Mount Airy, North Carolina
Borrowing money and getting a job became more difficult and more expensive for me this year.
Schneider National Inc. dealt my credit score a devastating blow. All for $62.50 that I tried to pay before I left the carrier in September 2009.
In our modern world, we live and die financially by our credit score — a number determined in a mysterious, although much talked-about formula that is created by three different companies, then blended and used in varying degrees by lenders and employers.
McGyver and I fiercely protect our credit score, having built it from scratch in the US. We check it yearly for changes. Since 2006, my scores have been high, mostly ranging from 775 to 809. They fluctuate a few points for no apparent reason. Equifax dropped to 743 once, then bounced to 789. Since these scores are created by information from lenders, credit card applications, etc., they are often deficient and inaccurate, with names misspelled or addresses mixed up. Small mistakes are relatively easy to correct.
But this year, my TransUnion score shocked us. It dropped to 699, well out of the “excellent” range. That’s because Schneider had placed my last payment for training into collection just four days after I had emailed Driver Payment Services that no additional payment had been deducted from my last paycheck, which I expected since I believed I owed one final payment.
Three weeks of telephone calls before I left Schneider, trying to determine how this would be handled, failed to provide a definitive answer. One employee had told me I could expect something in the mail within three-to-four weeks. But I was also left with the impression that the issue was closed and everything was current. The resulting credit score could not have been worse if I had owed $62,000.
Schneider had its own training school (it closed in 2009) and the cost of two weeks training was repaid at $62.50 per week for 72 weeks. When newly trained drivers got their checks, the company automatically allotted $50 per week toward training and deducted $12.50 a week from the driver’s paycheck.
When we decided to leave Schneider and become Owner Operators, I thought there might be one last payment due on my training. I didn’t know if I owed $12.50 or the full $62.50, and I didn’t know if they would take the final amount owing from the last paycheck, since I wasn’t privy to Schneider’s internal financial workings. However, I feared Schneider’s power and frequent disregard for drivers, so I began calling the office to find out how much I owed and how to pay it off. It would have been easy enough to deduct $62.50 or $12.50 from my last check and would have saved everyone a lot of time and paperwork.
My Driver Business Leader (DBL), through whom all driver information and knowledge was funneled, didn’t have any answers for me. Driver Payment Services, which was evidently plugged into the training program sufficiently to make sure the deductions were taken from my check, couldn’t tell me my status, either. In fact, they thought my file was closed.
The final email that I sent to Driver Payment Services on October 2, 2009, said: “The final statement (pay stub) doesn’t make any reference to the training program, but I spoke with Jamie and she says it takes 3-to-4 weeks to get the letter about the amount owing.”
Schneider never sent me an invoice, nor did it send a final accounting of the $4,860 contract for my training.
When Schneider Training Manager, Wade Ness responded to my second telephone message, he was unapologetic. It had taken me a half a dozen phone calls just to get the name of a manager. His response to me?
“You should have taken care of it two years ago. It’s water under the bridge to me at this point. Ultimately, it will drop off the credit report.”
After going round and round with him, Ness finally admitted that Schneider had not sent me an invoice. The collection agency, he said, is a third-party vendor for Schneider. “They are the ones that handle our collections.”
“Anyone that leaves, this ultimately falls into the credit reporting side of the house,” he told me.
James McKee is the president of that collection agency, United Resources Systems in Lakewood, Colorado. He said his company received my file on October 6, 2009, four days after my last communication with Schneider’s Drive Payment Services.
I’m sure Schneider’s policy is legal and undoubtedly a financial winner. But it is also unethical, immoral and highly disrespectful to drivers. The policy assumes any driver who leaves the company while owing money is a deadbeat.
I signed a contract with Schneider for training. Schneider took weekly deductions for the cost of that training. I expected Schneider to provide me with a final accounting of the amount owing and how and where I could address any final payment. I expected a one-page information sheet from my Driver Business Leader, or Driver Payment Services, or at the very least, (and most efficiently) a one-page letter included with my final paycheck. I received nothing. It had always been the plan to send my account straight to collection if any money was left owing. Schneider had no plan to communicate with me.
Since leaving Schneider, I have received our W-2 income tax statements and recruiting letters, one of which, ironically, arrived two days after my credit score shock.
I didn’t expect a bill from a company named United Resources Systems in Colorado. I received no invoice. I’m in the habit of opening all my mail, although we pick it up every four-to-six weeks. Our mail is often bundled and FedExed to a hotel. All my other mail gets through just fine.
According to the Debtor History Report sent to me by the collection agency, at least one letter was sent February 24, 2010. What happened between October, 2009, and February, I don’t know. I’ve sent another email to McKee asking him about this, but have received no response.
The collection agency made several phone calls, but never left any messages. That’s because it is against New York State law for collectors to leave messages. But since I’m either driving or sleeping all the time, my phone is almost never on. This is not an unsual state of affairs for a truck driver.
McKee of United Resources was helpful. He hears hundreds of sob stories but he listened to mine. I paid the bill, which had now grown to $81.25 thanks to interest and fees, and he immediately sent reports to the credit bureaus to delete the collection notice.
There is a greater message in this and it’s not the story of a big company that lost something in the cogs of its giant wheels. Nor is it the story of a deadbeat driver. It is yet another confirmation of the absolute disregard companies have for employees — the workers, consumers and the middle class of this great economy — in the name of expediency and profit.
There is no longer any political interest in trying to create any leve
l of equity, or fairness, between big business and workers. This was the role of unions years ago. American workers, as John Steinbeck once noted, see themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires,” not as an “exploited proletariat.”
During training, when we were “Schneiderized” as drivers call it, we were told that there were three immediate, no-questions-asked firing offenses at the Green Bay, Wisconsin-based company. They were: pulling a U-turn or backing up on a public roadway, talking to the media, and breathing the word union.
Within 48 hours of talking to McKee, my credit score bounced from 699 to 729 on TransUnion, still well below the 764 of last year. This credit bureau considers 760 to 850 excellent, which receives the best interest rates, and 699 is two tiers below. Mint.com labels 725 and above Grade A and 699 and below C Grade. No rhyme or reason to these scores but consumers pay the price.
At 760, the 30-year fixed mortgage rate on a $300,000 property is 4.533 percent. At 699, it is 4.932 percent, a difference in total interest of $25,947.51. On a 48-month, $35,000 car loan, I would pay $5,583 more in interest now, thanks to Schneider’s policy of treating drivers like deadbeats, even when we’re not.