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.
Nominations for the 2018 edition of the program closed on Halloween, and nominated fleets are now in the process of completing their corporate questionnaires and follow-up interviews. The data collection stage continues into December, but a preliminary review of the data collected so far shows some interesting developments in a few areas.
The idea of providing drivers with guaranteed daily or weekly incomes has been growing in popularity over the past several years, and the data so far for 2018 suggests that that's approaching a tipping point.
In the previous edition of the program, 17% of all finalists had a pay guarantee as part of the basic compensation package. Another 33% had programs that provided minimum pay in specific situations (e.g. on-boarding) or for certain job roles, meaning that 50% of finalists had either full or partial pay guarantees for drivers.
This year, the overall numbers are creeping up, with just under 60% of respondents providing some kind of guaranteed pay program. More significant, though, is the fact that most of those fleets have full guarantees for all drivers. Where 17% of last year's finalists had a guarantee program providing a cushion to all drivers in all situations, so far this year over 40% of participants have similar programs. That's a big increase – roughly half of the participants have submitted data in this area so far, but the number of fleets with such programs is already higher than the total number seen in all of last year's data.
It's no secret that the trucking industry will need to expand its recruiting base if it hopes to solve the driver shortage over the long term, and that means recruiting from non-traditional sources such as women, visible minorities, and other groups that are currently underrepresented. Finding success in this area requires the creation of a workplace culture supportive of different backgrounds and needs, and also making it clear that they're welcome.
One of the easiest ways to make it clear that diversity is welcomed in the fleet is by showing it in recruiting ads. Rather than using pictures of trucks, or white, male drivers, this year's Best Fleets participants are making a point of featuring drivers that are women or visible minorities in their recruiting ads. While this practice has been increasing steadily over the past several years, the early 2018 data shows a dramatic 75% increase in the number of fleets taking this simple step to encourage diversity.
In addition to encouraging applicants from diverse backgrounds, efforts to create a supportive culture also continue to grow. This can include making accommodations to allow for service dogs, hiring bilingual staff to improve communications, or adjusting loads and schedules for different religious requirements, most commonly. That, in turn, creates a positive experience for those drivers that inspires them to recommend the company to others in their community, providing even more benefit for the fleet.
ELDs have been a hot topic for the past several months, but Best Fleets participants have largely moved on to other things. With most participating fleets fully implemented over a year ago, they've been able to focus on other types of safety technology. This year's most commonly listed items include dash cams and collision avoidance systems.
Dash cams have been steadily increasing in usage over the past 5 years, and that trend appears to be continuing this year. 44% of participants have camera systems either fully implemented or in the process of being rolled out, with another 10% in a pilot stage. While Lytx and SmartDrive are the most commonly listed brands, a variety of other smaller players are gaining traction in this area as well.
Collision avoidance technology appears to be earlier in the adoption lifecycle, but starting to gain a solid foothold nonetheless. One third of participants list this as a safety technology on at least some of their tractors, with many including it as part of their standard vehicle spec for new tractors. It's expected that this area will see substantial growth in coming years.
Last year's edition of the Best Fleets program started digging more deeply into the in-cab amenities provided for drivers, and one of the more surprising findings was the divergent approach to providing comfort on the road. The early data for 2018 shows that trend continuing.
The predominant approach to improving driver comfort on the road centers on upgraded seats and high end mattresses (74% of respondents), and the addition of in-cab entertainment through Sirius XM radio or EpicVue satellite TV (29%).
Going in a completely different direction are the fleets who focus instead on getting drivers out of the cab and into alternate accommodations. Every year since the first edition of Best Fleets there have been one or two fleets who manage to get their drivers home every day or two, bypassing the need for elaborate sleeper berths. This year is no different, with two fleets already noting that their drivers are home most or all nights.
Even more noteworthy, though, are the longer haul fleets with policies allowing drivers to use hotels while on the road. Last year, a little over 5% of finalists had such policies, but this year's preliminary data already shows 4 times that.
While the evaluation phase of the 2018 Best Fleets program still has several weeks to go, the data collected thus far is pointing to another year full of interesting trends and suprisingly innovative ideas. Check back in January, when we have the complete dataset, to see how it all played out.
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 provides interactive online driver training for the North American trucking industry. A comprehensive library of safety and compliance courses is supplemented with extensive content creation and customization options, full featured survey tools, detailed management reports, and the industry's first dedicated mobile app for driver training.