Movin’ On


By Jennifer Hawks

"As appeared in Trucker's Connection, April 2009"

You know that old Hank Snow tune, I’m Movin’ On?  Yeah, that one.  He  sings  how that big       eighteen-wheeler  is  rolling  down the  track,  he’s  movin’  on  and  he’ll soon be gone. Most of us have been there one time or another.  But how about the guys (and gals) who do that for a living? For the truckers who haul household goods, I’m Movin’ On is their theme song.

 

David Rogers is somebody who fits that description.  As an owner-operator for Clark & Reid, he knows all about moving people. Moving people, moving large screen TVs, sometimes even moving BMWs.  Ask  him what he  hasn’t  moved  and  he’d  be  hard-pressed  to  tell  you. Rogers is one of those people who truly love his job. He acknowledges that trucking, as with any other industry, has its challenges, and choosing the right company to work with makes all the difference. “At Clark & Reid, I have a full support team.”

 

Shipping household goods is a niche market within the trucking industry. One thing I notice right away is that Rogers never stays in one place, and I don’t mean with his rig. In fact, not once during our entire phone conversation does he get behind the wheel. If he’s not packing a box, he’s giving instructions to his helper, or carting boxes out to his truck.

 

Physical exercise is one part of this job many consider a plus.  While  some  drivers  are  lucky  if  they  have time for an occasional walk around  the  truck stop, a household mover gets a  thorough workout  any  day  he  or  she isn’t on the road.

 

Hat Trick

 

Experts rate moving as one of the most stressful things a person will experience in his/her life. That’s true even when they want to move. It’s even worse when they don’t want to. Like with corporate relocations, for instance. Or, maybe the kids don’t want  to  leave  their  friends  behind,  but  the  father  is  excited  about starting  his  new  job  which  is  3,000 miles away.

 

The family drama is hard to ignore when you’re packing a child’s stuffed animal even as you reassure her that Snugly Bear won’t suffocate inside the box. Shipping household goods is different from other trucking jobs.  It varies by company, but you’re likely to wear many hats. Besides  being  a  driver  and box  packer  you might  also find yourself being a customer service  representative,  and  as Rogers says, “Sometimes you’re a priest too, if that’s necessary.”

 

Moving is a stressful business, no doubt about it, and inevitably some of it will spill onto you. Gerry Fernandez is the driver recruiter for Clark & Reid. He says, “Drivers must be sensitive to these issues. They’re moving everything from an underwear drawer to the ice chest in the basement while making sure nothing is broken, damaged, or lost. At  the same  time,  they have  to  be  able  to  calm  the  fears  of this person who may not even know if their house will sell.”

 

Rogers takes his responsibility to his customers very seriously because he knows referrals come from happy customers.  “My philosophy is, ‘the customer comes absolutely first’ Even if it costs me a little bit now, it’ll come back to me later. And if not to me, then maybe to another driver who’s been sitting for 15 days.”

 

Here’s a Tip For You

 

Some household goods shipping companies send a team of up to eight people to a location. They  can  pack a  small mansion  in  a  day,  and  load it onto  the  truck  faster  than you can fill your fuel tanks. At Clark & Reid, regardless of the size of the job, they typically begin with only two people, though if needed, more will be hired. One is the driver and the other is the helper, usually chosen and hired by the driver. That means from arrival to destination, a job might last as long as 15 days or be as short as two days.

 

Regardless  of  how  much  time  is spent in someone’s house, it can mean some  bonding  time  between  driver and  customer.  If you’re not a people person, this may not be a good fit. But if you like variety and putting smiles on people’s faces who just a short time before weren’t feeling exactly chipper, then consider making the move, no pun intended.

 

Combining bonding time with hard work has its benefits. We’re talking tips here. Cash, of course, sometimes a lot of cash but it’s not always the green stuff. Though it’s unusual, some drivers have received a car as a tip. More likely, it’ll be something the customers don’t want to take with them. Rogers hired his son once to help him on a job. Apparently, the shippers liked his son’s work ethic. “He got a brand new entertainment system and end tables.”

 

But for Rogers, he says it’s not really about the tips. “The biggest reward is when you’ve done the job and done it right, and the people are happy.” One of his former customers is the Vice President of a Fortune 500 company. Now they play golf together.

 

Ask Questions First

 

The horror stories are out there. A moving company holds a family’s precious possessions for ransom, or their belongings arrive damaged or missing. Working for bums like that is also a concern for honest truckers. Who wants to be associated with a corrupt employer?  It strips your pride, and it might also strip your paycheck.

 

So how to choose the company that offers you the best chance of healthy paychecks into the distant future?

 

Before you can ever get a commercial driver’s license, the Department of Transportation (DOT) requires a seven-year background check for drug or alcohol violations.  So why shouldn’t you perform a background check on companies you’re considering working for? Run a search for them on the DOT Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration website Google them too. One thing to look for is customer complaints or lawsuits against a company. What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander.

 

Make the interview a mutual process. While they’re sizing you up, you should be doing the same with them. Do you like the people? Does the environment feel comfortable? Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. They should be open to this, and if they’re not, reconsider your options.  They shouldn’t have anything to hide.

 

Transparency is the key, says Fernandez.  “I send everyone a copy of our contract with the application package before they even come in for an interview.”  Part of that transparency is knowing exactly what you’ll be making and when, and under what circumstances.  “Some companies nickel and dime you and it’s hard to know exactly what you’re making.” At Clark & Reid, drivers can track their settlements from beginning to end. That takes out the surprise factor and makes it easier to plan bill payments as well as vacations.

 

Ask your fellow drivers for recommendations on who to sign up with. Just remember that if it sounds too good to be true, it may very well be.

 

Jennifer Hawks is constantly on the move.  Check out her travel website at www.justagypsy.com or her adventure videos at http://www.youtube.com/flywrite.