Knowledge is power in the trucking which is why it’s important to know the ins and outs of the carrier you drive for – especially when it comes to policies and procedures. Knowing the information that appears in the fine print will make you a better driver and a more successful one.
Only your Class A semi-trailer experience counts as driving experience. Local jobs will not count and neither will any driver training. Your driving experience also has to be recent, typically within the last six months. If you’ve taken a break from driving altogether or have been driving locally, a company will look at both your overall verifiable OTR experience and your time away from the truck. If your time out of the truck is significant or longer than the time you spent in the truck, a carrier might ask you to take a road test, spend some time riding along with a driver trainer or go through retraining. It’s not an insult to you or your skills. The company needs to make sure you know some of the updated regulations and, of course, company policy.
The time you spend training is an investment in yourself. Your first year will be tough and you’ll spend a lot of time away from home. Once you finish training, however, you’ll have more of a routine. Remember that your training does not count as driving experience. If you leave your driver training early to go to a different company, you’ll have to start over from scratch. Don’t waste your time.
3. Home Time
In general, companies have you stay out a minimum of two weeks and want at least seven days’ notice for scheduled home time. Saturdays and Sundays don’t always count, so request your home time as early as possible. Don’t wait until the weekend to do it, because it might not get approved in time. Also, learn whether or not you forfeit requested home time if you accept a last-minute load.
4. Breakdowns, Layovers and 34-Hour Resets
Know how everything works and when you get paid when it comes to breakdowns, layovers and 34-hour resets. Breakdowns and layovers are going to happen. You often have a 24-hour window of being broken down and you, as the driver, are responsible for putting the request in each 24-hour period. If the breakdown occurs near your home terminal, it is considered home time and you will not receive breakdown pay. Typically, 34-hour resets are optional and unpaid. Remember that if you’re eligible for a stay-out bonus but take a 34-hour reset, you will not receive that bonus. Manage your hours correctly and know what’s going on.
5. Pay and Mileage Guarantees
A pay or mileage guarantee gives you consistent pay you can rely on, but you have to be available for dispatch. You can generally control when you take your 34-hour reset, so make sure you plan strategically around your miles. If you do get on guaranteed pay or miles, you should also learn when the payroll cutoff is. In some cases, payroll could be on a Wednesday or Thursday – not on Friday.
A carrier is going to ask you basic questions about your driving history and whether you’ve had any citations or accidents. They’re asking about anything that would be in your MVR, not just about incidents while driving a tractor trailer. The company you’re applying with is going to find out whatever is on your MVR. It’s important to be honest about your driving history.
7. Sign-on Bonuses
Learn about the payout structure and what’s required of you. Chances are that the bonus is paid out after a certain amount of time, such as quarterly or monthly. Don’t do anything to forfeit your sign-on bonus. If you start as a solo driver and you decide you’d like to run team instead, it’s possible that the sign-on bonus can go away. You’ve already invested that time, so make sure you wait until you’ve gotten paid.
8. Dedicated and Regional Routes
Dedicated and regional accounts mean different things to each carrier. Sometimes a dedicated account means a certain region, other times it’s the same pick up and delivery locations or the same customers. A company may tell you they have regional accounts, but you need to find out exactly which regional routes they offer. Ask specific questions and you’ll get more specific answers.
This list is a compilation of some general policies and procedures based on the frequent questions we’ve had from drivers, but they may be different at your company. It’s important that you check with your carrier or fleet manager so you know for sure that you understand the exact policies and procures for your company.
If you’re currently looking for a job, let PDA help you understand the fine print as well as cut through the noise from all the carriers and recruiters. We have lots of companies looking for good drivers and we can certainly help you find what you’re looking for. As always, you can reach out to us through our website, social media or by giving us a call.