View from the Edge

Maximizing Driver Performance: 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.

Each year there are several areas where the Best Fleets finalists and winners really separate themselves from the rest of the industry, and one such area this year is driver performance management. Every fleet wants to ensure its drivers are operating as effectively and profitably as possible, but this year's Best Fleets have gone beyond old-style safety management programs with granular, multi-modal approaches that show dramatic results. Here are some of the things they're doing, that can easily implemented by any fleet.

More Metrics

This year's Best Fleets capture more data than ever before. Rather than just tracking basic safety stats (e.g. accidents, violations, CSA scores), it's common for fleets to also include fuel effiiciency, fuel network compliance, on-time percentage, cargo claims, and even seemingly small things like cab and trailer cleanliness. All of that data requires a system for compiling and managing it, and driver scorecards are the overwhelming choice. A full 72% of Best Fleets finalists have a formal scorecard system, ranging from Excel-based solutions to third-party software. A surprising trend this year was the number of fleets that have moved away from third party software and built systems from scratch - a complex undertaking, but one that provides maximum flexibility and customization.

More Frequency

Another place where the Best Fleets distinguish themselves from others is in the frequency of performance reporting. While it's common for fleets to do annual reviews with drivers, and supplement that with lighter reviews tied to quarterly bonuses, this year's Best Fleets provide performance feedback to their drivers much more often.

69% of finalists provide performance feedback to drivers at least monthly, and 45% do it weekly or better. That's a lot of feedback for drivers, but the Top 20 go even further - 84% offer monthly feedback and 52% are weekly.

It's important to note that this isn't something only large fleets do - fleets as small as 40 trucks had programs that included weekly performance feedback for drivers. Clearly, there's a benefit to letting drivers know how well they're doing on a more regular basis.

More Transparency

Providing frequent feedback is helpful, but adding benchmarking data takes it to the next level. 30% of the Best Fleets finalists include benchmarking data in their scorecards, allowing drivers to see how their individual performance compares to the fleet average, or their ranking within a designated group. A full 60% of the Top 20 Best Fleets do this, giving drivers detailed information on their strengths and weaknesses across a variety of categories.

More Follow-up

Turning all that data into action requires monitoring and a follow up plan. Best Fleets are supplementing the scorecards and benchmarking with dedicated review and coaching programs - drivers don't just see where they have performance gaps, they get guidance on how to close those gaps. That can be as simple as a follow-up phone call, more formalized through dedicated training programs, or more involved with practical intervention through in-cab coaching.

The best of the best combine all of the options, with dedicated coaches that review scorecard data and determine the appropriate course of action for each individual.

The Results

Drivers invariably have a positive response to these programs. 80.8% of drivers surveyed this year want to be bonused on performance rather than seniority, and 78.6% strongly agreed that their company's data-driven approach was effective for improving performance.

It's not hard to see why these programs are popular - drivers get a better sense of how they're doing in different areas, why their income is what it is, and where to improve. At the same time, the company can focus its resources where they'll get the most benefit, leading to continuous improvement across the board.

View from the Edge is a periodic 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.

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