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Posts Tagged ‘CRST Van Expedited’


crst truck rolloverWhat do you think?
 Would it be okay with you if people just learning to drive, that held only a learners permit and who had little to zero highway experience, could legally operate an 80,000 lb. vehicle for work in a 24/7 operation while their “on-the-job” instructor slept and was not sitting in the front passenger seat to observe and teach them?

That is a pretty scary thought, isn’t it?

Unknowingly to many, this is exactly what is happening within the trucking industry TODAY.

Does it sound safe to you?  Whether the learners permit holder is a teenager, a newly licensed adult or a commercial learner permit (CLP) holder, a written test is all that an individual is required to pass in order to receive any kind of learner’s permit. It is only a permit to learn the driving portion requirements for the designated license with an instructor; it does not signify the ability or aptitude to drive. While a finals skills test is the ticket for a CLP holder to become a commercial driver’s license (CDL) holder, it does not mean that the individual actually knows how to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) moving real paying freight loads on the open highway.

Background on CDL training for CMV drivers:
For over 20 years, many within the trucking industry have been seriously concerned about the entry level training standards for CMV drivers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which is the regulating body over the trucking industry has also recognized that there is a lack proper training standards.

In 2014 the FMCSA announced that there was need to establish truck driver training standards since few requirements were in existence. They established the Entry-Level Driver Training Advisory Committee (ELDTAC) to conduct a negotiated rulemaking on entry-level training for drivers of commercial motor vehicles.

See more at: “About the Entry-Level Driver Training Committee
The ELDTAC committee is still working on a rule to IMPROVE training standards.   Ironically, CRST Van Expedited of Cedar Rapids, Iowa has requested an exemption from the FMCSA in regards to the very same existing training procedures which are in question by the FMCSA that are making our national highways less safe rather the improving safety. While it may seem obvious that the FMCSA would soundly reject such a request, the truth is that they have granted another carrier in the same class as CRST this type of exemption despite broad public opposition. The exemption request letter submitted by CRST Van Expedited of Cedar Rapids, Iowa to the FMCSA asks to grant permission so that CRST commercial learner permit CLP holders may operate a tractor-trailer while another CDL Holder is in the truck but not in the passenger seat. In the letter that CRST Van Expedited wrote to the FMCSA, they stated that the CLP holder will have completed a skills test which would entitle the student to return to their home state to receive their actual hard copy commercial driver’s license CDL but they claim that it is a financial hardship for them to do this, and that they are losing “control” of the student. Therefore, CRST is requesting a safety exemption. CRST goes on to request that the FMCSA allow them to let the CLP holder be able to drive on the learner permit for the duration that it is valid, which can be several months.

Please understand something: CRST Van Expedited operates a “team driving” business model. This means that they have established customers who want their freight moved 24/7 without stopping for sleep breaks. That means that the entire operation is based on freight moving fast. Student truckers work from day one at CRST to make a profit for CRST. These students often choose CRST because they cannot afford to pay for truck driving school on their own and they want to learn to drive a truck. They agree to repay their tuition in exchange to learn on the job. The debt they incur to CRST is about $6500.00 which is comprised of food, lodging and instruction to become a qualified truck driver.

The internet is littered with complaints about CRST Van Expedited training practices, they are easy to find, just Google “CRST Complaints” and start reading.

This morning I spoke to a female trucker who is still in her 1st year of trucking. She has finally been able to get out of the clutches of CRST Van Expedited. I told her about the exemption request and she said none of it made sense to her because she came to them with her hard copy CDL in hand which meant she had only driven around the block a few times at her CDL School in Florida. She said the testers at the state facility included a former CRST employee who was really easy to pass students. She said there were people being sent on public transportation (Greyhound) back and forth before they were even hired for things like not having a background clearance by the company before arriving at their facility, so why is CRST claiming a “financial hardship” to send their graduate CLP student’s home on public transportation in the exemption letter to the FMCSA?

Here are a few other things I learned from this student:

There is no pay during CDL training while they are a CLP holder. The student is charged for lodging and food in addition to the tuition.  The students are told the tuition repayment will be $40 a check but in reality it is $80.00 a week since they are paid twice a week. The first few weeks the students have no check at all so they are pretty broke and their personal bills are going unpaid. In her case it was about 5 weeks before she got her first check.

So how much is the pay? She said it was about .24 CPM range but that amount was split so she got about .12 cents per mile. If you are not a trucker you may not understand the way many truck drivers are paid which is only when the wheels are turning and mostly not every single mile at that! Here is an example: her first week she did about 2400 miles with her trainer so let’s do some simple math:  2400 miles x .13 CPM = $312.00 gross pay. Let’s say her taxes were about $18.15 and take out her $80.00 tuition payment:   $312.00 – $18.15 – $80.00 = $213.85 net pay after going 5 weeks of no pay and letting her bills get behind.

She said that her and her trainer did a lot of sitting since her trainer was pretty unmotivated, an owner operator that got paid by the load. Still, she had been away from home all of this time so technically she was at work 24/7. If they had been running team miles she could log legally 70 hours and so could her trainer.

When I asked her how much time her trainer sat in the passenger seat supervising her, she said none. She said that when she got on her trainer’s truck she drove from day one at night until after midnight unsupervised which was technically against company policy. Is this an isolated incident? Not according to the vast driver complaints available on the internet from past CRST students.

This particular student ended up quitting CRST after a number of unsafe situations occurred. The problem though was that she wanted to keep driving someplace else and no one would hire her because she left CRST before her debt to them was repaid. Remember, they bill each student like her $6500.00 for their “training”, food and lodging.

For months she tried to get hired at other carriers but when the prospective employers heard the letters “CRST” they said they could not hire her. She had been blacklisted.

It took threatening litigation for some of the things that were done to her to get CRST to release her from her contract to them. She wants to drive and work, not sue the carrier, nor does she want to be blacklisted by the trucking industry.

When I applied what I learned from her to the letter CRST wrote to the FMCSA for an exemption to safety I saw that CRST wants to control more students who quit on them before they have repaid their debt rather than address their poor training and they want the federal government to help them do that.

The “Skills Test” that CRST claims makes the CLP holder qualified to drive on is only a test after just a few weeks of driving the truck at a fenced in yard and going around the block a few times. It is not open road 18 wheeler driving experience with passenger cars whipping and weaving around you and cutting you off.

Of course CRST is entitled to get their tuition investment back from the students they are sponsoring but if those students are not really getting the instruction they thought they were paying for and they are scared to death by the situations they are being placed in they probably do not feel they should have to pay for an education they did not get.

Let’s all understand that a written test is all that is required to issue a commercial learner permit CLP. The FMCSA itself confirms that a few weeks of instruction does not constitute qualified truck driving for the open highway.

Student/Trainees overwhelmingly report that they are pushed to drive “team” right after passing a their “skills test” but some say that there was methodical coaching given to them during the test and that they really didn’t understand what they were doing to the extent that they could operate the truck alone.

The exemption request letter from CRST to the FMCSA asks to legally sanction CLP holders who have passed such a “Skills Test” and who have no open road driving experience to operate the truck with another Commercial Driver’s License CDL holder that is not required to be in the passenger seat. The exemption request letter does not specify if the CDL holder would be a trainer. Since CRST is known to allow two students to do team-driving I think this is important to clarify.

CRST claims in the letter to be seeking the exemption to safety due to financial hardship for transporting CLP holder’s home on a Greyhound bus to get their hard copy CDL.  They go on to claim that the exemption will be a “…equivalent level of safety that is greater or equal to the level of safety provided under the current regulations…” though they offer no data, studies, safety statistics or financial documentation to support such remarks.

One part of the letter mentions a “…severe shortage of qualified and well-trained drivers…”, though the CRST business model is not reliant on qualified and well-trained drivers to move their freight. Instead, they rely on new entrants who are a low wage, exploitable workforce with very little truck driving skill that are indebted to them in exchange for an education to become qualified drivers. They are also not producing a significant number of well-trained qualified drivers from their program.

Another concern I see in the exemption request is that CRST asks the FMCSA to allow the CLP holders to drive in a team driving situation with another “CDL holder” for potentially as long as the CLP is valid which can be several months.

This could create an obstacle for the student later if they decide to quit. These are students who have been away from home already for several weeks with no pay. They are entitled to some home time. The argument CRST presents in the exemption letter about delays at state DMV facilities for students to get appointments makes no sense to whether the “CDL Holder” should be in the passenger seat supervising or in the sleeper not supervising them. This has no impact on how fast someone can get an appointment at a State DMV.

What this exemption can do is help CRST control student truckers who have a tuition debt to them. It can prevent students who are being trained in an unsafe manner from quitting and going to work someplace who will train them the right way to be a qualified driver. It can make them more un-hirable elsewhere since they really do not have their CDL yet. It encourages student truckers to be unsafe because they have no other choice and it increases CRST Van Expedited profits.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is supposed to be overhauling the entry-level driver training system to improve safety standards, therefore they must not grant such exemptions that degrade and compromise safety for certain carriers like CR England who they have already granted this exemption despite broad opposition and CRST Van Expedited who both operate a “Team Driving” business model using student trucker labor.

If you believe the FMCSA should NOT grant this exemption to CRST Van Expedited, please sign this petition on “We the People” and do not forget to validate your signature by checking your email after you sign and clicking the correct link that will validate your email address. If you did not get a validation email please check your spam folder for it.

Thanks for Reading.

Desiree Wood

President

REAL Women in Trucking, Inc.

You can read the actual letter CRST Van Expedited wrote to the FMCSA to request this exemption with this link:

Request Letter for Exemption to Safety by CRST Van Expedited to FMCSA

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happy-sad-faces

The following post includes excerpts of a graded class project I wrote for a non-profit fundraising class on the questionable ethics of non-profits. I received an “A”.

The topic was an analysis of the WIT organization and I will be publishing more such graded paper excerpts in the coming weeks.

I hope you will take the time to consider my observations.

The Women in Trucking Organization (WIT), is designated as a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit.

Mission: Women In Trucking was established to encourage the employment of women in the trucking industry, promote their accomplishments and minimize obstacles faced by women working in the trucking industry.

The organization website states they are an active group that finds opportunities to promote the accomplishments of women in the industry. While the organization states the mission is to represent Women, membership is open to both Men and Women who currently work in the industry or those seeking to enter it.

The WIT website states that supporting the organization helps them to provide needed resources to encourage Women to become employed in the trucking industry, and that membership dues will help motivate” the transportation industry to look at any obstacles that might prevent Women and Men from entering and remaining in trucking. Some of the items mentioned that WIT has determined to be obstacles are restroom facilities at loading docks and ergonomically designed truck cabs.
In a recent article the President of the WIT organization stated that she would not come between drivers and carriers. (Jakl, 2013) (more…)

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In June I received a call from some veteran Women Truck Drivers who had grown weary of waiting for any significant issues to be addressed by the non-profit organization called “Women in Trucking”.  They had grown increasingly upset that the credentials for some of the Women representing the organization were less than accurate.

For five years they, like myself have seen nothing but Facebook and Twitter posts thanking sponsor after sponsor for joining up and providing funds to the organization without anything solid to list as achievements for change or to foster an atmosphere of inclusion.

Yes, President Ellen Voie’s salary has more than doubled which has apparently afforded her the luxury to buy herself a plane and throw a public tattoo party for less than a dozen others but what about the female truck drivers who thought she going to lead the charge to have them recognized with respect?

While offensive WIT carrier member sponsors like CRST Van Expedited continue to have allegations about them on their unethical lease programs, the massive sex harassment case, plus a million dollar judgment against them for former female trainee, Karen Shank they still have not implemented any intelligent system for students in distress to find assistance from a qualified person.

CR England, who I wrote about abandoning a female student two years ago became a Women in Trucking member after I made public the incident on the http://www.REALWomeninTrucking.com blog and “Real Women Truckers” Facebook page with the help of other veteran drivers. Ellen Voie did not reach out to the abandoned female who was then living in her car in a Wal-Mart parking lot following her CR England training experience but she did reach out to CR England for sponsor dollars. Have they changed their ways? Not according to a recent trainee who was cornered by her phase two male trainer and stated that she never heard of Women in Trucking before I asked her how the incident was handled on a recent Women Truckers Network Weekly phone conference.

This morning I met another recent CR England female student who alleges that she was asked to run hazardous materials when she did not hold a hazardous materials endorsement, she has been driving less than 6 months. She also told me that she had been shut down for running bad equipment by the DOT but told by CR England to roll anyways. She is now at another carrier and was able to get out of her lease contract by threatening breach of contract due to the poor equipment. Still, she said she has lost her car because of the poor pay and other conditions she experienced since entering truck driver training. She told me that she picked up a recruiting magazine and saw a female trainer she recognized in a CR England advertisement that she actually had as a trainer. This female student claimed the female trainer spoke more about her boyfriend woes than providing good training to her. We talked about how important good female mentors are and why the Women Truckers Network is so important for Women entering truck driving.

No appropriate sexual misconduct training is being offered at training carriers although volumes of free material has been sent directly to these carriers and to Ellen Voie personally over the past 5 years. Much of the material from working female drivers employed at training carriers who have the most high profile issues with sexual misconduct and are sponsor/members of Women in Trucking.

So what became of all the free material? The only thing produced that we can identify has been an ultra-secret anti-harassment document that is only available to the highest paying sponsor members. Free material was offered and now it is only for sale?

Personal safety of women entering truck driver training should not be for sale to the highest bidder, it should be free to all who want the information. Ellen Voie was provided free material for the good of all drivers and to protect Women entering truck driver training so that they could be safe and successful. It was given in good faith that Ellen Voie would do the ethical thing but she has failed to deliver.

Truck carriers have a requirement for Smith System classes and recertification for hazardous materials knowledge but in the year 2012, the year of the “War on Women” political football, a sexual harassment policy and teaching session as to what that means exactly is still non-existent although different genders are supposed to live and work together in a box the size of an elevator.

Ellen Voie made in clear in her Question and Answer on the Real Women in Trucking blog that WIT is NOT a driver organization, yet she has persisted to assemble Women drivers in her annual photograph to use for promotional materials. Each year, her personal income increases even though the number of Women truck drivers has decreased at her event. Is it because some have begun to realize they are being tricked to stand for a photograph that permits Ellen to use their image to garner more income for herself without doing anything to help the female driving population?

I attended the 1st Salute to Women behind the Wheel and I brought 2 other Women with me. One who was a former CDL holder but had no valid driving credential at the time of the event. The other Woman was never a CDL holder. Both were offered the chance to attend the Salute to the Woman behind the Wheel.

One was given an award for having over a million safe miles, though no one checked her credentials to validate her claim or if she even had a valid driving credential at all. The second Woman caused a disagreement in the Women in Trucking booth because she had previously made derogatory comments about Ellen Voie’s credentials to represent Women in any capacity.  While I agreed with the observation, it was true that this Woman was not an actual truck driver. (Ellen Voie has never been a truck driver but got a CDL and wrote a book about it, she has yet to pull an actual load) I clarified that the second Woman was not ever a CDL holder at the event but the second Woman was determined to be recognized despite her cloudy credentials.

The truth though was that the credentials for many of the Women, including those in top honored spots have been in question since the first event and subsequent events. Miles have not verified, credentials were not checked, nor safety records. This information comes from my own personal experience and private conversations with the three Women in the front row of the photo widely used to promote Ellen Voie’s non-profit organization. There is no way to tell how many of the Women are actual CDL holders or if they are spouses of truck drivers because no accurate credential records were kept yet the photo was supposed to be for the Guiness world record which would invalidate it if there had been enough Women standing for the photo.

These Women stood for the photo because they thought they were making history and now many feel duped. I spoke to the people a Guinness World records recently and I am convinced no adequate procedure was followed at any Salute to the Women behind the Wheel event to appropriately validate the credentials to break a record to assemble the most female truck drivers.

The three Women in the front row of the photo from the 1st salute confirmed this to me from their experience with the event. Two are founders of the “Women Truckers Network” Weekly free phone conference events and the other is Ingrid Brown.

Women in Trucking has become a “buy a logo” non-profit organization and sadly this negates the integrity of any carrier who is associated with one of the carriers that are recently engaged in sexual harassment litigation that include rape and assault allegations in training.

Ellen Voie has persisted to seek Department of Justice Violence against Women grants for more funding to her organization when it is her sponsors that commit the most reported violence against women entering truck driver training.

Madeleine Albright Quote: “There’s a place in Hell reserved for women who don’t help other women.”

My question: What about Women who use other Women?

 

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Women entering trucking are at higher risk of meeting obstacles that hinder their success because this male dominated environment is lacking in accountability.

Unethical behavior and misconduct is generally targeted at those least able to fight back, this is the obstacle I have seen most frequently for truck driver students, especially Women.

Sweeping things under the rug like sexual misconduct in truck driver training carriers has created a big lump in the rug. The CRST Sex Harassment case is an example of the ignored lump that eventually created a hazard so great many were harmed. While some claims may have been frivolous, some valid claims are sadly caught in the mess.

The failure falls upon the carrier who did little to properly train their trainers and the industry who looks the other way.

Truck driver training does a poor job to prepare student candidates to become qualified drivers. For females, the highly unusual expectation of the living arrangements can be dangerous.

With the recent rash of reports on the EEOC V. CRST Sex harassment case I was at first stunned that it took until 2012 for the Associated Press to widely cover this massive case, many of the incidents occurred in 2005. It has been sparsely reported on by mainstream media and mostly ignored by trucking media, including OOIDA , trucking radio programs on SIRIUS, publications widely distributed at truck stops where truck drivers might read about this case and trade publications that might make the industry more accountable by creating pressure from other sectors for carriers like CRST to clean up their act.

The recent barrage of reports note that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had filed a “friend of the court brief”. If you are not aware, the head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the former head of the American Trucking Association, if that does not SCREAM of politics I do not know what more one would need.

Perhaps, this story is all over because some other industry with as much clout as big trucking wants to rattle some cages? Maybe they could care less about Women or the EEOC case. Maybe it’s merely a power struggle between big rail and big trucking OR big labor and labor crushing, I don’t know but it is an issue that should be addressed.

Just 3 days before the AP broke this story, Ellen Voie the self-appointed corporate apologist for big trucking thanked CRST for renewing their corporate membership yet I received a letter from a CRST female student in distress just a few months back. I was also advised that remarks in court documents about an internal CRST crisis line which was somehow the remedy for their “issues” was no longer being used. (more…)

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