Regional vs. National carriers
Some carriers run 48 states and Canada. Others restrict their operations to a regional area, or sometimes even to a single state. Local and regional will get you home more often, but national fleets generally pay better, and have more freight.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to a group of companies, the next thing to do is get some information about them. The best way to do this, is go back to the truckstop where you got the magazines, and hang out, looking for drivers from the companies you’re interested in. The best time is in the evening when most drivers are stopping for the night. If you’re afraid of talking to them, don’t be. Most drivers will happily talk your ears off. If a driver says he doesn’t have time to talk, don’t be offended — there are lots of loads with tight schedules. Just thank him, and move on. A good opening line is: “Hi..is (company) any good to work for?” Especially if you tell him you’re looking to get into the industry, most will happily give you advice. It’s helpful to have a small notebook and a pen with you. Many companies pay their drivers a referral bonus for new hires. If you talk to a driver, and his information leads you to a job with that company, then it’s only fair that he collect the bonus, since you’ve taken up his time. You may need to write down his name or truck number, or some other information. Some may give you a card with the required information on it.
Also, make sure you talk to more than one driver for any particular company. One who’s having a bad day might just bitch for an hour, when in actual fact it’s a good company to work for. An important question to ask is “how long have you worked for (company)?” If it’s at least two years, that’s a good sign.
Sitting at the counter with drivers is also informative. Ignore most of the “war stories” and look for demeanor. Are the drivers for a particular company looking happy or unhappy? Letting the counter crowd know you’re interested in driving will get you *lots* of advice — some of it might even be good. You’ll also hear lots of war stories. Best thing to find out is which companies are good, and which are bad.
By now you should have narrowed your list down to a handful of companies. Now’s the time to start making phone calls. When you talk to the recruiter, it helps to have a list of questions to ask.
Different companies have different deals for training. Some give it to you free (not many of those left anymore, if any). Most of them will give you the training in exchange for a commitment to work for them for a specified time after successful completion of the training. A year is the usual amount of time. If they want a longer commitment, view that with suspicion. Most of them will credit a portion of the training cost per week. Some don’t give you the weekly credit, so if you quit before your time is up, you’ll have to come up with the full amount.
There are also some that require you to sign an agreement for the full amount of the training, and then give you an amount per week (usual) or per month (less common), and you’ll have to make payments.
Some will provide a room and meals during training, and some require you to provide your own.