Luph (luphinus) wrote in trucker_furs,

C.R. England - The First Six Months

First I'd like to say this is just my experience with this company. I have heard from people who started with them more recently that some things have changed. And as my former driving trainer liked to point out, things change weekly; if not daily.

Even tho I already attended a school and got my CDL I was told I would be required to go thru a "Student Refresher Course" that was 17 days long because I hadn't driven professionally in the last 60 days. The course for me was $500 (paid back $50/wk if I got hired). For those getting their CDL it was $2900 with the $50/wk payback, with a $1000 discount if they leased. Lodging is free, but food is not. Had I driven professionally in that time period I would have only had to go thru a 4 day Orientation on company policies and practices (such as using the EOBR and built in messaging system for tracking loads and communicating with the company)

I got a bus ticket from the SF Bay Area to Ontario, California paid for by the company. Unfortunately the $25 taxi ride to the first hotel we were billeted at wasn't free, but was said to be reimbursable.

I was placed into a 2 bed room with another person. Luckily he was nice and we go along. Not so true for other people in the same class as I. And the motel had free wifi and 36 basic cable channels. Nearby was a Walmart and several major fast food places. I was there for the first week since I passed all the classroom tests and criminal background check.

I was moved to a Holiday Inn Express hotel. Free wifi, and free breakfast in the mornings. Same roommate. Luckily I only had 1, some people got stuck with a second on a pull-out couch bed if they were booked into a suite.

The second week was yard training to see what we knew. Unfortunately we who already had CDL's were lumped into the same group as those that didn't. So we had to go thru the "lectures" on how to do stuff. More like how to do stuff the way they want you to do them. The same maneuvers as I learned at the CDL school I attended, and paid $4000 for, were easy; straight-line backing, blind-side/right turn around a cone within a path, and alley-docking. Easy. Luckily it only lasted for 3 days before we were grouped out and put into a truck with a single instructor for road driving. The bunk had been turned into a couch for 4 people. Not too bad, but very boring.

That lasted six days. We had Sat/sun off. On the 14th day we who had passed the road course were given the 4 day orientation class. Some even failed that since they still couldn't get their head around logging, and having to deal with EOBR just threw them for a loop even more. Pitiful honestly.

Phase 1 is defined by the requirements of having 15,000 collective miles traveled and 30 days on the road as a team with a "Trainer". Let me just say that from what I learned later, _Trainers are not all created equal!_

Without getting into specifics that would probably bore you the reader I'll just say I had 2 trainers. The first dropped me off his truck at the Holiday Inn without notice to pick up his wife who had just passed the 17 day trainer and got her CDL. The second was much better and took his job as trainer seriously. He showed me a lot of what it takes to be your own boss on the road. Time management, trip planning, safety in weather, and use of the Qualcomm/EOBR. (there are about 60 forms in there for different occasions/instances. All of which he wasn't required to do. Phase 1 only requires that you get he miles and learn a bit of safety. We're supposed to use 12, he showed me that I really only need 7.

I was on the road for a total of 39 days and 31,000 miles. The extra days were because we were on the east coast at the time and were only able to be moved slowly westward towards where I wanted to take my Phase 2 class.

Phase 2 is defined by two instances. As little as 10 days for those wanting to lease. And 60 days for those wanting to become company drivers.

After passing the class/tests to prove I learned something in Phase 1 I was put with a different trainer. He too took his job seriously and we got along well. So well that I talk to him on Facebook regularly still 3 months later. It was his job to refine my knowledge of driving safety, as well as to teach trip-planning, chaining, more specifics on the qualcomm/EOBR unit, and for those that want to lease; how to survive as a lease/op such as budgeting, taxes, fueling timing in regards to the end of the pay period. As fueling on the last day of the period will put that expense on that weeks’ pay settlement instead of the next. Can turn a $500 check into a $300 one.

After 5 days out I get a message saying I can go for my Phase 2 Exit test. I wanted a better understanding of the business side of things, and I was getting along with my trainer so well that I elected to stay out for a month. (or until I understood things fully) :)

You’re given the option of having a week of home time after 3 weeks in Phase 2. I saved it for the end so I could take 2 weeks off. They tried to talk me out of it, but I held my ground. I used that 2 weeks to pack up my stuff and put it into storage. Thus getting rid of a $700/mo rent payment.

I went lease/op because I felt I had the brains to manage expenses and I wanted the freedom to run solo and decide when and where I take loads. Company drivers don’t get that.

I leased on Nov 4. I got a used truck because it had a 6 month opt-out option (called a demo-lease) on it and only a 20 month lease. Where as the new trucks were 39 month leases with no opt-out option. The other reasons are less practical, but still influenced my decision… I got a 2010 Freightliner Century isntead of a 2011 Freightliner Cascadia because I wanted the jake-break on the floor instead of the button on the steering wheel, and I wanted the top mounting bar for the mirrors so I could add an XM radio high-gain antena as well as higher powered CB antenas later on. The 2010 Century’s come with the Detroit DD15 motor just like the Cascadias, so that wasn’t even a consideration really.

The weekly lease payment was $30 more for the Century, but the insurance was $80 less.

TL;DR version:
Had 17 pointless days of refresher training since I already had my CDL. Then had 2.5 months of time with company“trainers” over-the-road. Then I leased.

Two months into my lease I’m making it, but barely. At least I’m not in the hole. It’s winter and everyone I’ve talked to says that’s a slow time of year. So I dunno if it’s because I’m solo or because of the season. In Nov I was getting 2500-3000 miles/wk. Since Dec I’ve been getting 2000-2300 a week.

My 6mo Demo-lease is up at the end of April. Have to give them 30 days notice if I want out of my lease. I will endevor to endure. And see if things pick up in the next few months. It's working for me since I don't have rent or family to support. And I like being solo because I'm able to make my truck my own. And to bring extras like my guitar and fursuit along for if I visit people or furry cons.

I haven’t encountered any stories with this company shorting miles for those wanting to buy their truck at the end of the lease. But if I last the whole 20 months then I guess I’ll see. I do want to buy my truck, or a new one when this lease is up. Been putting away 1 cent per mile towards the down payment. If I stay with the company and stay accident-free I can get a waiver on a credit check and/or up to $6000 off the down payment or the total cost of the loan. Purchasing the truck you’ve been leasing cuts the cost in half. For this 2010 Century the loan would be $40,000. If it’s still in good condition I’m sure that’d be at least $20,000 off the list price of a used one. But I’ll decide when the time comes and I have all the information. Things can change in 18 months….

A note about C.R. England. They push being a trainer pretty hard. You make more money because they pay trainees very little. Phase 1 gets $64/day. Phase 2 students gets 12 cents a mile, which is about the same as Phase 1 if you devide by 500mi/day. That means the trainer is making the extra off them. Which is about 18-20 cents per mile that the student runs, and then the whole 28-30 cents (after expenses) that the trainer runs. Lease/Op teams get first priority for loads. Lease/Op solos get second priority. Then it goes Company teams, then the 36 or so company solo drivers. So yeah, teams get more miles and more pay. Which is something I'd like to do, but only with someone I'd like to share not just the truck with, but my life with as well. Who knows if I'll ever find that! ...
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