Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I started my career as a truck driver almost 24 years ago. There’s one thing I learned very early that’s as true now as it was then and will be tomorrow—CHANGE HAPPENS. In the last few years, it seems to be picking up the pace. Policymakers change regulations, truck technology advances and real-world, real-time data becomes more available from the highest levels of the industry right down to the drivers.

Times are changing so rapidly that it can be a daunting task to adapt to current changes and look out for what is coming around the corner. Expectations on how we manage change can have a strong influence on how each of us perceives the job we do. But one aspect has been the same since the days of horses and wagons. Do I want to continue working where I’m at, or is it time to move on and look for a better opportunity?

Why go?

Let’s look at what can make a driver decide to leave a company. It’s often believed that it’s all about money, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes it’s because a driver does not feel valued or appreciated. It could be that the driver wants to look into a different aspect of the industry. Perhaps the company they work for doesn’t maintain their equipment —leaving a driver sitting in repair shops instead of on the road. Maybe the company doesn’t offer the benefits the driver needs. There are truly more reasons than could ever be put into a single article—but these are some of the bigger ones I’ve heard drivers speak about.

I tend to think that with driver pay going up rapidly due to the return of manufacturing and tight capacity within the industry the money issue is taking a backseat to the feeling of respect and appreciation. If you aren’t seeing major gains in your pay due to both more miles being available, and a higher rate for driving them, you may need to examine why that is. The miles and pay are out there for those who want to take advantage of these prosperous times. But a driver also needs to take a level of personal responsibility for making the most of their opportunity.

I often overhear drivers talking among themselves about how they aren’t making any money. Many of these same drivers are working for pretty solid, well-respected companies. So why do they feel they don’t get what they deserve in miles and weekly pay? It often becomes apparent that the issue isn’t really with the company, but with the driver. The driver begins “bragging” about things like only wanting to run certain lanes in certain areas of the country. They don’t want to run at night. They won’t drive through snow or other bad weather. They don’t want to drive on weekends. They want to have three sit down meals and two showers every day. I hear these comments as well as many others and just shake my head at how they don’t take responsibility for their own choices and decisions, but will blame the company for their perceived failure to be successful.

These are drivers who should definitely take a more proactive role in finding the success that they are looking for. There are about a half million trucking companies out here. Taking the time to find one that fits your needs can make the difference between a career filled with unending angst, and one where you find long-term fulfillment. The onus is not on every company to adjust how they do business to suit the needs of every individual driver. That business model is never going to happen—yet many seem to think that is how it should be. Find a company that is the right fit for you, and you will find the success and job satisfaction you are looking for.

Feeling respected, valued and appreciated for what you do affects drivers from the dispatch level all the way to the very top of management. The feeling a driver gets from a quick call or a timely message thanking them for doing a great job can go a long way to making a driver feel valued and connected to a company. The lack of the same can have 180-degree different result.

It’s also very important to make sure a driver feels safe in their employment. If you work in an atmosphere where you expect to be ridiculed when asking for help or expressing discomfort about a situation, then you will not feel personally safe in asking for help or guidance. A driver can’t perform at their best if they spend an excessive amount of energy worrying about being punished for a mistake. These kinds of issues can lead a driver to leave a company very quickly.

Why stay?

Now let’s take a look at what makes a driver want to stay with a company. Once again, I’ll start with the money aspect. Money is important. It pays the bills and provides for the family. It helps us build for our future beyond our truck driving years, pay for our children’s higher education and lets us enjoy life in general. The good news is, the money is getting better.

A couple of years ago, driver pay above 50 CPM was the exception and Crete was among a few companies leading the way. Now it is quite common to see driver pay above 50 CPM. In fact, I’ve seen some companies advertising driver pay between 60-70 CPM. But how many miles can the driver expect to run at the level of pay offered? In the current environment, the miles are definitely there for those who want to run them. How hard you want to run and how much you want to make is pretty much up to the individual driver.

With the new pay increases being offered here at Crete, including an easily attainable performance-based bonus, our top mileage pay will be at the 59 CPM level. When you add in the profit sharing, which varies year to year but adds an additional value of approximately 2 CPM, we are receiving a total pay package of up to 61 CPM. Yes, you do have to stay here at least six years to achieve full vesting in the profit sharing program, but your money continues to grow during that time.

Drivers can also move up the pay scale pretty quickly. It takes around five years for a reasonably motivated driver with limited experience to work up from the bottom to the top of the pay scale. As a comparison, my previous company would start me out in the lower 40 CPM range, and it would take 12 ½ years to reach the top of their pay scale—which is still below where drivers start at Crete. Money should not likely be the prime motivator for a driver to leave here.

All that being said, money isn’t always the biggest factor as to why a driver will stay at a company. I’ll use personal experience to put this into perspective. Before finding my home with Crete, I worked for a company that was pretty well-respected at one time. The pay was a bit lower than average but better than where I started. Through hard work, determination and a lot of extra effort on my part, I became well respected within the company and was recognized on sight all the way to upper management levels. They knew I could be depended on and was often tasked to help them with special projects.

But as I started this article by saying, we are a constantly changing industry. Things began to change within the company and not what I felt was for the better. Pay was going backward and drivers, including myself, were treated with less respect and made to feel easily replaceable. Instead of the feeling the of pride I once had at being recognized as one of their best, I began to feel more like an asset to be used and ignored. I eventually decided it was in my professional best interest to look for a new opportunity. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly, nor was it one I have come to regret in any way. It was time to move on.

Here at Crete, I am paid well. Very well in fact. I get to run pretty much as hard as the H.O.S. will allow on a weekly basis. But more importantly to me, I feel safe and secure in my job and have worked to attain a high level of respect within the company. That creates a feeling of fulfillment and job satisfaction that excites me every day when I wake up to see what I can achieve. Even if there was some catastrophic event that affected the industry and Crete Carrier in a negative way I feel we would come together as a company and a family, and support one another through it. That’s something that money cannot buy.

I wouldn’t bail and run at the first sign of economic trouble. I would even take a cut in pay to continue working here if we faced a serious downturn in the economy. It’s because of this family atmosphere at Crete from the very top on down to each driver that makes me feel this way. It’s a far better situation than being with a company that makes you feel like they would cut you loose during tough times. This is a critical reason why I stay with Crete. Pay is important and who doesn’t love great pay? But respect, security, and feeling valued is in my case an equally, if not more important, virtue of the company I choose to work for and stay with.