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Trucking: Stages of Development "learning to be a trucker"

Sometimes people outside of trucking buy a truck or trucks, put someone in them which probably is a good driver, and expect to run a profitable business. It pains me to see this terrible mistake. These are the kind of people you find desperately seeking answers to questions that will only trigger a thousand other questions; why? They thought they could learn how to start a trucking business and make money without learning to be a trucker.
They jump right into the business and begin to realize that trucking is just that, it really is trucking: which means; You have been in trucking long enough to form a relationship with the business, the equipment, and all the things it takes to keep it running smooth. You also have to be a student of the business and develop for yourself a firm foundation of the responsibilities of the job:
There is no replacing the experience factor when learning to be a trucker; even if you throw someone in the truck that is a “good” truck driver. There are several stages in trucking each of which must be developed before trying to reach the other, The following article gives specific details of the stages in trucking and what you should be able to do at each stage before trying to reach the other

Allow me to emphasize with you that time “alone” in trucking does not get you through these stages. In about September 2008 I met a guy one night at the Steel City TruckStop in Indiana, he couldn’t start his truck. I jump out the truck and first thing I said is, “are the cables tight”? We checked them and they were all corroded. I went to the truck and got out my battery tester; turns out two of his three batteries were dead and the third one was on its last leg.
Now get this, the guy said he’d been trucking some 45 years, he said he just hired on with the company a little while ago, I said but yeah, you know by now you can’t trust your maintenance to someone else, you were suppose to check it. This not only speak to a lack of emphasis on an individuals part, but from what I could see many Truckers PTI maintenance consist of checking the gauges upon start up.

What I want to emphasize is: you have to develop yourself in trucking by actually going through certain stages of development which you can not ignore or just blow through, and to the extent you just casually meander through them it will come back to visit you sooner or later.

Jokingly I’ve said, I was still learning how to hit the dock when I start making $4.00 a mile, but don’t let that fool ya’ I spent some serious time learning the ropes of how to be a trucker, before I ever ventured out into other stages of trucking.

So, if you’re reading this, and if you’ve been praying about whether you should take the next step in trucking and you haven’t completed the stage you’re in; consider this an answer to your prayer.

The Stages of business development

The Stages of business development have to do with where you are in your individual development in your line of work or business. In trucking there are several stages you’ll need to develop yourself in before you should even think about moving to the next step.

The educational stage:

is commercial driving test preparation, introduction to the truck, maintenance, handling the truck. You wouldn’t expect to jump behind the wheel of an airplane and fly it, just because you drove a car before. I don’t know why some people think you can do the same with learning to drive a truck, but that impression is still alive and well.  

The company driver stage

There’s just too much to learn at this stage to try to skip it: equipment, paper work, log book , driving, maintenance, utilities e.g. fuel finder, map, mapping, mapping programs etc. I think depending on your learning pace, on average you need to stay at the company level at least a year. You may hear of a few people having done it before then but you never hear of all the trouble they had as a result. I made a lot of mistakes on the company’s dime that would have completely put me out of business if I had to learn them while trying to run my own business.

Here’s just one really important example, so I hope you listen and listen well. My company gave me directions to the consignee; although I was directed a longer way around to get there, I decided to take a shorter way to get to my consignee, in Harvey, IL which landed me up on Governors Highway,

I figure it was a highway, that was good enough for me, a cop pulled me into a substation and weighed me, even though by all other state laws of the 48 no actually 47 other states by Illinois law I was overweight, the fine was $1165.00 which had to be paid immediately or else. I didn’t need to ask what the or else was but part of it included impounding the equipment.
The company paid it, and I was on my way with a big fat “paid” ticket in hand. I won’t tell you the rest of the story, but if I were an owner operator running my own Authority at that time, that day most likely, “I would have went to jail and would have had to pay a bail bondsman and gotten the equipment and the load towed$$$ and impounded and had to pay to get it out of impound and probably would have had to fight to get paid all my money for expedited load, and would have lost time and money for having to go to court a month later, and would have had to pay the ticket anyway.

All of that happened about the time of my one year anniversary in trucking. Now, you want skip the company driver stage before becoming an owner operator? Just be my guest!!! Word to the wise should be sufficient.

 Lease on stage

 Here’s where you learn the responsibilities of truck ownership, like what in the world is bobtail and physical liability insurance and so forth. When I realized I could get my own loads, I didn’t think much of it, and the first load I got on my own I was scared to death, I mean I was terrified, even though the broker had ripped me wide open and so completely on the rate, I was just hoping I said everything right and hoping he’d forgive me if I didn’t. Obviously I had a very long way to go, also at this stage I learned the business side of trucking on an introductory level, I also began to negotiate on my loads. I learned a lot about positioning the truck, and things like service areas, back-hauls, and dead zones.

Still more importantly I learned about pricing, truck expense and income verses the level of responsibility, state laws and permits, especially Oregon and New Mexico, IFTA, and KYU, and unfortunately,

I learn to get tickets, since now the idea of a governor was blown to pieces. Probably more than all those things I learn to negotiate my rate, and I determined to be the best of the best. This is where I started getting a feel for how to use market knowledge to get what I needed instead of what others thought I needed. I’ll deal with more on that later. Leasing is the first stage to learning how to become an owner operator.

Authority stage:

The decision to get my own Authority came as somewhat a surprise and carried its fair share of a mystery to me; I had left Panther thinking the grass was greener on the other side over at Tri-State, it wasn’t, I think maybe I could have stayed but I was already use to freely finding my own loads, at least outside the service area and sometimes inside all depending on the situation but there was, let’s just say, a different kind of environment there for that.

So it got me to thinking, maybe God is putting out a challenge for me, and as you can tell I’m always up to it if the Lord “opens the door” so I check the bank and they said “No!”, I was some what relieved. I’d just stick it out and who know what the future would hold.

But I remembered I’d been with the Credit Union for a long time, so I thought Why not try, turns out, they help me get the loan for the trailer. So the door was open and three weeks later I was on my own Authority and the Lord bless me to learn so much I can’t list it all here, so I decided to write a book, Demand Strategies For The High Income Earning Trucker

The Stage of Multiplication:

Naturally this is the stage were you take what you’ve learned in the stages before and put it all together, and multiply it many time over. If you have a good solid business model and have made yourself available to the uses of technology and a ready knowledge of the market, you can help yourself and others achieve their dreams in trucking.

Nothing wrong with that becoming all you can and should be, but if you are not willing to get a computer or to apply yourself to a working knowledge of the market, you are only multiplying failure and while it may last for a time it’s not the way to go until you can make the very best use of the stage you’re in.

 I suppose that in view of the fact that you either can’t or shouldn’t try to truck forever; this is the stage to strive for. As in all things you will not secure an income that happens with or with out you, until you build something that will allow you to incorporate others into the successful working model you’ve built. If you can do this without doing it for the money and stave off the greed factor that can come along with it, you will help and bless a lot of people. Unfortunately many are caught up by the dollars and over time their people are not people, they are a means to an end, There's still many good companies out there, but you'll find that in any one of the stages “money” in and of itself can not and must not be more important when your people are being well taken care of money should only be a measure of how well you are taking care of them.


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