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12 Stupid Things Truck Drivers Can Do to Ruin Their Driving Career

October 16, 2020

Wayne May

Written by Wayne May

Wayne May is the Safety and Recruiting Manager at Freight X. He has over 30 years of transportation experience and specializes in recruiting and safety.

12 Things Truck Drivers Do to Ruin Their Driving Career

After many, many years of being in the trucking industry, I dare say I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen loyal drivers that go above and beyond to provide for their families and support other drivers. But I’ve also seen drivers make catastrophic mistakes without realizing the consequences.

Here at Freight X, we have some of the most desirable lanes in the industry – numerous drop-and-hook customers out of Florida, lanes that have you home every night, and over-the-road opportunities throughout the southeast with very competitive pay options. Plus, when you call us, we know you by name – not a number. Why in the world would you give that up?

While we have some of the most loyal, hard-working, smart guys and gals working here, there are always a few that seem to give truckers a bad name. And they ruin their career – and life – in the process.

From lying on the application to refusing a drug test, here are 12 things truck drivers can do to ruin their driving careers.

1. Lying On Your Application

This is by far the most common stupid thing drivers do. We will find out what you did at your last job and why you got fired if you did get fired. 

If you have an accident, speeding violations… we will find out! And if that’s not on your application, we’re not going to hire you. There’s so much documentation available, and drivers will continue to lie even when we show them the DOT documents… it’s just a waste of your time to lie.

Just be honest! We give drivers the benefit of the doubt, but when you begin the relationship by lying, we will never trust you and thus, we can’t hire you.

2. Drinking and Driving

This one is pretty obvious – when you’re caught drinking and driving, you lose your license and your driving job. In fact, it’ll be at least over a year before anyone will consider hiring you again. And the desirable trucking companies may never hire you again with that kind of infringement on your record.

States have different regulations, but many states lower the drinking limit if you have a CDL. For example, it goes from .08 to .04 – professional drivers are held to a higher standard, even if you’re not driving a commercial vehicle (FMCSA).

Consider this: after three hours of drinking, a 200-pound male would measure a 0.05% BAC after just four 12-ounce beers. I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty easy to drink four beers in three hours!

So while drinking and driving is an obvious mistake, some drivers don’t realize that having a few beers at dinner and driving home can ruin their entire driving career.

3. Doing Recreational Drugs and Refusing Drug Tests

It’s true that many states including Illinois, Michigan, and the entire western seaboard have legalized medicinal and recreational use of marijuana.

Doing Recreational Drugs and Refusing Drug Tests

However, even though many states have legalized marijuana, it’s still not legal with the federal Department of Transportation (DOT).

Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), a person is not physically qualified to drive a CMV if he or she uses any Schedule I controlled substance such as marijuana. You can’t possess it in your truck, and you certainly can’t be under the influence. In fact, you can’t do it period – even while you’re off-duty.

Being high or having marijuana in your vehicle while driving a CMV is a DOT violation.

Truck drivers are in a safety-sensitive role – being fully present with quick reflexes is so important, especially when you’re driving a vehicle that can end someone’s life if it’s done improperly.

Unfortunately, this does happen, and don’t think you’re smart enough to get away with it. It will catch up with you, whether it’s from a dock worker who smells it and reports you or a random drug test. And when that happens, you’ve ruined your driving career.

Refusing a Drug Test

Additionally, refusing a drug test is the same as testing positive. And now, with the Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse, everyone will know if you refused a drug test.

We can’t stress this enough – you won’t be able to get a good driving job if you’ve refused a drug test.

Your only option is to meet with a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) who will do a face-to-face assessment, recommend a plan of treatment or education, send a report to your employer about it, monitor your progress as you do the plan, and do a final evaluation.

It’s a long – not to mention expensive – process, and even when you do it, you’ll never get a high-quality trucking job again. 

And here’s where a lot of drivers ruin their careers without even realizing it – if we schedule you for a pre-employment drug test and you don’t show, many companies consider that a failed test. As you know, a no-show is the same as testing positive.

If you’re not interested in working somewhere, don’t accept a drug test and then not show up!

4. Getting In a Fight

Again, it feels like some of the things on this list are so obvious, but they’ve all happened far too many times. 

Thankfully, the majority of our drivers are professionals and take the job extremely seriously. But there are always a select few, particularly at large trucking companies that accept newer drivers, that ruin the good name of drivers across the country.

As a truck driver, you’re a company’s representative in front of the customer. Getting agitated, being annoying, being mean, acting rudely to the dock workers, and getting in a fight all reflect badly on the company you work for.

Any of these, particularly getting in a physical fight, will cost you your job, and you probably won’t get any future trucking jobs with that on your DAC report.

Remember that the information on your DAC could be the difference between landing an incredible driving job that brings in six figures and never operating a CMV again.

5. Leaving on Bad Terms

Speaking of your DAC report, you never want to leave a trucking company on bad terms. If you have to part ways, do it respectfully and with dignity.

Trucking companies document when they terminate someone on your DAC report, and they put the reason they terminated you. 

If you had a disagreement with your employer – and you might even be right – bring that truck back in working order, and don’t vandalize it! If you do, believe me – that will go on your DAC report. 

Always try to end on good terms, even if you have to bite your tongue. Always have your future in mind. If you have a family, think of them – don’t let your pride or anger ruin the rest of your driving career just to get back at a trucking company!

6. Being Late, Oversleeping

Time management is a part of the job. If you accept a load, it’s your responsibility to be on time.

If there will be any kind of delay, you must contact dispatch and inform them.

We understand that life happens, and we’ve all overslept! But the worst thing you can do is not communicate with anyone and set the company up to fail.

Informing the customer that we’ll be late as soon as we know is the best way to maintain a great relationship. Of course, being on time every time is what we shoot for, but when the inevitable happens – you can’t stop highway accidents from happening! – having excellent communication sets us apart.

When you’re late, you’re failing on one of the most important parts of the job, and that will make you a less desirable driver to any trucking company out there.

7. Abusing Equipment

Take care of the equipment! Treat all equipment as if it’s your own.

Think of your truck as your office. Keeping your truck neat and tidy is not just a reflection on you, but it’s an FMCSA regulation not to have “things” which could become projectiles in an accident.

Failing to take care of your equipment will leave you out of a job, and it’s unlikely high-quality trucking companies will hire you with that kind of commentary on your DAC report.

8.  Job Hopping

One of the worst things a hiring or safety manager can see is the constant moving from job to job. 

We all know that sometimes, core values are not compatible between a company and an employee, but a driver should not set a pattern of moving from one job to another.

There are onboarding costs involved with hiring a driver, and a company is not likely to invest their time and resources into you if you have a job hopper track record.

9. Having a Poor Reason For Leaving

We all know that getting paid one’s worth is essential. However, that doesn’t mean you should badmouth your previous boss or state that money was a deciding factor for you.

Be professional in stating why you left. A more appropriate statement could be, “There was no  room for advancement,” or “I needed to relocate.”

When the first concern out of your mouth is money, it’s not a great start to the business relationship. These types of drivers have a pattern of borrowing money, complaining about their work, and quitting.

Drivers that are professional and respectful set themselves up for success and earn the highest-paying loads, the newest trucks, and room for advancement within the company. Loyalty goes a long way in this business, and the drivers that have been with us the longest and conduct themselves in a professional, respectful manner are treated accordingly.

10.  Failing to Report Accidents

Just because an accident isn’t your fault doesn’t mean you can keep it to yourself. Drivers are mandated to report accidents to their employers and to the state in which their license was issued.

We once had a driver that got into an accident with our truck two blocks from the terminal. The officer told him it wasn’t his fault, so he thought he didn’t have to tell us. The side of our truck was all scratched up, and we found out on an inspection notification.

It turns out the other people tried to sue us, even though the police report said it wasn’t our fault. You can imagine how that kind of news is a shock to the employer – we will defend our drivers any day, but when you keep an accident from us, you will lose your job.

That driver could’ve kept his job, but by lying, he ruined his driving career and now has to find a trucking company that will accept him despite this information on his DAC report.

11.  Roadside Inspections

If you get roadside inspections, they will look at anything from your logs to the equipment itself. Do proper pre and post-trip inspections to make sure you’re not in violation of any safety regulations.

Violations go on your record as well as the company’s record, and if you have too many violations on your license, trucking companies won’t hire you (including Freight X).

12.  Excessive Speeding Violations

Certain traffic violations categorized as “serious violations” can lead to losing your CDL privileges. The specific regulations vary by state, but going 15+ miles per hour over the speed limit is considered a serious volition in every state.

If a driver receives two “excessive speeding” violations in a commercial vehicle, they lose their CDL.

And what some drivers don’t realize is your personal vehicle also counts. If a CDL holder is convicted of one excessive speeding volution in a CMV and one in his or her personal vehicle within three years of the first violation, you lose your CDL. 

Additionally, if you are convicted of excessive speeding violations in your personal passenger vehicle, and the second offense is within three years of the first, you also lose your CDL (FMCSA).

Your license is your livelihood – why would you place yourself in this situation?

What Happens Next?

Any of these 12 things can ruin your trucking career – permanently.

Once you’ve damaged your record, your only options in this field are undesirable and/or low-paying trucking jobs. For example:

  • Jobs that require a CDL-B
  • School bus driver
  • Driving dump trucks with small trailers
  • Hauling garbage
  • Getting shipments from ports, which typically require you to live near the port

You go from six-figure earning potential to about $30,000 per year, on average.

Please think twice before doing something stupid, like smoking pot during your 10-hour break!

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