Newbies - Starting as a Company Driver

Health Insurance | Retirement | Vacation | Bonuses | Passengers | Union

One of the first things you should do when looking at a carrier for employment is to examine their benefit packages. Your basic compensation is important, but the benefit package could end up making all of the difference in whether or not you succeed. There's no point making 32 cents per mile if you have to pay for all of your benefits. However, if you make 25 cents per mile and your health, dental and other benefits are paid for, at least partially, you may be ahead of the pack. This article takes a look at a few items a benefit package may offer.

Health Insurance
Health insurance is always a top concern when looking at benefits. It's important to know not only that the carrier offers health insurance, but also what the specifics of the plan are. Is the deductible something that is reasonable? Will the carrier be paying for a percentage of the premium and what is that percentage? If you have a family, what are the additional charges for spouse/child coverage? Is the coverage expansive enough that you will be able to find a participating doctor in your area? As an OTR driver you will be traveling around the country and you could live anywhere.

Dental and vision insurance are not offered by all carriers. If they are, the same information that applies to health insurance is applicable to dental and vision insurances.

You should be concerned about your future as well as your present. For this reason, retirement and other investment options are vitally important. Most carriers will require you to be employed with them for a given amount of time, typically one to two years, before they will begin contributing to your retirement. Know what that time frame is and become familiar with the vesting schedule. How much control do you have over your retirement funds? What happens if you leave the carrier for another one?

In addition to retirement some carriers, especially the publicly traded ones, have profit sharing or stock options. When you are talking to your recruiter, ask about this. Again, is there a certain amount of time you have to be with the company before you can participate in these programs? How does it work if you leave the carrier?

Vacation is also a key issue. Every one needs a break on occasion. What is the carrier's vacation policy? Typically you will have to be employed for one year before you can take a vacation, but some places to allow you to take some time off after six months. There are probably limits to the amount of vacation you can accrue; know the cutoff point in order to maximize your vacation time. Carriers also have to pay accrued vacation time when you leave their employment, so know how this works. Other things to consider are: How much notice do you need to give before you plan to take your vacation? Is vacation time awarded on seniority or on a first come first serve basis? What happens to your truck when you go on vacation?

Are there other paid days you can have off in addition to vacation? How about personal days, sick days or holidays? It's important to be familiar with all of these.

There may be opportunities for additional compensation at your new carrier that you should be aware of. For example, fuel bonuses and safety bonuses are very popular with carriers. You should do your best to know if they exist and how they work. What about longevity bonuses? How does your pay increase? Is there additional pay for loading, unloading, stops, etc.? If you know the answer to these and how they work, you will be able to maximize your earnings.

Do you have to ride alone? Most carriers have some sort of passenger policy established. Whether you will be limited to your spouse and eligible children, or anyone else varies by carrier. There may also be fees, typically under the guise of insurance, for taking a passenger with you. Or, there may be wintertime restrictions, age restrictions and other restrictions you should be aware of.

Maybe it's not your family or loved one you want to take with you; perhaps it's a pet instead. Not all carriers allow pets. If you want to take a pet, get permission first. Then, make sure you can take the pet you want--some carriers allow dogs, but not cats for example. There are usually fees associated with the pet policy in addition to a damage deposit. Know what is expected right up front.

Finally, is the carrier a Union or a Non-Union carrier? Many of the benefits offered by Union carriers are similar to Non-Union carriers, but they may be more inclusive and you may be eligible for participation sooner. The costs may vary as well. One thing to watch for is the Union's dues. Are you required to join the Union upon employment and, if so, what are the dues and how are they paid (weekly, monthly, annually)?

Being aware of the benefit packages will create an easier avenue for success. You will have an understanding of where your income is going, how you are being protected and where extra income is coming from. With a little planning and a little research, you can make your benefit package work for your future success.