Trucking Companies Are Holding New Drivers Hostage

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Image: Jim Slosiarek (AP)

There’s still a truck driver shortage. The American Trucking Association estimates that some 80,000 drivers are needed, and it’s only getting worse with the one-two punch of global supply issues and Americans wanting same or next day delivery for their e-commerce purchases. There may be more to the shortage though, as The New York Times reports many would-be drivers are discovering a dark side to driver training.

Many trucking companies entice potential drivers by offering them paid training, with the stipulation that upon completion of the training, they’ll be fully licensed and able to drive for their companies. Big paychecks and lots of time off! But it’s not that simple. The fine print for those training courses hides a dirty clause: if you part ways with the company at any time, you’ll be on the hook for the price of the training — no matter the circumstance. Like Wayne Orr, who broke his foot, went on medical leave and came back to find he lost his job with CRST Expedited.

Wayne Orr didn’t yet know that his foot was broken as he made his way back from Texas to his home in South Carolina, but he did know that he couldn’t continue pressing the pedals on the tractor-trailer he had been driving.

A new driver only a few months past his training period, he had to sit out for six weeks without pay. Then, when his foot finally healed, he discovered that his company, CRST Expedited, had fired him.

So, the next option might be to find work with another company. Orr attempted to drive with Schnieder but found that CRST had threatened Schnieder with a lawsuit if they hired him. He contacted CRST to see what was going on only to find that he had “to pay them $6,500 or I could never drive for another company, either,” he says.

Orr isn’t alone. Drivers across the country are finding out if they leave their training courses before completion, they’re being pursued by collection agencies for the price of the training. Some find themselves blocked from getting jobs with other trucking companies with their former employers doing things like refusing to release records or licenses.

Others who stick out the training find that they spend little time actually driving or inside of a truck, like one woman who trained with C.R. England in Illinois:

They do not teach you how to drive a truck, they just teach you how to pass the test, and that’s very dangerous.

Nothing is as it seems once training is completed. Pay is lower, time off is near nonexistent. One driver had four days off in four months of driving. Fortunately, someone is attempting to do something, at least as far as the payback for the training is concerned. Legislation is being drafted by the Uniform Law Commission that would require trucking companies to prorate the costs of the training (especially considering it was recently found that many driver training programs don’t cost as much as trucking companies claim.)

You can read the entire article from The New York Times here.

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