Greener pastures
With the industry turnover rates so high, it is very likely that changing jobs/leases will happen more than once in your trucking career. Happiness with one's work situation is something everyone strives to attain. Not everyone finds it, but everyone deserves it.

by Michael Howe

There might be 50 ways to leave your lover, but terminating your lease or leaving your trucking job doesn't give you that many choices. How then, should one go about saying "I'm outta here?" Leave with dignity or burn those bridges? The best advice is to do it professionally and correctly.

First, and foremost, make certain that a change is what is really desired. Leaving your motor carrier is a decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Why exactly is changing a job the right decision? Are the problems or issues being experienced at this company similar to past companies as well? All in all, trucking companies aren't too different from one another. Most experience the same growing pains, and the same issues as other companies. If the problems are similar to ones you've encountered in the past, in all likelihood those problems will surface again.

Is the temptation to leave based on a unique set of problems? If so, has everything possible been done to work them out? Problem solving is never an easy task, but it may be worth it. However, if the problem can't be worked out, and you are truly incompatible with the way the motor carrier does business, or if you are not making the money you deserve - it may be time to leave.

In order to leave a job, it is necessary to be prepared. First, one should take the time to discuss the decision with loved ones. Making a significant change in your life is stressful enough, but without the support of loved ones this stress can become even greater. Make sure they understand why it is important to change jobs, and why this next job will be better. Once this support is gained, the rest becomes much easier.

Perhaps one of the most important things to do when leaving a job or terminating your lease is to make certain you have a plan for the future. Take the time to interview several companies, and don't just take the first opportunity that is offered. Job or lease-hopping shouldn't be a goal, so try to find a company that appears to meet the needs that were lacking at the previous company. Find a company that will give you a career, not just a job.

Furthermore, another important aspect of leaving a motor carrier is providing the company with ample notice. Ideally, try to provide at least two weeks notice if possible, but never less than one week's notice. In addition, all efforts should be made to provide the company with written notice, not just verbal. Giving notice doesn't mean you won't be asked by some companies to pack your bags and hit the road immediately, but it looks good on your part if you notify them. Remember to be very open and honest about the reasons for leaving. This shows professionalism. Although you may be sorely tempted to say "take this job and shove it," parting ways like this has never helped anybody get another good position.

Giving notice is one of the most difficult things to do, especially if there is a significant relationship established. However, this is just a part of life. Remember, business is business. It is now time to make certain other details are taken care of. If the experience with the company has been positive for the most part, why not try to have them write a letter of recommendation? Not too many drivers or leased owner-operators do this, but there are several reasons why it is important. First, it is a ringing endorsement. Second, it may serve as verification if that company were to ever go out of business. And of course, it's a good idea to know what kind of reference the company will give you.

Another important task to accomplish before leaving a company is to get as much documentation as they will allow. For example, perhaps there was an accident during the time spent at the company. It may be possible to attain copies of the accident records. Or, perhaps a safety award or merit letter was given; this documentation may be valuable in the future. Not all documentation is readily shared by companies, so don't be insistent or rude in trying to get copies of the documentation. It certainly can't hurt to ask in a professional manner. Just remember, the more documentation one can acquire, the better off he/she will be in the end.

Arguably, the most important thing to do when leaving a job is to return any and all company equipment. Never abandon equipment. Abandoning equipment is absolutely the worst thing one can do when leaving a driving job or terminating a lease. Find out from the company where they want their equipment returned. Perhaps the trailer is theirs. Return it. Perhaps the tractor is a truck leased by the driver. Return it. Are any of the load locks, kingpin locks, padlocks, chains, or anything else theirs? If so, please do return them. This is the last thing the company will remember, whether or not the equipment was returned. No matter how well one performed his or her job, if the equipment isn't returned, expect a black mark on the employment history. Do the right thing.

Some words of caution about leaving jobs - the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, although it may seem so. There are plenty of advertisements out there that do nothing but preach how green the grass is. It is important, though, not to get so caught up in thinking that job-hopping damages your career. Job-hopping usually results in some negative consequences. First, the DAC report that nearly all recruiters look at now will become longer. If the report becomes too long, the recruiter may not even take time to process the application. Next, if there is a lack of job stability, there will be few former motor carriers that will be willing to provide positive references. Sometimes a reference can mean a difference in pay levels or available opportunities.

Happiness with one's work situation is something everyone strives to attain. Not everyone finds it, but everyone deserves it. Remember, most motor carriers in the trucking industry are quite similar in nature, so don't expect things to be much different around the next corner. However, if the current motor carrier is not providing enough satisfaction, happiness or money - then it is probably time to leave. Especially if every effort has been made to remedy the situation.

Remember, your last day with this motor carrier is just as important to your career as the first day there. Take the time to leave the right way - be professional, be honest, and be prepared.

Mike Howe is a freelance writer working and living in Lusk, WY.