So some of you know that I have been laid off for over a year, living off unemployment checks and daytrading. Anyway, the government wants me to take a job, ANY job, and last year they cut off my unemployment twice. So I joined their WIA (Workforce Investment Act) program for "Dislocated Workers" so I could get another extension. Anyway, there are no jobs in my state (Missouri), so I don't qualify for any re-education programs unless they have a certain percentage of jobs available. I would move to a different state, but the rest of the USA is screwed too, and I have a huge extended family and network of friends here.
I am quite fluent in the redneck world, having been raised in Missouri, so I decided truck driving would be more appropriate than the other choices (hairdresser, custodian, nursing home staff, etc). So I signed up for free truck driver training. While in school they pay me $350/week, more than I could make at most jobs these days. I always wanted to get my CDL, and driving around the USA sounded more fun than wiping bedsores, or going back to grad school for another useless college degree. At least it gets you out of the house. I could bring a laptop and play ET and daytrade in my time off in the truck.
A few weeks ago I graduated, and was required to go to work. I received two job offers - one from a company in Iowa, and one from a major company in Indiana. Both of these companies sent recruiters to the school, who promised incomes of $40,000 plus, benefits, home every weekend, etc etc. One recruiter told us a nice rags-to-riches story of how he went to his company with $20 in his pocket, and now he makes $60,000 a year as a recruiter.
It is strange to sit in a classroom full of middle-aged white guys who were construction workers, real estate agents, office workers, auto workers, etc, and then be trained by brutal instructors who are used to teaching illiterate unwashed morons in better economic times. Two of my instructors were ex-Marines who carried that experience with them into trucking. It was actually good to have a little discipline in my life - getting up at 5AM, not staying up all night getting drunk and playing ET, doing homework, memorizing the 103-point pre-trip inspection, DOT rules, etc.
I chose the Iowa company (who shall remain nameless), drove my own vehicle to Des Moines, and stayed in their hotel (It's actually very nice). By the end of the first week I had learned so much about the company that I just quit and went back home.
1) No one makes more than $500 a week driving a truck. If they say they do, they are including pre-taxed income, insurance costs, and company reimbursements for things like gasoline, tires, oil changes, tollways (it cost $90 to travel through the Pennsylvania Turnpike in an 18-wheeler). Our instructor showed us a check on the overhead projector as an example in our orientation class on how we would get reimbursed for everything. It showed a driver who had been there for a few years getting a $1000 check, and all his reimbursements were listed on it. The instructor was inadvertently showing us an actual example of how little money truckers make when everything is deducted. From the $1000, $180 were reimbursements, $200 was taxes, $60 was health insurance (the company doesn't actually pay for it lol), and $25 was for life insurance (truckers have very high death rates). There were more items I don't remember. Anyway, the amount he actually got to put in his pocket was $470. That's $470 for a 70-hour workweek.
2) For me, with a family of four, my health insurance would cost me $89 a week on their plan, with a $4000 deductible before their 80/20 payment kicks in. Yes, you read that right. My current private plan costs $250 a month for my family of four and has a $2000 deductible. As a trucker, my health insurance costs would go up 60%, and my out-of-pocket deductible would double. The actuaries expect you to get injured. The orientation guy proudly told us that only four of their drivers died last year while driving. And due to the slow economy, only 74% of their drivers quit last year. lol
2) The DOT (United States Dept of Transportation) does not allow truckers to work more than 70 hours in an 8-day period. But the company gives you one day off every week (you get home on Saturday and leave again on Sunday, supposedly). If you get 34 hours off, you refresh your "Hours of Service". So you can work another 70 hours the next week. Now, the rules say you are not allowed to drive more than 11 hours in a row without a ten hour break, which means you work on a 21-hour day. You drive 11 hours, take a 10 hour break, then drive another 11 hours, then another 10 hour break, and so on until Saturday. Then you go home and sit there like a zombie until the next day. What a life...
3) Trucking is more dangerous than joining the military. Most military guys never actually go into combat, they do paperwork or peel potatoes, etc. Truckers go into a life-or-death situation for fourteen hours a day, every day. We watched so many safety videos I never want to drive again. A lot were about truckers running over cars and killing little kids, which I could not live with. One presentation was about what happens when you slam on the brakes carrying a heavy load - the load can fly through your cab and crush you. There was one picture of a trucker who got decapitated by a load of plate steel he was hauling when he rear-ended another tractor-trailer. His head was in a cardboard box in the road waiting for the coroner.
4) Noob truckers work nights. They team you up with a trainer, who drives during the day, while you sleep in a loud moving vehicle, like a vampire. I quit before this stage, but I heard all about it. The point is not to give you training, but to keep the truck moving continuously at the lowest cost. Noob truckers receive $350/week during this time. The trainer gets his $500/week, plus a bonus for putting up with the noobs. If the noob quits before the first 90 days are up, he has to repay ALL the money he was paid during this time. So, after taxes, you get a check of maybe $300, but if you quit you have to pay back $350 for every week you were being trained. Your trainer is usually someone who entered trucking years ago back when the economy was good, so they are not known for social skills/education. Their only qualification is that they got into trucking before you.
See http://www.thetrucke...ps-himself.html for a story about nasty truck driver trainers!
As I was sitting in my fifth day of orientation, taking more aptitude tests, I got a call for a job interview back home in St. Louis. Crap. What to do? Was it better to just walk out, tell them "I quit", and risk not getting the job back home, and no more unemployment, or should I stay here, and possibly end up quitting trucking a month from now? If I stayed and quit before my first 90 days, I could owe them thousands of dollars and have worked for nothing. But if I went home and did not get the other job, I would be unemployed and unable to get back on unemployment because I quit my new job that they paid for me to get trained for.
I decided to walk out, an hour later that day, after one of the other trainees had a heart attack out on the yard loading tarps in the arctic cold (you can't make this up).
Yesterday I had the second interview for this position, at a veterinary pharmaceutical manufacturer, and I got the job. I start Monday. lol.
5 replies to this topic
Posted 20 February 2010 - 08:58 AM
Posted 20 February 2010 - 09:31 AM
nice story ! thanks for sharing , much love and good luck on the new job .
Posted 20 February 2010 - 09:41 AM
Congrats on the new job. Hope it works out to your liking. It gives the rest of us hope of finding employement now!
Posted 20 February 2010 - 10:37 AM
I wish you the BEST to you and your new job . First the job and then play time ET
Posted 20 February 2010 - 11:11 AM
Good luck on the new job my friend,i hope everything will be as you want
Posted 20 February 2010 - 02:35 PM
Great to see you found a job
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