Driving for Smaller Trucking Companies

“Why does it take so long to apply and get a job at many of the smaller companies today? I want to work for the company located just down the street. I went to school with the owner’s children and they were good friends. So, I want to work for their parents. Why is it so hard to work for a small trucking company today”?

I was asked this question recently and I can answer the question since most of my clients are as described above—small, local trucking company with roots in their community. These trucking companies are primarily getting applicants by word of mouth and because of their reputation. So why is it so damn hard, in this market, for these same small, trucking companies to hire experienced, truck drivers and what can a driver do about it? (Newly licenced drivers are a different question and I have written about that in previous editions of OTR).

Most drivers understand that it is not usually the trucking company that is the roadblock to being hired. In many cases, it is the trucking company’s insurance provider that is the obstacle. The insurance company demands that the trucking company prove the applicant’s experience. This is where the driver applicant needs to be of assistance; when you are applying for a new position you need to bring all the necessary information you have with you because the insurance company will want to have your driving experience verified.

What is it that the insurance companies want? They want and need proof of your experience. So, you, the applicant, need to provide the name of the insurance company of your current trucking company and the names of the insurance companies of any past trucking companies you have driven for. How do you know who the insurance company is? Their name is on the Pink Slip or the insurance documents. Since you are in the truck every day, make sure the proof of insurance or Pink Slip is in the cab which is part of your vehicle inspection. Write down and keep a record of the insurance company’s name. If you are with a trucking company for more than a year, your name should appear on the driver roster that the trucking company submits annually to the insurance provider. But here is where the problem often arises; fleets only provide the list of current drivers at insurance renewal time. If you have not been working at that trucking company for a year, your name may not be recorded on the list and with the insurance company. For many drivers who don’t stay for at least a year, the insurance company doesn’t even know that the driver was working for the trucking company. Now, when proof of experience is being asked for, (many of the insurance companies are now requesting the proof of experience from other insurance providers), nobody knows that you were driving for that company. This is a real problem because the insurance companies have been defrauded many times by drivers with no experience, who are providing fake experience letters and subsequently crashing. The insurance companies have been forced to insist that the experience letters be provided from a trustworthy source, which in most cases is a fellow insurance company.

Can you see the problem here? If you are not on the driver’s roster, which is recorded just once a year at your current insurance provider, then you may have a difficult time proving your experience to a smaller carrier. The large trucking company doesn’t have the same issue. That is largely because the bigger company has a much larger, insurance deductible so that they can hire almost whomever they want — big advantage to the big guys.

How can you as a driver applicant help yourself to get hired? You NEED to know the insurance company that insures the fleet that you are currently with, and also past insurance companies. Try to stay longer than a year with a trucking company; in that way, your name should appear on the driver roster given to the insurance company. Lastly, and the hardest, is to be patient. It may take you some time to be hired on to work for a smaller trucking organization. You must plan for that extra time. It is not the trucking company’s fault that this is going to take time. I’m hearing that it is taking weeks for insurance companies to approve applicant drivers. And of course, when proof of experience can’t be verified, then in most cases, the applicant is denied for approval. I know hearing this might hurt, and of course you, the applicant driver, can’t understand why because you know that you have the necessary driving experience. But can it be proved?

The second part of the question, “What can you the driver do about it?” As I wrote previously, know who your insurer is, and who they were in the past and stay with a company whenever possible for at least a year.

This is not an ideal situation that we are in currently. It is taking way too long to get driver approvals and it is the insurance companies’ fault. They don’t seem to be cooperating with each other. But unfortunately, I don’t see this changing anytime soon. We are in a ‘Hard Insurance Market’. This means that a trucking company doesn’t have a lot of choices when it comes to getting an insurance provider that is easier to work with. So, don’t expect changes anytime soon.

Chris Harris
Top Dawg, Safety Dawg Inc.
@safety_dawg (twitter)

About Chris Harris, Safety Dawg

Chris has been involved in trucking most of his adult life. He drove truck for and worked in various office/management positions for a major truck company. His last position of 5 years in the safety department where he was responsible for the recruiting of Owner Operators and their compliance. He joined a trucking insurance company in 2001 and has been in the insurance side of things until making Safety Dawg a full-time endeavour.