Being a truck driver is far more stressful than people realize. Most of the time inexperienced drivers don’t realize the large responsibility that goes into being a driver. Other times, young drivers don’t take the job seriously and are surprised when they are held accountable for missing deadlines or constant breakdowns.
However, it’s not always on the driver when a employment doesn’t work out. In reality, there are bad trucking companies out there. There are companies that prefer profit over the people. Many companies don’t follow thru on the promises they made when you were being recruited to join them. Or perhaps you’ve been somewhere that didn’t maintain their fleet so you felt like you were on the side of the road more than driving on it.
Whatever the case, the relationship between the driver and employer can become strained for several reasons. Sometimes the pain of this relationship can feel overwhelming unbearable. When this happens, (especially when you are on the road and have nothing but time to think) the thought can creep into your mind of how nice it would be to park you truck. Catch a ride back home and let the trucking company have to deal with getting a driver to come pick up their truck in the middle of nowhere. Everyone likes a little revenge, right?
In this article, we will explore the topic of truck abandonment. In short, abandoning your truck is NOT something you should do. The payback factor may feel nice in the short term, but as we will explore below, this can really put a blackmark on your trucking career moving forward.
If you are interested in finding out the most common reasons new truckers quit, please have a look at my article here.
What is truck abandonment
The simplest definition of truck abandonment is as follows. It’s not returning the truck to the location set by your trucking company. It’s certainly a vague definition. If the company tells you that you must return their truck to a company location that is 1200 miles away; you must return it to that location or you will likely get hit with abandonment.
You have to be careful with abandonment charges even when you are necessarily trying to do it out of malice. I knew a driver once that had some things going on at home. He took the truck to his house and decided to quit. He called the company and told them he was quitting and would return the truck to the nearest terminal which was less than 40 miles from his house. The problem was, he didn’t do it immediately, but instead waited a couple days. By then, the company had already sent a tow truck to pick up their truck. He was hit with an abandonment. You have to remember; these trucks are usually worth several hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are the money makers for the trucking companies. They are not going to be patient when it comes to recovering their assets.
What happens if you do abandon a truck?
If you do abandon your truck, it will be near impossible for you to get a new job as a driver in the trucking industry. Most companies use HireRight.com as a means for checking on a driver’s past history. The report that is obtained from HireRight is called a Drive-A-Check report. Or more simply a DAC report.
This report is basically a report card for your driving history. It will outline your motor vehicle record for the state in which you are licensed as well as all past employment.
Per HireRight’s website, they claim that more than 2,500 trucking companies use their database. They also state that the driving history of more than 6 million CDL drivers are contained in their database.
Under the job history section of your DAC report, it lists a number of things about your past employment. It will provide trucking companies with information regarding your accidents, drug/alcohol problems, whether you are considered re-hirable, and what type of truck/trailer you drove. This report will also indicate if you have abandoned a truck before. Please understand – an abandonment on this report is often viewed just as negatively as alcohol or drug charges. It will making finding a new trucking job difficult, if not impossible.
How should I quit?
In most professional environments, the courtesy thing to do is to give the company a two week notice before leaving. This gives the company time to find a replacement and get them trained before the person leaving is gone. But how does that apply in trucking? Should you give a two-week notice? Most companies have plenty of applicants looking for a job, so it’s not hard for them to replace you. There’s not going to be any training that you’ll need to do with them.
The answer as to how you should leave a trucking company varies significantly from driver to driver. Many drivers, don’t give a notice at all. They return the truck to the terminal and inform dispatch or a company representative that they are quitting that particular company. It doesn’t appear quitting without notice impacts your chances of getting a job later; at least what I’ve heard and been able to find.
When quitting without a notice, most drivers will put in a vacation or home request. Then they drop their truck off at the terminal and inform the company at that time. That way, they are already home and the truck is where it needs to be.
There are some drivers that refuse to give anything less than a two-week notice. Their thought is that it’s a sign of respect and they are just doing the right thing. The potential problems with this method is that the company could screw you over on loads for your final two weeks of employment. Maybe they put you at the bottom of the list when passing out runs and you get stuck with crappy loads or destinations.
In my experience, I think it just comes down to the relationship between the driver and company. I’ve always given a notice of around two weeks. I’ve been lucky and always worked for good companies, so I totally get it when people say they don’t feel comfortable telling a company they are leaving well in advance. If you have had a rocky relationship with the company you are leaving, then I’d probably shy away from giving them a notice. However, you do need to make sure you return the truck in good condition to the location that the company designated.
How should I return the truck?
When you do decide to leave your trucking company, there are steps you should take to ensure you return the truck correctly. There are instances when a company will file an abandonment against a driver when they did everything they were supposed to do.
When you arrive at the terminal to return the truck, make sure you have cleaned it thoroughly. If nothing else, it’s just the respectful thing to do. Even if you feel like the company has mistreated you.
Make sure you have returned anything company issued items to you. Most often – the fuel card. It is very easy to forget about since it’s in your pocket and you just want to leave, but make sure you have returned it along with all receipts from your most recent trip. Companies can put a “misuse of funds” note on your DAC report if they suspect you’ve done something fraudulently. Don’t risk it – have all your paperwork organized and ready to turn over.
Lastly, ALWAYS make sure you get a representative of the company to inspect your truck and give you a signed release form stating that you returned your truck to the correct location and in good condition. Having this form ensures that you are able to protect yourself should an abandonment claim get filed on your DAC report. It will be near impossible for you to get this paperwork after you have left the terminal offices. Insist in a polite manner, that you need this SIGNED paperwork before leaving. That one sheet of paper can save you significant trouble later.
How to fight Abandonment on DAC Report
Sometimes purposely, but often not, things do pop up on your DAC report that are inaccurate. It’s important that you get an error corrected as soon as possible. Getting an error corrected does take some time, so it’s not something you should wait to do.
Hearing that past employers can hit your DAC report with infractions does sound concerning, however, there is protection in place for drivers. The company that compiles the DAC report is regulated by the Fair Credit and Reporting Act. Much like credit reporting, it protects individuals against inaccurate reporting. If the individual can prove an error occurred, then the company is required to remove the negative mark from the report. Not only does this act offer protection from inaccurate reporting, but it also grants you access to a free copy of your report once every 12 months.
To get a copy of your DAC report, just head over to this website. Once you are there, you’ll need to print out a form and fill out all corresponding information. You will be required to provide your social security number and driver’s license number so they can verify your identity. Once you’ve completed the paperwork, you’ll mail the form in to the address listed on their site. It typically takes 2-3 weeks for your report to be sent to you via mail.
To dispute an item on your DAC report, simply go to the company’s website here and file a claim. If you would rather speak to someone in their customer service department, they can be reached at 866-521-6995. As I mentioned earlier, it does take some time for them to complete their investigation. In fact, it could take up to 30 days for them to reach a conclusion. That’s why it’s important to start an investigation as soon as you find an issue.
Hopefully after reading this article you can see that it doesn’t hurt anyone but yourself if you choose to abandon a company’s truck while out on the road. At the end of the day, it’s best to just do the right thing and take a clean and well maintained truck back to the terminal and turn it in correctly, especially if you want to continue a career in the trucking industry.