As small carriers, we often watch job applicants leave our offices confused as to why, despite seemingly acceptable credentials, they were not hired as drivers. Maybe I can shed some light.
First, newly-licensed applicants need to gain at least two years’ experience with a large carrier before a small carrier can hire you. Our insurance providers will not allow us to hire anyone with less than two years’ experience, and even that often involves a premium increase.
Even if you prove yourself to be an exceptional talent, as some new licencees are, we can’t hire you. This has been the case for many years, so if a driving school tells you otherwise, they are not simply confused or mistaken, they lied.
Small carriers are locked in to a very firm set of insurance provider-dictated recruitment rules. In some cases, a driver we may not accept can apply at a large carrier and be accepted almost immediately, creating obvious confusion for newcomers to the industry.
Large carriers may be able hire new trainees, recent immigrants, or those with shaky driving histories. This is because the large carrier will often be self-insured, meaning the lion’s share of their insurance coverage is for liabilities. Deductibles on vehicle damage are so astronomically high, claims are rare.
How did a driver I couldn’t hire become acceptable just because the truck has a different name on the door? This can be very frustrating for the small carrier, as well as the driver, as there are many drivers who are quite qualified, but lacking in experience.
Imagine finding the ideal driver for your empty truck, yet being unable to hire them due to insurance guidelines that only apply to small carriers. My equipment is an important asset, not just a unit number, and nobody operates it unless I have complete faith in their ability.
Older, experienced drivers and owner/operators need to bear in mind the primary difference between dealing with small and large carriers.
At the large carrier, you will deal with someone whose title is recruiter. The recruiter’s duty is to recruit, not to retain. They are often under pressure to hire new drivers. As a result, if your ability or attitude is slightly lacking, but your abstract and resume look alright, you will likely be hired.
Apply at the small carrier, and your recruiter likely wears the following hats: human resources, payroll, safety, dispatch, maintenance, senior driver, and/or owner. As such, this person has a huge financial and personal stake in the company. If you are the most qualified, hardest worker to ever walk through the door, but your attitude is horrible, you will remain unemployed.
I once interviewed a man in his 50s, who boasted a 35-year safety record, who arrived with a briefcase because it was the only container he had large enough to contain all his awards. His impression was that I would obviously hire him immediately, and use him as the benchmark for all future hires.
I’ve been on road tests that disappointed me, but until that day I had never been on one that had me fearing for my own safety. It seems his clean driving record didn’t reflect his driving ability, just incredibly good luck, something he was painfully unaware of.
An angry phone call from him a week later confirmed that no other small carrier would hire him either, but he didn’t remain unemployed. Some desperate fool hired him.
As a side note, you’ll notice that carriers of all sizes are guilty of certain recruiting sins. One ad that caught my eye before the recession was from an Ontario carrier that advertised flatbed company driver positions paying “up to” 73 cents per mile. A company insider explained this number to me. They took the highest grossing driver’s T4 earnings, and divided it by the miles he travelled. That number, unfortunately, included safety bonus, uniform allowance, holiday pay, overdimensional bonuses, layovers, tarp fees and LTL bonuses.
That’s hardly a true mileage rate, is it? As usual, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s usually not true. The real base rate in this case was 42 cents per mile. The recruiter obviously had exceptional math skills. This, unfortunately, is a common practice.
The biggest downfall to these issues, is the lasting impression it leaves with younger drivers. After being rejected by small carriers, they will gravitate to a large carrier. After gaining experience, they could try employment at both small and large carriers, weighing the merits of each. Unfortunately, we are all creatures of habit, and your first job in a new industry will likely set an unbreakable pattern.
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