How to turn the tables so you can get the information you need before you sign on

Turn the tables and interview the interviewer when searching for a carrier to lease with. Here are some questions that may assist with your search:

1. Will you fax me a copy of your lease? Yes or no…it’s as simple as that. If the answer is no, this interview is over. If a company refuses to provide you with a copy of its lease so you can read it at your leisure and discuss it with an OOIDA business services representative or your attorney, you can bet that company has something to hide. Don’t waste another minute…just hang up, call the next company on your list and ask the same question. Repeat this procedure until you get a positive response, then follow up by carefully reviewing the lease. If you need help, you know you can get it from OOIDA.

Once you get a sample copy of the company’s lease, you should find answers to many of your questions within the terms of the lease, but go ahead and continue with your interview anyway. It doesn’t hurt to double check.

2. What is the average annual compensation your leased owner operators can expect? If the figure is reasonable according to your expectations, you may want some additional information later, but for now, go on to your third key question.

3. Will I be required to load/unload? If the answer is yes, and you are willing to live with that, you’ll certainly have more questions to ask later, so keep this in mind as you proceed with your remaining key questions.

4. Do you have forced dispatch?

5. What is your policy on riders?

Your own key questions may be different than the ones we’ve suggested above. What’s important to one person is not necessarily quite so important to another, so feel free to come up with questions that you want answered before you’ll consider signing on with a company. The point is to save time by knowing what you want from a company and finding out whether it is worth your consideration by asking a few initial questions before going in to more detail.

If your interview is looking good so far, it’s time to dig deeper. Here are some additional questions that will help you learn more about the company you are interviewing:

1. How is my compensation figured?
Percentage of gross ____ Rate ____
Mileage ____ Rate ____

2. If paid by the mile, how is mileage calculated?
Hub miles ____
Computer program such as PCMiler, HHG, etc. ____; Practical ____ Shortest ____
Dispatched miles ____
Empty miles ____
Loaded miles ____

3. How will I receive my compensation?
Check ____; Mail or Pickup?
Electronic Transfer ____
Compensation credited to card ____

4. Will I receive advances on loads?
If so, how? Check ____; Card ____; Any Fees for this?

5. Is an escrow, security deposit, performance bond, or any type of money held back by the company?
Yes ____ No ____ (If so, what is the required amount, and what is the return policy?)

6. Does the company pay for:
Layovers ____ Rate ____
Detention time ____ Rate ____
Canceled loads ____ Rate ____
Multiple drops and picks ____ Rate ____
Tolls ____
Permits and license ____
Cargo insurance ____
Liability insurance ____
Any required operating equipment such as tarps, chains, binders, jacks, Qualcom ____
Fuel taxes ____
Road use taxes ____
Scale tickets ____
Physicals and drug tests ____
Uniforms if required ____

7. Does the company pay its owner operators a fuel surcharge? (If so, does the cost bearer receive 100% of the fuel surcharge? If not, why not?)

8. If I am required to load/unload, how will I be compensated?
Flat rate ____ Rate ____
Hourly ____ Rate ____
Piece ____ Rate ____
By weight ____ Rate ____

9. If not, how is the lumper issue handled?
Company contract with lumpers ____
Advances for lumpers (deduct from settlement) ____
Reimbursement for lumper with receipts ____

10. Am I required to purchase insurance or anything else through the company?
Yes ____ No ____ (*Note: It’s important to note that federal leasing regulations prohibit the company from making this a condition of the lease. If you choose to purchase insurance from/through the company, you are entitled to a copy of the policy.)

11. What insurance will I be required to purchase and maintain? (If work comp is required, can I get a less expensive occupational accident policy instead?)

12. If the company provides cargo insurance, what is the limit? (If the load is over the policy limit, what is the company policy? In some cases, the owner operator may be liable for amounts that are over the limit in the event of a claim)

13. What is the company policy on unattended trailers? (Some cargo policies exclude coverage for this)

14. Will all bills of lading be in the company’s name? (A bill of lading that is not in the company’s name may void cargo coverage)

15. What hold harmless provisions are included in the lease? (These clauses can cost a leased owner operator money, so be sure that you are aware of them)

16. Is there a fleet average of miles run per week? If so, what is the average?

17. How many days/weeks will I be kept out?

18. What is the policy on home time?

19. What regions does the company expect me to run? (Does the company run in areas that you don’t want to go, such as Canada, Mexico, NY, or any others?)

20. Do you offer dedicated runs? (If yes, how do I get one?)

21. Will I work directly with brokers (hand-offs)?

22. What is the company policy on check calls (status for the day)?

23. Does the company charge for trailer rental? (If so, how much?)

24. What is the company’s trip lease policy?

25. What is the company’s turnover percentage?

26. Do you have company owned trucks? (If so, are company trucks loaded before owner operator trucks?)

27. Is there a complaint resolution program?

28. Does the company offer any discounts to leased owner operators on various items that are essential to their trucking operation?

29. Am I required to attend orientation? (If so, am I compensated?)

30. Do you have a sign-on bonus? (If yes, what is the amount?)

31. Does your lease contain a non-compete clause? (Watch out for this. Such clauses can prohibit you from leaving the company and going to work for a competitor. Make sure an end-date is specified if you agree to this provision.)

Your personal list of interview questions may grow or shrink as you determine your own requirements, but this checklist is comprehensive enough to give you a good idea of how the company operates. Include the contact person’s full name, company’s name, phone number, and date on your checklist for future reference. You may even want to ask the company recruiter to sign off on it. Don’t count on that happening, but I don’t think this would be a problem for anyone who has answered your questions honestly…do you?