By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/24/2018
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #TruckDriving #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver Page Views: 791
An entry from Alternate Roads: Paul S. Cilwa's Truck Drivin' Journal

Saturday, August 30, 2003 - Thursday, September 4, 2003

I took my vacation. While it was a lot of fun, all I actually did was hang around the house, have "slumber parties" with my grandson, cook, and clean up some of my old LPs to CD quality. I didn't write a word! But the experience made me realize, more than ever, that I don't like being away from home, literally, all the time.

Friday, September 5, 2003

Yancy had suggested I give him a call today, to see if I really needed to return to work on Sunday. Schneider vacations always run from Saturday to Sunday. I did call, and was told there was no freight—I could report for work on Monday. "There's no point in you sitting in your truck all day, waiting for an assignment that never comes in." I had to agree, but I definitely had mixed feelings. On the one hand, another day of staying home was definitely welcome. On the other, I needed the money a Sunday assignment might have brought.

Saturday, September 6, 2003

My cell phone beeped early, before I was ready to get up; but I answered it anyway. "H'llo?" I mumbled.

"Paul!" I recognized the voice of one of the guys I had gone through training with, though I hadn't spoken with him in several weeks. "Guess who just got fired from Schneider?"

"Who?" I asked, eager for gossip. I hoped it was someone completely incompetent, like Debbie, my dispatcher.

"Me!" the voice replied.

I was stunned. "You? What happened?"

"Well, you know I've been working non-stop," he explained. I knew that; my friend had given up his apartment when he started working for Schneider and literally lived out of his truck. "Well, I finally got a few days at home and some friends invited me to a party. There was a little pot there…" It seems that my friend had been caught by a random pee test. The results had just come in, and he had been nailed.

But are these pee tests really random? A year had gone by before I had one. And my friend had apparently had his about the same time as mine. Now, as it happens, I don't smoke pot—never have done it successfully, even though I tried a couple times—so the pee test had nothing to reveal. But it had caught my friend.

On a hunch, I called a couple other people from my class with whom I keep in touch, and who haven't yet quit. It turned out, all of them had had drug tests within two weeks of their one-year anniversary with Schneider.

Moreover, one of them had just been fired for "irregularities on his log". It turned out these were the very irregularities I had been encouraged to make by dozens of seasoned truck drivers! (Namely, logging by the mile instead of the hours.)

This got me thinking. I had discovered months before that Schneider's real business seemed to be training, rather than moving freight. Oh, sure, they move freight; but that's incidental to the training. They get about $5,000 from the government per student that remains for a year. And Schneider is supposed to keep the drivers they train. But I had seen that very few Schneider drivers have worked for Schneider for more than a year. This shouldn't be a surprise, given that Schneider trains 24 students a week, 50 weeks a year, in each of something like ten or more training facilities across the country. This comes to millions of dollars a year from training alone. Obviously, all those new drivers can only work for Schneider if most of last years' drivers quit or are fired.

Now, after working the year that validates me as a "successful" product of this training program, and since I didn't quit on my own right away, would Schneider try to get rid of me?

The pee tests might be a first (and easy) stab in this direction. By not giving us drug tests for a year, wouldn't anyone so tempted think that there were no drug tests in reality, and be more likely to fall off the wagon? If so, Schneider might well be able to get rid of more drivers after a year with one drug test, than they'd be able to with a monthly drug test. Besides, they wouldn't want to find out a less-than-one-year driver was using; they'd have to fire him before they got the five grand from Uncle Sam.

And then there were the log books. I was very careful to fill my log book out correctly and truthfully, but I had wondered why I never had gotten a comment from the folks I send my log pages to. I knew the books got checked; when I was riding with my first training engineer, Nelson, he received a message on the QualComm complaining that he had run over-hours on his log.

Come to think of it, I used to see Nelson all the time too—but hadn't seem him in about six months. Since I was his third student, and he had started training after just six months of driving…well, doing the math, I realized I hadn't seen him once since his one-year anniversary.

Was he gone, too?

And would I be next?