While not directly “fracking job” related, my experience with gaining employment with Schneider National might give some readers ideas on how to move forward in gaining a commercial driver’s license. Having a CDL will help anyone get employment almost immediately upon arriving at any fracking hotspot.
For a very brief period, I worked as a truck driver for Schneider National (a.k.a. The Big Orange, The Pumpkin, SNI, Schneid, etc.) The period was brief, not because I didn’t like Schneider; but because I signed up to be a “part-time” driver for Schneider. Unfortunately, even a part-time schedule just wouldn’t mesh well with my personal life. That’s my issue and not Schneider’s, by the way. When all is said and done, Schneider is one of the better outfits in the trucking industry. However, like any company, it has its pros and cons. Because SNI is the largest trucking company in the U.S., and the fact that so many newer truck drivers consider driving for Schneider (sooner or later), I thought I would share some of my own thoughts on working for the “Pumpkin”. This article focuses on Schneider’s orientation.
Schneider National Orientation: Well Organized, Professional, and Thorough
I attended the orientation for experienced drivers in Fontana, California. This is a one-week long classroom-based orientation designed for drivers who have been in the business for a little while. I had three years of Class “A” driving experience in the five-year period before I was hired. I hadn’t driven a tractor-trailer for about a year before Schneider hired me. If you have experience but feel you might be rusty, then go to a trucking school and get a “refresher” session if you think it might help.
You Should be Physically Fit
I’ve experienced my share of D.O.T. sanctioned physicals. Schneider’s orientation physical is probably the most thorough physical I’ve been through. By the way, I’m in pretty good shape – not overweight. If you are in any way out of shape, you should try to improve yourself somewhat before going to a Schneider orientation. At least one gentleman in our class of fifteen was excused because he didn’t cut it physically. He was quite overweight, and probably had high blood pressure. I don’t want to scare anyone here: I’m just reporting my own experience, and you should be prepared. You’ll be expected to perform several types of physical tests successfully. If you are a healthy middle-aged or younger guy or gal, you’ll do fine. If you have a weight problem, blood pressure issues, or other health concerns; talk to a Schneider recruiter about these before attending an orientation. These shouldn’t stop you from attending an orientation, but know what you are getting into before you commit to going out of your way to a Schneider orientation.
Not Every Experienced Driver Passes the Driving Test
The driving test came, for us, on about our second or third day of orientation. As with the physical, one candidate was dismissed because he didn’t perform well on his driving test. This was not good for the driver involved, but is good if you’re an experienced driver who checks out. You can be confident that Schneider doesn’t just take anyone with a valid CDL! New drivers don’t have to worry about a driving test – at least early on in the orientation. Experienced drivers like myself probably get a more critical eye from the instructors. They know that new drivers are going to be with driver/trainers for a number of weeks, even after their orientation is complete. If you’re a new driver, put driving tests out of your mind at the start of your orientation.
Your Logbook Must be Legal
Safety is a huge part of the Schneider National culture. This is a good thing, of course; but it also means that Schneider is very much “by the book” where logging, hours of service, securing your load, and running at legal speeds are concerned. Schneider trucks are governed. I believe that some trucks are set at about 62 mph; but the majority are set at around 59 mph. Don’t quote me on these figures! Pumpkin drivers have a reputation for driving some of the slowest rigs on the road. If this bothers you, it could be an issue (especially if you like to run out West). On the other hand, it’s a sure bet that most highway patrol officers won’t even blink in your direction. The Schneider obsession (and it is an obsession) with keeping log books up to date and legal now means that just about all Schneider trucks have electronic logs. This is good if you hate to do manual logging, and bad if you like to, uh, “cheat”. You won’t be able to “slide” a few extra miles under your belt if you are up against your 14 hours of on-duty status, or about to hit your 11 hours of driving status. Most of the
Truck Driving Simulator, Meals, and Other Fun Stuff
A big trucking company like Schneider has the resources to purchase a couple of truck simulators, which are (or were when I attended) available at the Fontana location. We were given a half-day to check out the simulators, which are kind of fun – but no substitute for the “real thing”, in my opinion. The Schneider folks probably feel the same way, which is why you don’t spend too much time with them. Schneider gave us meal vouchers for lunch during each day of our orientation. Also, while it isn’t a huge amount, experienced drivers are paid for their orientation time – I believe it works out to the equivalent of around $8 per hour at the time I write this. Getting paid as opposed to having to pay for training is nice. Our instructors were professional, even-tempered, and had good humor; all easy-going folks (or I suppose they wouldn’t be instructors). Also, every instructor that I came across is a former or current Schneider driver with many years of experience – yes, some of them still run freight when needed. In addition, Schneider uses computer-based-training and testing at their orientation facilities. You will spend part of your orientation time sitting at a computer and watching videos, then taking tests based on what you watch and read. I should note here that while I no longer work for Schneider, I still use some of the procedures that I learned at the SNI orientation I attended.
Good luck, wherever your commercial driving career takes you! Having a CDL that is free of tickets and points means you will always be employed if you want to be. Schneider dispatchers won’t “push” you to play games with D.O.T. Hours of Service, so you’ll remain ticket free with the Big Orange if you play by the rules.