Who’s good to go working for?

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I’m not consciously looking for a new driving job, but I’m always browsing transportation ads, and there seems to be more and more demand for lorry drivers as we pull out of the recession. This being the start of a new year, at least some drivers are thinking about switching jobs and looking for a fresh start. So who’s good out there and who’s hiring?
I’d really like to hear some positive feedback, forget the horror stories this time. With any employer there is always going to be some negative experiences with dispatchers and management, but I’m looking for the good carriers and fleets.
Money is not the sole object. Thank goodness that pay packets overall are starting to move up, but there are lots of other factors to consider when choosing a carrier. Pension, dental plan, personal days, enough work to keep you busy, good equipment, pet and rider friendly vehicles. Do you want to haul short or long haul, work regional or city, flat bed or dry van, and how often do you want to get home? Do you want to work for a big company like FedEX, or would you rather stay with a mom and pop operation? Each situation has its pros and cons.
It all depends on what you want to do. My experience with driver services wasn’t always good, but I know gear jammers who wouldn’t work anywhere else. They like the freedom and variety of the work. I tried to balance a couple while attending university, but they were like jealous girlfriends and got really annoyed if you turned down work, especially if they found out you were working for a rival agency.
With a student loan hanging over me, I went to work on a contract for an agency and stayed too long. The money wasn’t great and the work was back-breaking, but I stuck around because I liked the managers and the co-workers. Somehow I then smartened up and went to work for a variety of private fleets. Starting with Eaton’s until they folded, followed by a few years at a couple of big bakeries, who eventually third partied the work and/or asked us to buy the trucks. I’ve never been interested in being an owner operator, but the guys that bought contracts and trucks with this last outfit have made out pretty good.
I can always tell a good employer by the comments from the drivers. Usually when I interview drivers with good carriers, they will be happy to talk about their job and employers, and go out of their way to tell you why they like them. I ran into an old timer last night (I guess I’m getting long in the tooth, too), who was running Toronto- Winnipeg for Arnold Bros. “Good company?” I asked him. “Yeah they treat me fair. You work for them and they’ll work for you.”
And this is the case with many of the good carriers. Here’s a few that drivers have gushed about over the years (sorry if I left anyone out): Kriska, Mackinnon, TransX, Yanke, Muir’s, Bison, Rosedale, Mackie, LMB, and Challenger.
So what do you look for when shopping for an employer? How do you tell the good from the bad and the mediocre? Let me know your thoughts and try to keep them positive, will ya?

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Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.

With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude.

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  • Good topic, Harry. Erb seems to have a lot of happy drivers as well. But it’s impossible not to miss any. I don’t want to hijack your post, but drivers who have found a good company to work for may want to nominate them for next year’s Best Fleets to Drive For program (nominations are closed for this year):
    It’s a made-in-Canada (but North America-wide) program that recognizes carriers that create a good working environment for drivers. It’s up to drivers to nominate their carriers.

  • Harry,
    There are many great carriers out there and there really is no secret to the success of one over another. Your career goals are the only ones that can help you in your search. Where would you like to be in the future, management, dispatch, driving?If those are your goals a small company may not give you those opportunities. A great company running the east coast won’t help you if your dream is to run California. Here is how I would evaluate it, decide the lifestyle you require for your family and your career. Find a company that has that kind of lane coverage, look at the pay package, benefits, and equipment. When talking with the recruiters stay away from worrying about pay, but ask questions about how they decide on family time or career advancement, how do they handle family emergencies and so on. If you start with your goals you will only search companies that fit your career goals or lifestyle goals.
    Good luck,
    Bruce Outridge
    Transportation Consultant