Trying to Re-Invent the Wheel

I haven’t posted a story in a couple weeks so I thought I would share an open letter to my boss I wrote today. It seems as if the owners of the company I currently work for have decided to make some changes. After 9 years on the road, it seems as if things should be different than they are today. The days of having good work ethic, obeying the law and sticking to one job have flown out the window! Employers are just as prone to lie or do whatever it takes to retain drivers in this industry. I guess you get what you pay for or maybe I should say you reap what you sow. Is it any wonder why companies hire prospective employees and wonder why they never show up to work or worse, they destroy equipment or abandon it all together. When a company lies enough to it’s employees, why are they so surprised when they can’t hire anymore drivers? I think more of us drivers who are honest and drive legally should take a stand and tell our employers that they should cherish the good workers they have. They should reward their good drivers with benefits, better pay and decent home time. My company decided it should allow a few venture capitalists to invest in our company and bring some new equipment to the table. The companies attitude is that buying or leasing new equipment should “shut us up” for a little while! I got news for you, I can go to any company and drive brand new equipment. It has to do with treating the driver as a person, treating the driver as a human being, treating the driver as you would treat a member of your family. The company I currently work for has about two weeks to clean up it’s act or I start looking for a company that does show it’s drivers a little respect. Read on:

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Dear Jack,

When I first started driving about 9 years ago, my starting wage per mile was about .29 cents per mile. I started with a large, national company as most of us do. With fuel and safety bonuses, I made about .31 cents per mile. It wasn’t a bad wage for a rookie driver. I drove a two year old truck with less than 200,000 miles on the odometer. Life was good, but the hours were long and I never got to see my family. I averaged about 70 hours per week that I could actually log, but as you know, most of us drivers realistically put in more than 70 hours per week. With a cost of living adjustment of 3% per year, I could expect to be making at least .39 cents per mile if I were still with that initial company. That does not include bonuses, raises and other benefits given throughout the year. I expect that I would be making at least .45 cents per mile with a nine year safe driving record and only one ticket.

I have been trying to talk to you for the past couple of weeks in response to the notice that our company was being invested in by a few investors who planned on placing new equipment in our grasp on or about June 2nd. The new equipment is a great addition to this company and is desperately needed. Everyday I literally have stuff break and fall off my truck it is so bad! The cracked windshield, the broken hood latch, rust and other noticeable problems are only on the surface of many serious problems with the equipment.

My biggest problem isn’t with the equipment, really, it’s the fact that I only see doom for this company at the current pace it is setting. I don’t think Steve understands the complexities of a company such as this. Over coffee yesterday, I don’t think we were able to talk about the things we really wanted to talk about. The only other bit of news was that you were considering leasing on our trucks with PSI! Does leasing our trucks to PSI really make sense to you? Honestly, what are they going to pay you on a per mile basis? My best guess is that you are going to get a maximum of .90 cents per mile at best. Does that mean that the drivers will still get their commissions of 30-32%? At .90 cents per mile, which is an industry high, the drivers would be making about .30 cents per mile! MSL does not offer medical insurance, they do not have a 401K or retirement plan, they do not pay for mandatory DOT physicals, as far as I know, we don’t even get a paid vacation or any type of sick/family time.

It is an industry known fact, if a small trucking company can broker it’s own loads, they can add an average of .40 to .50 cents per mile to the bottom line of their operation. Companies who I have worked for who were in this same situation, include Central Oregon Trucking and Cross Creek. Those two companies specifically have a team of load planners or agents who continually look for loads to keep their trucks busy. The excess freight that they get on a constant basis gets brokered to other trucking companies. They have websites that list their available loads to outside carriers. Why does it make sense for Steve to lease his trucks to another carrier for a lesser rate? MSL even carries it’s own MCC number for brokering loads!! Any employee of his company can act as a broker agent under his license. I would like to offer my services and expertise in the industry as a broker or agent for MSL. I even offered to attend a week long training class to get myself up to speed on the current process of brokering and finding loads.

I came to MSL because I had a vision of a company who was on the move and had a great contract with a major home improvement company. The work is easy, the pay is good and I am home on a regular basis. But why on earth would I want to go back on the road and drive OTR? I was finished with OTR in 2002 and don’t plan on going back at any time. The reason I took the job at MSL was the weekly work and being home on the weekends. I took the occasional run to California and enjoyed it at times. That reminds me of another point. Remember my first load to California? Remember my second load to California around Christmas? First, MSL could not find loads out of California and I had a refer trailer! The largest agricultural market in the world and MSL could not find a load! Then at Christmas, whoever set up the load out of California really had no idea of how to set up a multiple stop load. After picking up the load, I was harassed and yelled at by Steve all the way to Oregon, it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I understand that MSL cut it’s office staff hours to 30 hours per week? So in addition to making payroll, ensuring that we are in compliance with DOT requirements and general bookkeeping / HR duties, Steve wants to try to find loads for an additional 25 trucks, not including the trucks Chicago and Atlanta are getting? MSL is a disaster waiting to happen!

Why can’t Steve address his drivers? I don’t think I have ever as much as received a compliment, letter, memo or anything else for that matter since I have worked for his company. Since I really have nothing to loose working for or not working for MSL, I don’t have much respect for a company owner who treats his employees like dirt. I wouldn’t have the interest to recommend any professional driver to work for this company either. Like I have said to you in the past, I have way too much experience, safe driving and a good work ethic to fool around with a company such as MSL.

Just to let you know, I will be looking for other employment after the first of June if the promise of new equipment and other “perks” don’t materialize. I just can’t stake my reputation, driving record and work ethic with a company such as MSL unless drastic measures are taken. I feel the equipment is extremely unsafe to be road worthy and I have notified my family to take whatever measures are necessary if I get hurt or worse by operating MSL’s equipment. The State of Washington has done a full “A” inspection and deemed it safe for their standards, so I will continue to drive my current equipment.

In summary Jack, I feel that I can be an asset to you locally in Seattle. With my extensive knowledge of dispatching, trucking and list of business contacts that can provide us with great loads in the Northwest, I feel I would help your bottom line and at least get our local office off to a running start. I just really hate being this way Jack, you are a good person and a good person to work for. I hope that we can come to positive terms in the weeks to come. I think I speak for all the drivers in Seattle. I have talked to everyone at some point and time and have come to the conclusion that none of us are ready to hit the road as OTR drivers. When I got off the road in 2002, I made it a point to stay at home and spend more time with my family and friends. I am not about to change that now and not any time soon.

Thanks!

Jim

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