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Old 11-27-2009, 10:54 AM
Location: a Montana state of mind...
271 posts, read 402,908 times
Reputation: 453


I was wondering if any of you on the board are, or have been, truck drivers for a living. If so, how is the job market for that in MT and how did you get started? Am I too old to begin a career in trucking (I'm in my early 40s)? I've been looking into driving schools but some seem kinda like scams. From some online inquiry into some of them, I've seen some very negative comments ranging from the schools don't really prepare you, take your money and/or demand more, and you can't find a job once you "graduate". I've also seen classified ads for truckers that want you to have 3-5 years experience- well how the heck do you get it when nobody will hire you when you're new to the profession? When I was a teenager, I was really "in love" with the big rigs and wanted to drive. That dream kinda fell by the wayside for all these years until now when things aren't working out, I'm sinking, and really need a good job....so considering a career change. Any advice from you guys would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 11-27-2009, 11:28 AM
26 posts, read 67,680 times
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In Montana, at least the eastern part of the state, they are still so eager to gain more truck drivers that Sage Truck Driving School has contract with area community colleges to provide the training. If you are within certain income guidelines and have residency (30 days I believe but not positive) you can have all the expenses except the drug test paid for. You get more information by contacting the job service office. I know for sure that Dawson Community College and Fort Peck Community College as well as the school in Havre offers the training, not sure which other schools do.
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Old 11-28-2009, 07:31 AM
Location: a Montana state of mind...
271 posts, read 402,908 times
Reputation: 453
Thanks for the info emilieboyles~ I went to Sage's website and they seem like a good, legit school. Unfortunately, they have no schools where I am currently located (I'm not in MT right now), but thanks again for that info!
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:46 AM
4,982 posts, read 5,043,213 times
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Here is my post to another thread on how to become a trucker (if you are that desperate), 40 years is kinda young for trucking, most truckers are older than that, if you are healthy it's never late to become trucker (if you are cornered into it), I've seen 79 y.o. driving a truck.

Yup, truck driving is a holding tank for those disposed by other industries (and gfs, wives ), there are all kinds of people, from GEDs to Ph.D.s, driving trucks but they have one thing in common - being disposed and forced into trucking. If you decide trucking is your the only bet, which would be sad, it's one ungrateful, stressful, health killing, below minimum wage (if to count all hours worked) occupation, but if you live out of truck you may save some $ it would take years of pizza delivery to save. Dating options will be really limited with you being a truck driver, in the woman' eyes it's just little bit better than being an unemployed bum, but you'll have little bit more options.
I've been in your shoes when I was 32 when I've lost a job and career, except no mommy, no basement and ex wife taking her rightful share of $avings etc. before waving goodbye. Even today it kinda hurts, if a person who once murmured "I love you" discards you when you are in desperate circumstances, what can you expect from other people and whom in the hell you can trust in this world. But oh well, when I was down to $100 in my pocket and no job in sight I went trucking, so I know what I'm talking about. If you'll be cornered with no escape but trucking reread my post.

It was early 2005 when I hit the road, things changed quite a bit since then. Finding a trucking job is much harder these days (who would think, in 2005 they would put almost any warm body behind a wheel ). Finding a job for an inexperienced guy when tens of thousands of experienced drivers are without jobs seems to be impossible, but it's not impossible. Many companies are in desperate financial circumstances, they either force their experienced (read expensive) drivers to accept lower wages, or they kinda "encourage" them to leave by cutting their miles or fire them under the slightest pretext, at the same time manning the wheels with less (little, no) experience drivers to save money in the short run. Also there are bottom feeding companies who always live off low wages of inexperienced drivers. So finding a job would be possible (not easy).

First thing, you should have good MVR, if yours is ridden with tickets and suspensions, don't waste time. Second, no DUIs, no felonies, no drug arrests, sparkly clean criminal record would be the best. Third, job history, it sucks but most companies want to see a perfect wage slave without major job hopping issues and unemployment stretches (time in college is OK). Trucking is tough on you, so they figured if you job hop in non trucking world you'll run screaming after seeing what trucking is about. Fourth, ability to pass drug test, you should stay clean for quite a while before attempting, fail once and just forget about trucking, companies share that stuff.

If you have all the above, and life forces you into trucking, the best option would be signing up with company driving school (I did with Schneider back in 2005, how else one could afford truck driving school having $100 in his pocket? They did even pay me $500 while I was in school for 3 weeks, they took care of CDL testing (the run their school tractor trailer from Charlotte, NC to Chattanooga, TN for my CDL tests (2 tests, I was that bad) ), then they sent you on the road with a trainer for 3 weeks (my time with a trainer lasted 1 week), then company driving etc. test and then you are on the road. In return you sign a contract saying that if you will work for them less than a year, you must pay $4,500 back, if you work more than a year fee is waved. It took me roughly a month to get my (Schneider) truck, I worked for them for 1.5 years. First year I made almost 40K, so it was not exactly sweat shop wages, but I doubt I had more than 15 days off my first year. Dating with that amount of free time is kinda impossible, but at the time I didn't care about that, divorce just trampled me down.

Saying all of that, Schneider National closed their driving schools in 2008. I think only Swift (Swift Transportation Inc. (http://www.swifttruckingjobs.com/new_schools.php - broken link)) has a company driving schools at this time. But, it's nothing like Schneider school was. It takes much longer to go through school-CDL test - trainer cycle, it looks like you have to pay money upfront (or sign a contract promising to pay in installments) and if you work for them for 26 months (that's what I call indentured servitude) that money are being gradually reimbursed to you. Note, Swift laid off 2000 experienced drivers recently yet they keep school running.

The other options depend on what time you have on your hands. Community college truck driving programs are much cheaper but they take much longer time to complete. Private truck driving schools are more expensive but it takes 4-6 weeks to complete the course, CDL tests included. If you don't have a relative with truck keys ready for ya, don't ever waste time on getting a CDL on your own. Yes, it's possible (not for much longer) but unless you have relatives and gutsy friends in trucking business, that CDL is worthless.

Once you have a CDL on your hands (obtained through community college or private school, don't lose certificate of completion, it's an important document) you must find a job. CDL and no experience would get you a job only in the limited number of companies. More exactly, those companies (Werner, Arrow, to name a couple) would send you on the road with a trainer for 4+ weeks (driving for really cheap), then company test, and once passed, your own truck. You must have a truck driving school behind your CDL to apply with them. A few companies would reimburse you for the cost of a truck driving school (if you'll work long enough). What I wrote is the only way for you to get into trucking (if you don't have relatives and friends in trucking business).

Lastly, you don't really need to know how truck mechanisms work to be a truck driver, rare truck driver does know. Yes, you need to pass "Pre-Trip" portion of your CDL test but you don't really have to be a mechanic to learn that, it's common sense mostly.

Last edited by RememberMee; 11-28-2009 at 10:14 AM..
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Old 11-29-2009, 01:11 AM
Location: Brendansport, Sagitta IV
7,540 posts, read 12,565,820 times
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Seems to me a way to get your feet wet would be to haul grain during harvest -- from what I hear they're always shorthanded and it wouldn't be such a long haul, yet you could get a taste of it and see if it's really what you want to do, or just a pleasant fantasy.
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Old 11-29-2009, 08:30 AM
Location: SW Montana
352 posts, read 1,004,413 times
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Harvest is the way I started, back when I was in college. I knew the bare minimums, and like a lot of young guys I about half lied my way onto a crew the first year. Luckily I didn't pile anything up or hurt someone, but had grown up on a farm with machinery and been driving stuff since a 6 y.o. Big thing about harvest is, like a lot of trucking, very, very long hours. Might be better now, but I bet not a lot.

I agree with what's been said above, would add to it the possibilities of regional/local trucking jobs. Concrete/sand and gravel companies look for people to run dump trucks, mixer trucks, powder trains for hauling cement dust, truck/pup combos for paving and aggregate hauling, etc. Gives a person a chance to learn a bigger outfit without pulling all over the country. Home every night, work's a little seasonal, but the pay is generally pretty fair and you work with a crew so the opportunities to ask questions and get steered out of trouble early on are good.

There are always alternatives to hard goods; beverage companies, delivery services, if you're a little nervy pulling fuel or explosives on a dedicated route (did that, pay is good and hours are long but usually set). Everything pretty much moves by truck, so it's just a matter of finding what avenues you might enjoy.

I see in your profile that you are female; the company I work for gives preference and will offer training because they value the perks they are given as an EOE. We had a gal start on the concrete crew some time ago, she went on to do some mixer time, and got training on other equipment and driving the water truck for the paving crew. Did very well, and got paid to learn.

Good luck!
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Old 11-29-2009, 12:32 PM
Location: a Montana state of mind...
271 posts, read 402,908 times
Reputation: 453
Wow! Lots of info has popped up since my last login. Thanks guys!

RememberMee~ Yep, I'm about that desperate. Got a totally clean driving record, don't do drugs, and have never been in trouble with the law. Dating isn't an issue-I'm married, but right now I'm stuck living where his job is and I've lived down here too many times and for longer than I care to. So long-distance trucking seems like a good out for me until we can afford to move back to MT where my heart is. Thanks for the tips on companies etc. I appreciate it!

Reziac and Rangerider~ Thanks to the both of you for the idea of hauling during harvest. Seems like a good way to gain experience. Rangerider: what kind of company do you work for? I'd like to find something similar here that will train on the job.
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Old 11-29-2009, 04:38 PM
Location: Somewhere in time.
519 posts, read 1,218,821 times
Reputation: 276
Best of luck to you. Hope that you find what you are looking for!!
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