern when looking for a truck driving school. The school you choose should have no more than four students to an instructor and all students should be instructed while behind the wheel.
Some schools will have several yards going and the instructors walk from yard to yard and check on the students. This sounds good, time behind the wheel, but if the instructor is monitoring many students at once you may be making the same mistakes over and over again without any council on how to correct yourself. In essence, you are making your mistakes into habits and that’s not good.
When a student is behind the wheel the instructor should be monitoring the student and making suggestions. Instructors should be there to correct students when they make the mistakes. There is a lot to be said about self-learning but you are paying for an instructor and instruction and you should be receiving it.
Frequently students are surprised to find out that truck driving schools have placement assistance, many assume only trucking company owned schools have placement, this is not true.
Placement is a very important part of a truck driving school’s program after all, the reason students attend school is for jobs and if a school can’t or won’t place students, well, something is up.
Sure, there are students that won’t be able to find placement in the industry but it is the school’s responsibility to let those students know that they may not find employment. Any school operating for more than six months knows the basics of what a company is looking for. Students with recent felonies, recent or multiple DUIs, multiple moving violations, accidents and sketchy job histories will most likely not find placement in the industry and truck driving schools know this. The turnover rate in the over the road trucking industry is extremely high, 100% at some companies. Trucking companies are always looking for students and will continue to hire students from schools that graduate good, safe drivers. If none or only one trucking company is recruiting from the school you are considering, consider another school.
The last point is the hardest to judge, the instructors. A good truck driving school will have instructors that are experienced, knowledgeable, caring and capable of teaching.
Obviously instructors that have spent less time on the road will have less experience and probably less knowledge about the industry. The Illinois Secretary of State requires a minimum of three verifiable years driving. I believe this is a good place to start but I personally think that truck driving experience is like driving time, the more the better.
I have been told that while you are driving you are learning something new every day and when you stop learning you should stop driving. If you are learning something new every day wouldn’t it be more valuable to have an instructor with more experience?
Instructors should also be knowledgeable about the industry; keep up with the trends, changes and new regulations. A school should require their instructors to know what is going on and to share that with the students.
Instructors should care about the students, want to help them to succeed and enjoy the job of teaching. I believe a good majority of the schools do hire instructors on their desire to make a difference but there will always be people that value the paycheck more than the job and it is the school’s responsibility to find those people and terminate them as soon as possible.
Instructors should also be capable of teaching. There are many great truck drivers out there with pins and patches for safety and years of following the rules but not all are teachers. Teaching is a mixed skill; you can teach a teacher to teach but he has to be a teacher first.
As I mentioned, it is hard to assess instructors’ abilities but you should meet with one or two instructors or even students from the class and you will have a better idea of what to expect. Obviously if you get a bad feeling about an instructor or if students complain you will have some ammunition to help make your choice. I hope you will make the phone calls and send the emails asking the right questions; do your homework and evaluate the truck driving schools before you sign the dotted line.
It’s not unusual for students enrolling in truck driving school to be confused by the stick and shifting. Many students worry because they have never driven stick before; they think they’re at a disadvantage.
The truth is, driving stick in a car is not the same as driving stick in a semi-truck and those that have experienced car driving may be the ones with the disadvantage.
Once you have learned to master a skill you also create habits, both good and bad, that go along with that skill. Truck driving school students that have driven stick before will have to forget what they had learned and listen to their instructors.
While attending truck driving school you will be taught the basics; shift patterns, shifting RPMs, what a splitter switch does and double clutching.
Experienced truck drivers will often avoid double clutching but double clutching prolongs the transmission life and makes smoother transitions between gears, therefore making a smoother ride.
Double clutching is not difficult if you practice the right rhythm, it’s basically like dancing with the truck.
- Press the clutch
- Release the throttle
- Shift into neutral
- Release the clutch
- Wait for the RPMs to decrease
- Press clutch again
- Shift into next gear
All truck driving students should master double clutching, most will need it to pass their skills test.
My favorite inanimate object is Hello Kitty :)
When shopping for a school, smart students do their research. We always let students know that our school is certified by the Illinois Secretary of State and we’re proud of it.
Not every CDL training school is certified by the Secretary of State so it’s important you ask the admission coordinator at the school or you can print a current list right off the Illinois SOS website…
But before you get involved in the list you might wonder why it’s important to be an Illinois SOS Certified school.
The Secretary of State has expectations for their certified schools. All schools must have their curriculum approved by the state and all instructors must teach per that curriculum, they can’t just do as they please.
The hours for training must be approved by the state and logged on time sheets. These time sheet records are indispensable and are filed at the school always ready for an audit from the state. It is the job of the state to monitor state certified schools and enforce that students are receiving the proper training for the logged amount of hours.
Secretary of State Certified schools do not monitor themselves, they are responsible and held accountable by the auditing system of Illinois SOS officials.
Secretary of State Certified schools have Certified Instructors. All instructors must have a minimum of 3 years experience, (our instructors have a minimum of 20 years), in the trucking industry. No felonies or DUIs. All instructors must have their driving records pre-approved by the state, receive a minimum of 40 hours instructor training, forgo a background check that includes fingerprinting, submit and pass a DOT physical and drug screen, pass a written exam and lastly, pass the three skills tests that are given to every student testing for their CDL-A. Instructors that do not meet any of the above criteria will not be certified and can not instruct for a SOS Certified school.
Secretary of State Certified schools have on-site testing. This means that state examiners will come out to the school and test students on the three skills test right at the school in the same yard students have been practicing in and on the same routes they’ve been driving. (This familiarity for the students gives them an advantage with their final testing).
State approved curriculums, SOS monitored and audited, experienced and certified instructors and on-site testing are great reasons to enroll in an Illinois Secretary of State Certified School.
Some of the DMVs have priority, (shorter lines), for people holding a CDL. Get in and out in half the time, who doesn’t like that?
2) Police officers that stop you for alleged speeding notice your CDL and it opens a conversation. If the conversation goes well, it provides an opportunity for the police officer to have amnesia as to why he stopped you.
3) When friends are moving you offer to get a semi-truck to help them move in just one trip. You then stand in the trailer and manage all the loading so that nothing gets broke or damaged and the trailer is balanced. You don’t lift a thing and your friends really appreciate all your help.
4) Men are always impressed when someone has a CDL, especially if the CDL holder is a woman. Having a CDL is like a special club that only the coolest can join.
5) With a CDL you can drive Hummer Limousines and the biggest, boldest, Rockin’ RVs made.