US Xpress — Lease-Purchase Program
I signed a Lease-Purchase agreement with US Xpress at the end of April of 2013. I am a driver who has had 13 years of driving experience both as a company driver and an Owner Operator. I have a squeaky clean driving record, CSA Scorecard and DAC report. I drive the speed limit, perform pre and post inspections on EVERY load. And I am a driver that knows that hard work and putting in the time will make you money. I also know that sure that $135, 000.00 gross looks good on paper, but the truth is, once you deduct the $80, 000.00 fuel bill and all your other fixed and adjustable expenses, in the end you get lucky if your taxable income is 35 to 40K. I know that making it in this business takes a lot out of you and your family since I have been out for months at a time. I am lucky to have a more that capable wife who takes care of the home, finances and my son. I am also lucky that they are very understanding of this and they keep those stresses off my back since driving is stressful enough.
When I signed on with US Xpress, they did not have a truck for 3 other guys and me at the Tunnel Hill, GA shop so we were given a rented van and told to drive to the Shippensburg, PA shop to pick up our trucks. You are not given a choice of what truck you want, you are simply given a truck and forced to accept that truck no matter what condition that truck may be in. At the Shippensburg shop I was told by the mechanics there that the trucks had been checked over, detailed and were ready to go. Being the former mechanic and skeptical person that I am, I decided to give “my” truck a complete and thorough check out. After starting it up and running it for 45 min. in place I discovered 5 oil leaks. When I pointed this out to the mechanic, he told me that the pool of oil under my truck was from a previous truck. Well it turned out that it was from my truck because I could see the leaks, plain as day. So my employment started out with my truck being taken to a Freightliner Dealer for repairs. I did not get my first dispatch from them until May 7th. I didn’t get out of the debit column, meaning expenses were more than mileage and fuel per diem pay until May 24th. The first month that I worked there I spent 18 days in break-down for miscellaneous reasons; i.e. oil leaks, air leaks, COMSAT that worked ½ of the time. My favorite little COMSAT problem that I experienced was its habit of erasing all of my logs at midnight daily.
I had a beef with my first fleet manager that I was assigned to. I like to call him affectionately “the I don’t know guy” Being a new driver, of course, you have many questions and the only answer that I ever got from him was “I don’t know”; not my desired answer of “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you”. His lack of training and knowledge put me into some predicaments that I would have rather avoided. However once I got rid of Rob Hill my second fleet manager was fabulous. I also had a beef with the weekend crew whose habit of calling you while you are logged into sleeper berth time and for taking the good paying loads off of you for nonsense reasons. When I discussed this problem with my second fleet manager, he acknowledged that yes indeed that they did do that and that it annoyed him as well.
I don’t mind taking heavy loads as long as it is balanced with light loads. I am not one of those drivers that will out right refuse a heavy load. However, that seemed to be the only loads that the planners would give me. One load was so heavy that I had to take from Maryland to Texas; I could not put more than $100.00 of fuel in my tank at a time or else I would have been over the maximum allowable weight for my truck per DOT regulations. This cycle of continuous heavy loads went on throughout the month of June. So slowly, but surely my debit column was chipping away at my credit column.
I also would like to point out that the trailers at US Xpress are less than desirable and in my humble opinion skirting very closely to sub-standard. A lot of the problems that I experienced could have been prevented if drivers performed post trip inspections properly and reported that trailers had lights that were not working and other easily corrected defects. It got to the point where I would carry replacement bulbs, wiring harnesses and other trailer repair items so that I could quickly fix these items and get rolling. The other defects that had to be repaired caused me a lot of down time. I simply am not willing to risk my clean record for sub-standard equipment and a company culture of “pass the buck” to the next driver that is dispatched to that trailer. Also you can always tell how good of a reputation that a company has based upon their equipment by how many DOT inspections that you are stopped for or waived on through. I was always stopped for DOT inspections while driving for US Xpress.
Finally after being out for a full 2 months, except for the 34 hour reset that I used to get home and get the rest of my working equipment, I went home. And frankly, I took a week off. I deserved it, my family missed me and I had out of town guests coming that I had not seen in 5 years. After that, it went steadily downhill. During the month of July I made $9060.00 in mileage and fuel per diem pay and had $12, 059.00 in truck expenses. Now keep in mind that I also have a mortgage and home expenses like phone and electric bills, and food and gasoline expenses for my wife and son. My son started school without the proper school supplies that he needed. Additionally my wife had to apply for SNAP benefits to put food on the table. My wife called Josh Sunheim and had a nice little chat with him, questioning the cycle of heavy loads and lack of direct deposits into our bank account. Even after my wife pointed out to him that we were experienced at “playing the game” he still talked to her like she was a greenhorn and had no idea what the trucking business was all about, which is so far from the truth. However he assured her that he would personally keep an eye on my miles.
After that disastrous month of July, my “boss” said “Honey, you have got to walk away from this contract and find another lease-purchase agreement with a better company”. I had talked to another driver who was also experiencing that same type of deal and I asked him why he stayed. He told me that his wife had a good job and he had already made a considerable investment in the truck. Thankfully I was not in that boat. My wife put my resume back out on the web and found me an outstanding company who appreciates conscientious drivers and treats them like what they are; their most valuable asset. I am happy to say that yes I am still behind on some bills but my house isn’t in foreclosure, my wife, son and I can eat without assistance from the government and my kid has all the supplies that he needs to do his job of getting a proper education.
In conclusion, if you don’t mind driving sub-standard equipment, working with poorly trained fleet managers and annoying weekend crews, having your debit columns bigger than your credit column and being disrespected, in spite of having played the game for many years with an outstanding career record; go ahead and sign a lease with US Xpress. I promise you won’t be disappointed.