March 11, 2021

Flatbed Truck Driver Orientation: What to Expect

Orientation for newly hired flatbed truck drivers is as fast and furious as the job itself. Orientation programs touch on company culture, safety, technology, pay and everything in between—all in a matter of days.

Hiring never lets up in trucking. Carriers are bringing new company drivers into the fold all the time despite some recruiting challenges facing the industry. That means most driving orientation programs are on a continuous cycle, with larger flatbed companies showing new recruits the ropes on a weekly basis.

Planning and efficiency are key in the transportation and logistics industry, and the best flatbed trucking companies have applied those principles to their driver orientation and onboarding programs. Get ’em in, get ’em trained and get ’em on the road in the shortest time possible. Trucking companies spend anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 on each new driver—a cost they prefer to view as an investment, not just an expenditure.

While specifics differ from company to company, flatbed truck driver orientation programs typically cover core areas like payroll and benefits, driver management processes, safety training and truck assignments. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect in your first week on the job before you hop behind the wheel.

Participating in On-Site Training

Flatbed trucking is about as hands-on as it gets, so on-site driver orientation and training will likely occur at the company’s headquarters. Some in the industry have shifted to remote orientation in response to coronavirus concerns. Others, however, are still holding on-site orientation for fewer trainees but requiring them to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines.

Having orientation at the trucking line’s nerve center just makes sense. That way, new drivers can meet the leadership team, safety instructors, dispatchers and their assigned driver manager face-to-face. New flatbed drivers will also have the opportunity to work with the trucking equipment at HQ. Drivers will be able to get hands-on-experience with the flatbed equipment and processes like load securement and tarping they’ll use on the job.

Most companies cover the cost of travel, lodging and meals during orientation. On top of that, new drivers may receive orientation pay or a bonus. And some companies, including JLE, even throw in extra cash for completing pre-hire paperwork prior to the first day of orientation.

Passing Final Assessments & Driving Test

A big part of flatbed truck driver orientation is verifying that you meet all the necessary job requirements. From safety protocols to driving skills to securing flatbed loads, you’ll need to demonstrate your capabilities firsthand.

Many flatbed trucking companies require new drivers to have a valid Class A Commercial Driver’s License, or CDL, and a basic level of over-the-road trucking experience, with some specifically requiring flatbed experience. Pre-screening candidates helps carriers meet their goal of hiring 100% of drivers who attend orientation.

New hires with the required experience should cruise through in-cab and on-the-road exams during flatbed orientation. These might include pre-trip inspections, maneuvering, backing, offset backing and brief excursions on nearby roads or highways. And they’ll definitely cover safely loading, securing, tarping and unloading flatbed freight.

Be sure to bring your ‘A’ game, as failing any portion of these critical tests may result in your ticket home. Some companies have policies that exceed federal regulations, so you’ll want to be prepared to meet those higher standards, if necessary.

Learning Company Technology & Driver Management Tools

Every flatbed trucking company does things a little differently. Orientation isn’t just about meeting your new co-workers and fellow drivers—it’s about learning a new system and understanding the company’s policies and procedures. You want to help the flatbed freight shipping machine run smoother, not create unnecessary friction.

There’s a big difference between being familiar with flatbed driver management tools and being proficient with them. These tools are intended to help new drivers do their jobs as efficiently as possible and earn more money. With truck driver turnover at larger carriers hitting an alarming 92% in late 2020, you’ll want to get off on the right foot by mastering these tools and using them to your advantage.

Open-mindedness goes a long way at orientation. Even the most experienced flatbed drivers will likely be exposed to something new when joining a new outfit. Give your new employer the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they’ve employed a technology or implemented processes that could make your job—and life—easier. And who wouldn’t welcome that?

Hitting the Road!

Flatbed companies like to have new drivers in trucks immediately after orientation wraps. And after three or four days of filling out paperwork, navigating cones on the driving course and meeting the team, flatbedders appreciate the opportunity to finally prove themselves.

The most effective truck driver orientation programs send drivers off with information and skills they’ll use every day and then provide ongoing support. Unfortunately, however, nearly a quarter of truck drivers surveyed in 2019 felt unprepared to do their job after completing orientation. Many cited transparency issues surrounding home time, pay and runs/routes, suggesting their on-the-job experience didn’t match up with what they’d been told by recruiters.

JLE’s truck driver orientation program includes sessions dedicated to time management and meeting your home-time expectations. If we’re not doing our part to meet your expectations, we know the relationship won’t last.We value our drivers and want them to feel knowledgeable and respected. That’s why JLE works continually to improve its orientation and training processes and foster relationships with drivers—whether they’re new to the job or seasoned veterans.

If you’re an experienced flatbed driver looking for a better fit, apply today to become part of our elite fleet. Follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn to learn more about what it means to be (Proudly Driven)[/drive].