What Questions Do You Ask?

The other day I received an e-mail asking me, “In today’s world, when every trucking company is looking to hire more drivers, what should I look for in a trucking company when looking for a new place to call home?” I get this question a lot and below is an outline of my typical response.

Ask the Carrier What Type of Work They Do?

Questions like: how far do you run and what areas of the country (Canada and/or USA) do you usually service? Will I be live loaded or is the work drop-n-hook? If it is live-loaded, am I being paid for the wait time? Speaking of wait time, what is the company policy? And does the company hire only employees, or does it use Driver Inc. or both?

If you are in the Driver Inc. group, just remember that you don’t have the same rights as employees who are not part of Driver Inc. And back to the question of how far you run, the answer you receive may tell you how long you will be out on a trip. Be sure to ask about trip length, how many days is the usual trip?

What Type Of Equipment Do You USE?

For some drivers, the type of tractor is important. Some drivers like to drive straight-nose Pete’s and others want a Volvo. So, this might be important to you. I was never a lover of the big Peterbilt trucks. Remember I’m a safety guy. This type of truck has a big blind spot in the front of the truck and in tight spaces, it has its disadvantages.

Perhaps more important is the type of trailer. Are you going to be pulling a dry van, a refer, flat deck or drop deck? Are they open deck or covered? There are so many types of trailers, each with their own needs and uses. If you don’t want to be tarping cargo then an open deck may not be for you.

Where Do You Go?

Why would you work for a carrier that only goes to the east coast if you don’t like going to the east coast? The same would be said for going anywhere. If you don’t want to cross the Rockies, why would you agree to work for a carrier that only services Vancouver? It is important to specify the questions based on the things that matter to you.

What Is Your CVOR Or National Safety Code Score? What Is Your SMS Score (if the company goes to the States)?

This is a question that most recruiters have never heard. Very few drivers ask about a company’s safety scores. These scores affect every driver in the fleet. For example, every carrier in the States has an Inspection Selection System (ISS) score. This score greatly affects which trucks get selected for inspections at the scales. A similar system works in all the Provinces in Canada. I would much rather work for a carrier that gets inspected far less than its competitors. And it is not just because I don’t like being inspected, although that is very true. It is because it takes time away from driving. It takes many inspections to create a good score so that the company does not get inspected frequently. So, good scores indicate that the carrier has a good maintenance practice and keeps their trucks in great shape.

And Now the Question That Most Ask First – When It Should Be Asked Last. What About Pay?

Although pay is certainly one of the most important questions, you should leave it to the end. If the answers received to the above questions are satisfactory to you, now you need to know about the pay and if there are benefits available. Why should pay or your remuneration be the last question? Because most companies are paying just about the same, it’s the other questions that will first let you know if the company is a good fit for you. But when you do start talking about pay, be sure to also ask what they pay for. Do they pay waiting time? When do they pay waiting times?  Are they paying incentive pay? Meaning, that they are likely paying by the mile or per trip. If they are paying this way (and there is nothing wrong with this), how do you make more? Do they pay overtime after 60 hours? Do they have a benefits program and if so, what are the details and what is included?

With so many trucking companies looking for drivers, you the driver applicant have the advantage. Ask the questions that are important to you and to your family. It does you no good to make great money which
will support your family, only to find that the company is not a good fit for you and causing you unhappiness. It is just not worth the money!

Be safe. 

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.