Why did I do it?


In the Drivers Seat

I have been writing my Student Trucker Story on “Ask the Trucker” since October 2008.

Although by October I was in a much different situation because I had moved from the “Team Division” into a Dedicated Solo Fleet beyond the ridiculously unsafe situations my company placed me in during my training.

In this new division I saw very quickly how things should be done. The entire manner of my new fleet was more effective because the communication and professionalism was much better. Partially because the contract DEMANDS it or the contract will be lost.

I was also driving solo finally, not required to drive & live with someone from unknown origins.

Like most people, I would have preferred to never look back.  Not get involved, chalk it up to experience.

Something continued to eat at me though.  I saw that by keeping in touch with a few new female students who had been recruited into my company it helped them during their six months of required team driving. I saw that the team phase was still difficult because of the poor recruiting methods employed but by the simple act of directing these females privately to other more professional “in-house” superiors, these female students were able to be successful.

One sure fire weapon was to have them steer clear of the woman in charge of the team program who continually had full knowledge and could have prevented us from encountering certain dangerous situations but took no actions to prevent it.

My Student Trucker Story is for both Men & Women and it is not unique with respect to the volume of inappropriate recruitment methods used in this industry that leave the students who have a true desire to learn lost in the system.

I wanted to be a safe truck driver and learn to do this job the right way.

If I could have located an old veteran trucker who would teach me the correct way to do this job, that is who I would have wanted to learn from. Unfortunately, student truckers are an industry in themselves.

In the name of “Creating Jobs” the Government Funds the Trucking Industry to get people working but this has been capitalized upon and has created a false driver shortage.  As I examined this recruitment strategy called the “Driver Shortage” I read what I had just experienced firsthand. Big Trucking appears to be culling favorable tax incentives by recruiting women and minorities into trucking but with a total disregard for safety.

Some Student Truckers have no business behind the wheel of a big rig. This starts at the recruitment level where loans are made.  In the mortgage industry it could be called “Predatory Lending”.

In the Trucking Industry, there are often people who are unsuitable to be truck drivers but can qualify for financing, government programs such as the “Work Reinvestment Act” or have cash money so they are misled about what the true nature and sacrifice this job entails. Also, they are lied to that jobs actually exist once they sign on the dotted line to becomes Truck Drivers. This is a scam on people desperate for work who are the least able to fight back.

This causes frustration for the Student Trucker who has been lied to and now owes a loan. It also places the trainer in an incredibly unsafe predicament. Trainers for student truckers place his/her life in the hands of these students who arrive at these mega companies with barely enough skill to hold the steering wheel.

The Company, Safety department, Log Department and dispatchers work on the false assumption that the arriving student’s truckers will have basic driving skills and common sense. All too often, this is not the case and it places public safety and all involved at risk.

Many good trainers quit for fear of losing their lives from these unsafe recruitment practices and the hostile training environment that has become a feeding frenzy to recruit potential student truckers. This leaves most students who are qualified with bad trainers, in unsafe or violent situations which is what my personal student trucker story is about on “Ask the Trucker

As the economy tumbled and the string of corporate scandals followed I knew that many people would lose their homes and their jobs and I knew the CDL Mills would go into high gear selling the dream that you can make 50, 60, 70, even 80K in the first year as a trucker!

The TRUTH is that I made $35,000 and that is including bonuses and taking ONLY 18 days of time home. There was lots of downtime but it is NOT home time.

I was made aware about the False Driver Shortage from Allen Smith’s book “Truth about Trucking” and learned it was a method created by the trucking industry for a cheap labor force. I was willing to work cheap to learn to do this job so that was no problem for me. The problem was that I was being set up to fail time and again, that was not okay!

I saw so many students not make it through their first year. Much of it because of the way they were misled. I wondered about some of the recruitment techniques for others with more overhead than myself?  Wouldn’t the wave of displaced workers be unfairly capitalized on as they began to filter into the unemployment offices looking for work? The answer sadly is YES! It is happening now in cities all of this country who are selling a loan to CDL School when there are few jobs. They are using these people for enough time to collect the Government Cheese for themselves.

This is what compelled me to act and write my story, “A Day in the Life of a Lady Trucker

I also became aware of a new marketing strategy to recruit women into trucking careers and felt they should be fully informed before they are expected make decisions that would affect their long-term goals as a CDL driver.

The saddest revelation I uncovered in this experience has been that many women in authority positions will also sell you down the river for recruitment dollars.

I was recruited into a company that requires six-months of “Team Driving” and I personally think it is a useful training tool if a little more effort was put into it to doing it the right way.  The question I came away asking myself about the student trucker experience was this: Is the intention of the trucking industry to have success for the students?  It certainly does not seem like this is the desirable result and that means public safety is the recipient of this poor leadership, it’s simply greed.

Some say I deserve to be mistreated because I am new to the industry of trucking. Certainly we have all experienced this sort of poor training and leadership in many industries BUT should this conduct be permissible on the highway?

I have met many women and men who came to this industry with little knowledge of it. They thought if they worked hard and did not complain they would be successful and have longevity.

I felt it was unfair to trick people who were already suffering from losing their jobs & homes by luring them into the trucking industry totally unprepared for what sacrifices they will truly have to make in order to survive their first year.

Using my Twitter persona @TruckerDesiree I made a conscious effort to not project my personality or life experiences because I wanted potential students to find out who they would be in these situations. That way they could plan ahead if their true intention was to succeed.

I wanted them to realize that it is quite difficult to find anyone in these companies who cares for their success; so it will be up to them.

That is because the sheer volume of recruitment makes individuals get easily lost in the shuffle.

The people I know who were able to be successful in their first year could afford to live on less than minimum wage in order to learn this job and be away from home for months at a time.

The ones who panicked and often didn’t make it were those who had mortgages, marital troubles, small children or custody issues that were difficult to manage from the road. Violent and Unsafe situations a student trucker often encounters also make many drop out and leave in disgust. This is the Industries shame for not correcting the “Status Quo” and raising the Standard of how these people are being treated to haul America’s Freight.

A limited few critics have sought to attack me further by taking a few words I write here and there and fashioning their own twisted story to drive traffic to their own websites riding on my coat tails.

It is important to read all of the comments these few people have written to criticize me and my story because it paints a very real picture of exactly the sort of behavior & conduct that I write about in my story. It validates what I am trying to express in their words and not mine.

Much of the difficulty surviving as a student trucker is due to people who like to ridicule others and do not want to help you with the simplest question.

If you say to these sorts of people, “Can you tell me how to do this properly?” they will laugh in your face, call you names, make fun of you for not already knowing and/or deliberately tell you the wrong way so they can make fun of you more and go write about it or tell all their friends. This is the learning environment for most student truckers so is it any wonder they are not learning anything?

Those were the only kinds of people I met for the first 3 months as a student trucker. This is a serious job where conduct on the highways affects everyone who drives or rides in a motor vehicle. It is unacceptable behavior that should be left at the playground.

Later, with much effort, I met good people in trucking and I got really motivated to find more.

I met a trainer who helped me park better because my female trainer did not care. I spoke to a man I call “Sam” in my story who helped me by phone to not lose my temper with “Lily” when she clearly had no desire to bear the responsibility of becoming a truck driver; she simply wanted to meet guys. Another student trucker who is as young as my son helped me when I went solo with questions I had to manage my time to drive legal. I had helped him back in CDL School because he had never driven a stick and we had little instruction before we were recruited to drive the Winter of 2007.  These are things I feel my $4000.00 Tuition should have covered, No? I had to fight like a maniac and go over the chain of command just to get help. That is WRONG!

Later when I was in distress and wrote an email to Allen Smith, a 30 year veteran of the trucking industry, it was he and his wife Donna that gave me a chance to help others. Their little book “Truth about Trucking” helped me understand some of the communication failure was an industry method to generate turnover, it was not because there was something defective about me.

I understand corporate America very well and how we drive out experience for cheap labor but I must confess I was taken aback that this was occurring on the highways next to passenger cars with families in them.

So I had a window of opportunity to act by writing when the student loan system dried up. The financial crisis put the skids on the “hand over fist” CDL recruiting. But now that the stimulus package has been approved and education funds are again available I see there is a renewed demand for student truckers despite the fact that freight is slow and many trucks with experienced drivers are sitting.

Sadly, some organizations who profess how their mission is to help are not really helping; they are only formulating new recruitment demographics and strategies and selling consulting fees to “revamp” training techniques.

The strange thing is that some of these same organizations did not want to help me or other women when I tried to reach out for help.

The process of CDL Truck recruitment is presented in a number of ways: local newspapers, unemployment offices and advertisements on the back of almost every trailer that you see on the road. They read in essence that jobs are available now with little experience. Isn’t that odd?

Recruitment Offices like I went to in Florida are run by schools.

Some schools genuinely care about the student and their future success, but many do not.

Commissions to recruit have made CDL School’s hire salesmen rather than instructors in many cases. These schools in turn steer students into certain companies where more commissions are available.

Some companies send recruiting representative’s to the schools to encourage students to come to their company.

Why if they just got 100 students the week before, and the week before that? And that’s at just one company!

Students are told they will get home every 2 weeks, they have no idea they will drive 11 hours a day, they don’t understand that they will do a great deal of unpaid work. They are totally unprepared to drive a full schedule from day one. The trainers are expected to drive their entire shift and train the unqualified student. Both are risking their life because each has to sleep while the other one is driving. The trainer’s truck is worked as a “team truck”, therefore it only stops to fuel and switch drivers. This often leads to aggravation and sometimes violence.

Dispatchers are often more like telemarketers working in a “boiler room” so the competition and competitiveness offers little support to the drivers and especially students who are a dime a dozen.

It is this atmosphere that perpetuates the student trucker industry; this is the pressure-cooker these students are expected to learn which is already a stressful job.

I knew I would love trucking because I don’t have a family waiting for me at home. I like to be alone.

I met a married couple who were retired police officers who drive as a team and they too said they love it and don’t mind sitting 3 days with no-load because they have their pensions. They rent a car and go enjoy the local sights.

It’s the lifestyle that many of these people are unprepared for when they are sold a dream and that is wrong because many potential student truckers are already in dire straits. That is why I took every spare minute of my free time to write my story on a PDA 1 letter at a time!

I have not had anyone say I discouraged them from becoming a truck driver but I have had both men and women thank me for helping them make a better plan to be successful as they begin their training.

I have also had many women who have left the industry write and call me and thank me for being honest about what is going on with the student trucker industry because they were made to feel they were “the only ones”, somehow personally responsible for the behavior of some of the violent situations they were placed in by their companies.

My endeavor has raised a number of other questions about this industry and it has connected me to many different projects that I now write about.

I’m no expert; I’m just a girl who wanted to learn to drive a truck.

I write about what I see and what hear from my travels.

I did it My Way – Sex Pistols Playit… go on, I dare ya. …your’e gonna need it.