View from the Edge

Keeping Drivers Engaged: What the Best Fleets Do

Best Fleets to Drive For is the only annual program dedicated to uncovering the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. Produced by CarriersEdge, in partnership with Truckload Carriers Association, the program evaluates more than 100 nominated fleets and collects thousands of driver surveys each year. The resulting data provides a clear picture of what's working at fleets of all sizes.

The annual Best Fleets to Drive For survey and contest evaluates fleets across a range of performance criteria, identifying the companies having the most success with their drivers. The evaluation process is difficult, requiring data to be collected from all departments and surveys from a healthy number of drivers, all in a short timeframe at the busiest time of year. As a result, more than half of each year's nominated fleets don't make it through to the finals. Those that do demonstrate that they've got a strong team and the ability to communicate and collaborate effectively. Fleets that make it further - being named a Best Fleet to Drive For - have really figured out the recipe for success.

One area where this year's crop of winners separate themselves from the pack is driver engagement - how they make drivers feel like an important part of the business and keep them thinking about ways to improve it. All the finalists were a notch above industry averages, but the winners were still a notch above that. While these fleets have demonstrated creativity in keeping their drivers engaged, many of their ideas can be implemented by any fleet, with minimal cost or headache.

Soliciting vs. Reacting

While it's still common for fleets to take a passive approach to their drivers, advertising an open door policy and suggestion box, then waiting for people to come forward with problems or suggestions, this year's Best Fleets take a much more active approach. 83% of this year's finalists and 100% of the winners have some kind of formal outreach program to solicit input from their drivers. This most commonly takes the form of driver surveys, townhall and roundtable meetings, or direct calls from management to drivers, but in every case management is initiating the effort rather than waiting for drivers.

Fleets conducting driver surveys are typically employing third party software to facilitate an online survey, rather than trying to manage a paper-based program, and several have integrated this functionality into their internal mobile apps as well, further simplifying the process for drivers.

Engagement Options

While reaching out to drivers directly has become significantly more common over the past 3 years, this year's winners take it even further by combining multiple outreach channels. 75% of the winners (compared with only 23% of finalists) used a combination of programs that allowed drivers to participate how and when they preferred.

In addition to the surveys, townhalls, and phone calls noted above, 60% of this year's winners also have dedicated driver committees or advisory boards as well. The combination of offerings allows drivers to voice their opinions through online surveys, as part of group discussions, or through a committee, serving different communication styles and work schedules equally.

Following Up

Offering drivers a voice through different communication channels is a great start, but this year's Best Fleets recognize that if nothing comes of those suggestions then the voice will soon go silent. Ensuring that action is taken, and that the results are communicated, is critical to ensuring the success of the program.

One of the simpler ways to do that is to post minutes and action items publicly and devote a section of each meeting to following up on those action items. 81% of the fleets regularly conducting townhall or roundtable meetings post action items afterwards, and 75% dedicate a section of each meeting to closing out action items from previous meetings. As one participant noted, "we survive on follow-up - if we don't close the loop on these issues, [drivers] will stop saying anything"

Steady Drips vs. Periodic Floods

This year's Best Fleets also distinguish themselves from their peers with the frequency of their outreach. Instead of a single, large meeting, or one annual driver survey, it's becoming more common for fleets to conduct smaller outreach efforts more regularly. 75% of this year's winners engage in multiple such programs each year, with some sending short surveys to drivers nearly every week.

Because of the frequent outreach, drivers at these fleets have developed a habit of providing feedback and suggestions about company business as part of their normal course of duty. Within the Best Fleets program itself, these fleets are always noticeable by the number of driver surveys they submit, and the ease with which they get drivers participating - they've developed a culture where people are used to providing their opinion so it's just another part of the day for them.

The Results

Fleets with active outreach programs point to several benefits, including improvements to operational efficiency, cost reduction, and even new revenue opportunities in some cases. More significantly, 56% credit these programs for substantial reductions in driver turnover as well.

Driver response is equally positive. 84.1% of drivers surveyed felt that their company cared about their opinions on subjects that affected them, providing comments such as:

"This company has meetings with all staff to discuss what is working for them and what needs improvement and then gives updates with the progress. We review from previous year if changes were done satisfactorily. Everyone has a say. Real team involvement with company policies and other changes."

"This company is very willing to get opinions from the drivers to make this an awesome place for employment."

It's also noteworthy that companies with more active outreach programs also got higher marks from drivers in other areas such as maintenance and dispatch as well. Clearly, when drivers feel they have a say in how the business runs, they're happier with the different aspects of it. That's a win for everyone.

View from the Edge is a bi-monthly review of best practices in risk management, driver development, and technology for the trucking industry, produced by CarriersEdge.

CarriersEdge is a leading provider of interactive online training tools for the North American trucking industry. With a comprehensive library of safety courses for drivers, extensive customization tools, extremely awesome reporting, the first mobile app for driver training, CarriersEdge helps fleets become more amazing every day.

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