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Why Do Trucking Companies Have Waitlists?

July 14th, 2023

Jeron Rennie

Jeron Rennie

Having grown up around the trucking industry — with his dad and several uncles serving as truck drivers — it’s only natural Jeron found his way into the industry as well. Jeron joined ATS in 2018 as a member of the marketing team, where he grew his knowledge of the trucking industry substantially. Now as the driver recruiting manager, he is responsible for ensuring a smooth recruiting process in order to create a quality driver experience.

Have you ever gotten approved to go to orientation with a trucking company only to be placed on the orientation schedule several weeks (instead of days) later? 

It isn’t uncommon for trucking companies to have waitlists right now — for a plethora of reasons. A waitlist means you can’t go to orientation at that trucking company immediately. You may have to wait a few weeks when oftentimes you could call a company early in the week and head to orientation the following week.

This can be especially frustrating for you if you were hoping to start at a new trucking company immediately. Rather than being about to head to orientation, you’re stuck at your current company waiting it out. 

I’m the manager of driver recruiting here at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS) and I help our orientation team create a smooth process for drivers — which means I ensure we aren’t going over our driver capacity in each of our driving divisions. I’ll help you understand why trucking companies have waitlists and what you can do while you’re waiting for a spot to open up. 

Trucking Company Waitlists 

At the time of this writing, it’s a lot more common to have waitlists for driver orientation. Ultimately, it comes down to not having enough trucks at any given time to bring an unlimited number of drivers on each week. Trucking companies don’t have an endless supply of tractors; they have a certain number of tractors that they fill to a predetermined capacity. 

While each company likely has a different reason for having a waitlist, it most often comes down to the current market and ongoing parts and truck shortages following the global pandemic. 

A company may not have open trucks available because they’re finding it difficult to get new trucks. This could be because trucks are delayed due to shortages or they may not be able to afford to purchase new trucks thanks to inflation and financial difficulties. A lot of trucking companies went under during the pandemic and after as the market freight rates took a dive. 

Similar to this, carriers might have the trucks but they’re in the shop waiting to be fixed. There are both parts and labor shortages, so they may not have the manpower to fix the trucks as quickly as they want. They could also be waiting for parts — parts that are a lot costlier than they used to be. 

There’s a chance that a carrier has a waitlist because they have a low turnover rate. Their drivers simply aren’t quitting in huge droves, so there aren’t many trucks available for new drivers to hop in and go.

Because of these factors, trucking companies must cap how many drivers can attend orientation each week. It can vary by division. For instance, the flatbed division may be full but there may be trucks available in the dry van division. 

What Should I Do if I’m Waitlisted?

If you’re waitlisted at a trucking company, you need to reflect on your situation. Are you happy to wait it out a few weeks at your current carrier or are you panicking on the inside? 

First, consider why you want to leave your current company. Are you literally not making money? Is your truck breaking down constantly? Are you encouraged to follow unsafe driving behaviors? 

Do you feel like you have to get out right away? Or can you hold on for a few more weeks? 

White ATS truck hauling oversized white tank.

Find a New Company or Career

If you have debt collectors on your back and you’re about to default on your loan payments, it makes sense that you might be panicking. In that case, if you need to get money in your pocket immediately, you may want to find a company that doesn’t have a waitlist. You might not be able to wait that two or three weeks if it means you’ll lose your home or personal vehicle. 

If you feel like you absolutely can’t wait to quit for some other reason, consider what you could do in the interim. 

Take a look at your finances. If you’re waitlisted for three weeks, can you afford to be without work for three weeks? Do you have enough personal savings to afford your expenses for that long? If so, you may decide to quit your current carrier and take a nice long break at home before you start driving for your new carrier. 

If you don’t have enough money saved up to do this, you might consider taking a temporary position outside of the trucking industry. Perhaps you do construction for a few weeks, work at your family’s business, take a gig position delivering food or ferrying passengers or something else. 

Just make sure, if you decide to temporarily leave the trucking industry, you aren’t somehow taking yourself out of hiring guidelines at the new company you’re going to. For example, if you quit the trucking industry, do you still have enough accumulative driving experience to qualify for that carrier? Ask your recruiter to make sure this isn’t a problem somehow. 

If you can’t wait and nothing else is an option, you might need to go back to the drawing board and find a carrier that’s hiring right now. Then, when you’re in a better financial position (and as long as you still meet hiring requirements) you can work for the carrier that initially had the waitlist. 

It’s also important to consider that, oftentimes, the wait isn’t as long as it usually seems. For instance, you may be able to start orientation a week earlier than originally stated because someone in line before you may not show up.

If the job is unhealthy for you, you need to move on. 

Wait it Out

If you’re just feeling unhappy with your carrier, then you should definitely stick it out. 

Especially if you’ve been waiting to get into your “dream carrier” for months because you finally met their hiring requirements, you should continue to wait it out. For example, if you’ve been waiting to get enough driving experience to drive for a carrier, what’s another few weeks of waiting? 

And if it’s a sought-after carrier, it’s probably normal to have to wait to drive for them anyway. 

While you’re waiting, it’s a good idea to keep researching the carrier to make sure it’s still a good fit for you. Do your values align? Do they have everything you need out of a carrier? Keep in touch with your recruiter and continue to ask questions. All the while, you should keep reading reviews and talking to that company’s drivers at truck stops. The last thing you want in this situation is to have waited three weeks to start only to find out you don’t like them anyway. Then you have to start the process all over again. 

It’s never a good idea to up and quit a job without knowing for certain you’ll be able to drive for the company. As long as you’re honest in the recruiting process about your background and driving record, you should be fine. Transparency is key.

Blue ATS truck hauling construction parts. It's dusk and the sky has a few clouds.

Work at ATS

Waitlisted trucking companies have become more common due to various factors such as ongoing truck and parts shortages, financial difficulties, low turnover rates and market fluctuations following the global pandemic. These companies face challenges in acquiring new trucks and repairing existing ones.

If you find yourself on a waitlist, it’s crucial to evaluate your personal situation and consider factors such as financial stability, immediate needs and career goals. If waiting is feasible, it may be worth sticking it out, especially if you have been eagerly waiting to join your desired carrier. 

During this time, it’s essential to continue researching the company, staying in touch with your recruiter and gathering information from current drivers to ensure it remains a good fit for you. 

However, if waiting is not a viable option, you might need to explore other job opportunities in the interim or consider finding a carrier that is actively hiring. Whatever decision you make, it’s important to maintain transparency during the recruitment process and make informed choices that align with your personal and professional needs.

Wondering if ATS has an opening for you? We’re currently hiring in the dry van division