Dan Rather returned this week with another episode exploring the confusing and sometimes unfair business of trucking from the perspective of the truck driver. In an episode titled “Mind Your Loan Business”, Rather concentrated on the past and present students of a Livonia Truck School, how they came to be there and what their experiences and expectations were and are. It would be amusing if it weren’t so sad to find that the majority of these prospective truck drivers all somehow had the misconception that they’d be guaranteed a job in a ‘recession-proof’ industry making $70,000 to $80,000 their first year. It isn’t clear why Rather chose Detroit. After all, these abuses happen in every state. But he did zero in on a group of drivers who are attempting to sue this school for failing to live up to what they say they were promised. Nu-Way Transportation Training Centers of course, claims they never promised these things.
Although past Dan Rather Reports segments have looked at issues in the industry, including poor training, this episode concentrated on how these displaced workers were recruited to go to the school, how their training costs – averaging $6500 – was supposedly to be paid for by the trucking company that hired them, or via federal grant monies. And how they ended up with training loans at 19% interest they are defaulting on because they have no job. In the process, an ugly picture evolves of lies, deception and predatory lending practices that appear to directly involve the principals of the training school.
For instance, one past student was told his prior driving record would not prevent him from getting a trucking job. Of course, when his prospective employers ran his Motor Vehicle Record, employment offers were rescinded. Another told of how she gave up her two low-wage jobs and attended school on the promise that she could get a local job, home nightly. Now, with no job and no income, her credit rating has been ruined and she owes more than she borrowed with no end in sight. Perhaps the saddest story was the nearly-sixty-year-old construction worker who, after four trucking jobs in the first year, lost his home to foreclosure and had to borrow money from his daughter to fly home from the last job that didn’t pan out. His loan? It’s now up to $8500 still owed. A business registered to one of the principals in the truck school now holds the note.
The two happiest students were still in training and counting on the ‘pre-hire’ letters they had gotten from trucking companies. They dont yet know the pre-hire agreements are not binding in any way, but are required by government grant programs in order to access grants. That company that sent those pre-hire letters might or might not hire them. And it certainly wont be at the high-wage amount they seem to believe it will be.
Nu-Way, for their part, insists they never quoted any guarantees or any high wages to these students. Oddly, all of these students ‘heard’ the same things, apparently from some mischievous trucking elf. In fact, a former recruiter for the company states the same thing and even wrote a book for prospective truck drivers about the pitfalls of going into the truck driving business blind. For this, he was fired.
The story would be scandalous if anyone was paying attention. Unfortunately, they don't appear to be concerned that these people are being victimized. And even more concerning, it appears many of these victims were sent down this road by someone they’re supposed to be able to trust: Michigan Works.
Watch the Rather episode, free on bliptv at the link above. And, tomorrow, we’ll talk about just how this entire system is being perpetuated and by whom.
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