Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Recap

This is a recap of exactly one year with Maverick Specialized – August 14, 2006 to August 13, 2007. While there were good points, on the whole I will say that my experience with Maverick Specialized was definitely enlightening.

Let me start by saying that since this was my first experience as an over-the-road driver, my expectations may have been set too high. Although I held my CDL for 6 years, it was used in heavy construction. I am accustomed to working hard and putting in long hours. I am even accustomed to things not always going according to plan. But I have never in any job had as much go wrong as it did with Maverick Specialized. I was willing to give Maverick time to make the adjustment of the Specialized purchase, but I think a year was plenty of time.

With no change in the foreseeable future, I reviewed the year with Maverick. I realize that posting something of this nature goes against the overwhelming majority of positive Maverick posts, so I will give you my story, and let you be the judge. Here is the overall summary of that year:

There were 52 weeks in that year, and I worked 35 of them. There was 1 week I took off when my wife had surgery, and I was off 16 weeks due to an on-the-job injury. So, the following averages, are based on 35 working weeks.

  • Loads Delivered: 73 (Average 2.09/week)

  • Average miles per week: 1,950
    • Less than 1,500: 8
    • 1,500-2,000: 10
    • 2,000-2,500: 10
    • 2,500-3,000: 3
    • 3,000-3,095: 4

    • Loaded: 1,412 (72.4%)
    • Empty: 538 (27.6%)

  • Average GROSS Income (including accessorial pay): $791/week
    • Less than $500: 6
    • $500-600: 1
    • $600-700: 5
    • $700-800: 6
    • $800-900: 5
    • $900-1,000: 4
    • $1,000-1,100: 1
    • $1,100-1,200: 4
    • $1,200-1,300: 2
    • $1,300-1,320: 1

  • Hours Logged: 52.8/wk avg (13.0 – 85.0)
    • Driving: 40.8/ wk avg (10.0 – 63.0)
    • On-Duty: 12.0/ wk avg (1.75 – 23.75)
    • Avg $/hr: $14.99

  • Hours (Waiting) Not Logged: 6.3/ wk avg (0.0 – 28.0)
    • Wait at Customer: 2.1/ wk avg (0.0 – 19.5)
    • Wait in Laurinburg: 2.3/ wk avg (0.0 – 10.0)
    • Wait for Assignment: 1.8/ wk avg (0.0 – 14.75)

  • Hence, Actual Averages:
    • Actual Hours: 59.0/ wk avg (13.0 – 97.5)
    • Actual $/hr: $13.96

  • Total 34-hour Resets: 30
    • At Home: 24 (80%)
    • On-Road: 6 (20%)

  • HOS Logged before Reset:
    • Less than 40: 3
    • 41 – 50: 4
    • 51 – 60: 4
    • 61 – 70: 16
    • Exceed 70: 3 (all at DEMAND of DM)

I don’t expect everything to ALWAYS run smoothly, but I do think it would be nice to get through just one week without one problem or another. As promised at the beginning, I will detail my 52 weeks with Maverick and let you be the judge. But first this summary:

I was hired by and trained with Schneider. I started training July 1st. After completion of training and 2 weeks with a trainer, I was assigned my own truck on August 1st. August 14th the sale of the Specialized division to Maverick was complete. I chose to go with Maverick because of their stated 97% weekends home. But, after the 1st of the year, the Specialized Division changed the home time policy to every-other weekend home.

In general the Good Points were:

  1. I was able to see a lot of the USA I wouldn’t have otherwise seen
  2. I really enjoyed the challenge of the skill it takes to haul large glass.
  3. When my wife had surgery, there was no question about time off
  4. The new trucks are well equipped and I found the VORAD and ITERIS systems a real plus.

Scheduling home time wavered somewhere between Good and Bad. Since I live just east of Knoxville where I-40 & I-75 pass through, as well as being 17 miles from I-81, I did not expect that routing me through home would be as difficult as it proved to be. Most weeks I would be nearing my 70 within 5 days, and was sent to Laurinburg to wait a load assignment to route me “through home” for the weekend. It was not unusual to arrive in Laurinburg on Thursday night after a 500 mile deadhead, and still have no load assignment.

When I would finally receive a load assignment sometime Friday, there could be anywhere from a 4 to 10 hour window before the load would be ready. Experience finally taught me that the load would generally be ready somewhere near the end of the window. The problem this posed was being able to take a 34-hour reset and still make the delivery on time, as ETA was generally based on the beginning of the window. Any request to push back the delivery time to coincide with the end of the window and assure on-time delivery was treated as a load refusal. The next assignment would be one with a delivery time so far out that I enjoyed an average of 2-1/2 days at home each weekend. The downside, of course, was less miles.

Here are the Bad Points I observed during my year with Maverick:

  1. Payroll Errors: When errors were made in pay, it took several pay periods to straighten out. There were some I finally gave up on, because they just weren’t worth the effort any longer. By the end of the year this totaled $133.54 in unpaid miles and accessorial pay. Here is a perfect example of some of the hard-fought payroll errors: In one week I was routed from Church Hill, TN to St. Augustin, PQ. I picked up a return load at the same location and delivered back to Church Hill. The miles quoted for each assignment were 1,080. When paystub arrived, the trip to St. Augustin was paid at 1,080, but the return trip to Church Hill was only paid at 1,075. They were the only deliveries on that check, and it was obvious they were the same route going different directions. It was a difference of $2.05 – hardly worth fighting, but I did – only to point out the absurdities of some of their errors.

  2. Expense Reimbursement: It was not unusual for Expense Reimbursements to be lost. The smaller amounts didn’t seem to be a problem, but if the receipts totaled more than $50, they mysteriously disappeared. But any advance taken to cover those expenses was deducted immediately. It could take months to straighten out lost Expense requests. One particular request for over $70 took 5 months to finally get reimbursed. My expense submissions averaged $23 per week, and it typically took 3 weeks for them to be reimbursed. When you think about it, there are some interesting economics about this turnaround time: If expenses are not reimbursed for 3 weeks, that means Maverick has use of that money for 3 weeks. That may not sound like much, until applied to 1500 drivers. What you get is $34,500 per week. If the 3 week average payback is consistent, Maverick has a constant float of $103,500 – most likely earning interest on money that rightfully belongs to their Drivers.

  3. Realistic Pay: While Specialized Drivers are paid $0.01 more per mile than the Flatbed division, let’s look at the realities of that extra cent. At the drivemaverick website, the Flatbed Division boasts $52K the first year, while the Specialized page makes no such claim. I can find internet ads that state a Specialized Driver can expect to earn $45K the first year. The difference, or course, is in the number of miles each week. At various trucking forums, I have seen Maverick Flatbed drivers indicate anywhere from 2400 – 2800 miles per week, with 2500 miles being about the average. If the short weeks over the holidays are taken from the equation, I averaged 2,200 miles per week. So, Not only do the Flatbed Drivers earn more – they do so with less trouble:

    Flatbed: 2500 miles per week x $0.40 = $1,000/week = $52,000/year

    Specialized: 2200 miles per week x $0.41 = $902/week = $46,904/year

  4. Scheduling: Scheduling was a constant problem. During the time I was with Maverick, I had 4 different Driver Managers: Dave, Shirley, John and Tina. Dave controls the 90-day board for all new drivers. He has no respect for the 70-hour rule, and will push drivers to exceed the 11 and 14-hour rules constantly. I was on his board for 2 weeks before the Maverick purchase and was constantly pushed to exceed the HOS limits. I had high hopes that when the Maverick sale was complete, new procedures would put an end to his methods. But 3 weeks after the sale, I requested a move to a differnt board. Shirley was terrific. She worked hard to keep me moving, get me home timely, and gave me realistic schedules. I was on John's board for one week, then he was let go. Tina did not understand the HOS rules (in detail later). She told me that delivery schedules were based on HHG miles at 50 mph, allowing 2 hours for load/unload. What that doesn’t take into account is that HHG miles are typically 10% less than actual miles; the size of the glass trailers requires drivers to use STAA routes; load/unload is typically longer than 2 hours; breaking down glass trailer for backhaul can take a minimum of 1 hour; and construction or rush-hour slow-downs are almost a given. In talking with customers, I learned that very seldom is the delivery time critical to them. All they really wanted was a time frame for delivery. It was actually the Maverick people that were inflating the delivery times. I think the scheduling problem can best be explained by quoting a post from one trucking forum. When the question was asked how many miles Maverick drivers were getting one driver responded: “For this past week I did a shade over 2600 miles. Last week, it was about 2200. It all depends on how hard you want to run and be legal.” Staying legal is the key word.

  5. Canada: I only made 7 trips into Canada, but had problems with all but 1 of those trips. In googling Maverick, I ran across an ad in a Geneva NY paper that offered $40 border-crossing pay. I e-mailed a copy of the ad to my DM, and inquired why that was not true for drivers out of Laurinburg, and the answer was that the Geneva position was a dedicated account – So ? ? ? Then I found out that the ACE drivers were getting an additional 4 cents a mile – these were Drivers from the Flatbed division being trained to haul glass. The ACE (Always Committed to Excellence) program was originally started to help pick up the extra capacity in the Specialized division, with the drivers being returned to the Flatbed Division when the extra need was over.

    I later learned that the acronym ACE was also to emulate the Automated Commercial Environment for the U.S. /Canadian e-Manifest program, and these drivers are trained in that program. Specialized drivers are evidently supposed to deal with the same border-crossing problems as the ACE drivers, and do it for less money with a smile on our face. My final trip into Canada was after the e-manifest program was put into effect – at least according to Maverick. But when I got to the border, I was laughed at. Also told by a Colonel of the Border Patrol that if I showed up with my 'paperwork' like this again, I would be sent back. I was promised additional pay for the delay at the border that I never received. After that I refused any more loads into Canada. Let someone who is getting paid for the BS haul the load.

  6. Laurinburg Wait Time: Under Scheduling I briefly mentioned the wait time in Laurinburg. What is interesting, however, is that a load picked up in Laurinburg during the week requires almost no waiting, but waiting for loads on Friday typically put me home sometime around midnight Friday or early Saturday morning. I picked up a total of 29 loads from Laurinburg: 15 during a weekday and 14 on Friday. Of the 15 I picked up on a weekday, I only had to wait for 5 loads, the longest being 6 hours (16 if the time in sleeper is counted). For that load Shirley paid me layover pay because of the delay. Of the 14 loads picked up on Friday, I had to wait on 11 of the loads – the shortest time being 3-1/2 hours and the longest being 10 hours. With the exception of 1 load, for all I arrived in Laurinburg Thursday night, so the time I spent waiting in Laurinburg for a load was actually 13-1/2 to 20 hours. Only 3 loads were picked up in Laurinburg on Friday that required no waiting; and 2 of those 3 loads were not to route me through home, but to route me elsewhere (one to California, the other to Ontario). Obviously, routing a Driver through home for the weekend is on the bottom of the list of priorities.

  7. Condition of Trailers: The trailers inherited from Schneider were in horrible condition. Trying to break-down a converter for a backhaul very seldom took less than 2 hours because of the problems. I red-tagged each converter I returned to the Laurinburg yard, and I have to believe other Drivers were doing the same. So, why were the repairs not being made by Laurinburg? After I observed a trailer being loaded that I had just returned with a red-tag, I came to believe it was because they were so desperate for trailers the yard was ignoring the red-tags. The last trailer I pulled for Maverick had metal wires (from the tags) stacked top to bottom on the glad hand:

    The feature story from Heavy Duty Trucking, “2007 Truck Market – Buy, Lease or Wait”, dated March, 2007 discusses the pre-buy of 2007 trucks with 2006 technology, before the expensive emission standards for 2007 went into effect. In discussing the larger companies that have shifted their 2007 trade/replacement program year from 2007 to 2006, they state: “Maverick Transportation has several hundred 2007 model-year trucks with pre-2007 technology”. While I don’t disagree this was a wise business decision, I believe an investment in new trailers would also have been appropriate, as most of the trailers were barely road-worthy. I was eventually injured by one of the faulty trailers. After I returned to work, I started taking photos of every trailer I hauled, and e-mailing to the Safety Manager. I did this for 2-1/2 months, but did not see any improvement. It was concern for my own safety that was one of the deciding factors to resign Maverick.

  8. Workers Compensation: The injury I sustained from the faulty trailer resulted in a herniated disk that required surgery and physical therapy. I was off work for 4 months, and the entire experience left a sour taste in my mouth about not just the Specialized Division, but Maverick as a whole. My wife remarked that the only thing worse than working for Maverick was not working for them. If you are injured on the job, be prepared to be treated like a second class citizen.

    My injury occurred on January 24th, when I was instructed to pick up 2 trailers in DeWitt, IA and take to Laurinburg. When I arrived, both trailers were in the A-frame position and had to be broken down, as well as the trailer I had with me. I was very fortunate to have another Driver help me. Both trailers at DeWitt had problems, and we worked for 4 hours on the 3 trailers, but finally had to stop, when one of the trailers had a bad hydraulic rod that was bent and wouldn't come down.

    The Driver that helped me had a pigtail transformer lead that my truck didn't have. I was told there was a truck available at the yard with the lead I needed, so I called for a mechanic to meet me there the next morning to repair the hydraulic, but he never showed. In addition, the truck I was told I could use to bring down the transformer wouldn't start, and since my truck was not set up for pigtail transformer leads, I had to switch trailers and bring back a converter instead. It was also in the A-frame position, and it was the pneumatic rods that support the wings on that trailer that failed, causing my back injury. This is something I couldn’t have known until I was under the wing, but the person who put it into the A-frame position would have known, but ignored it.

    The details of the Worker Comp problems can take up several pages, so they will be covered in Weeks 27 to 43 of the detail section.


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