View from the Edge
Moving the Industry Forward: 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, the corporate questionnaire and driver survey are updated to reflect new ideas and trends discovered in the previous year. This allows the program to capture best practices as they're emerging, and ensures that each year's winners reflect the latest innovations in the industry.
The 10th edition of the program opened for nominations on September 5, 2017, and this year's questionnaire has been updated to explore the latest areas where fleets are innovating. Here are 8 of those areas, which break down nicely into two main themes - expanding communication and demonstrating respect for drivers.
Gone are the days when an open door policy and suggestion box were the foundations of communication with drivers. Over the past few years, the Best Fleets have been continuing to find new ways to keep drivers in the loop and engaged, some of which were covered in a previous article. Other emerging ideas include:
Fleets have been moving away from the traditional Saturday driver meeting and finding new ways to share information with drivers. While some primarily distribute documents and policiy updates over the satellite, that unidirectional communication doesn't provide an opportunity for discussion. With more fleets moving to interactive townhalls, conference calls, and web meetings, there's a distinct shift toward collaborative meetings happening across the Best Fleets.
Driver committees have been around for years, and many fleets have realized that simply having one isn't enough - to get real value from it you need to give it a mandate, have a process for keeping it fresh, and regularly evaluate its effectiveness. More advanced fleets treat their driver committees almost like a town council - ensuring all constituencies are represented, holding elections to determine makeup, and even setting term limits in some cases. To provide transparency, some fleets are broadcasting committee meetings over the web and posting meeting minutes on the company intranet afterwards.
- Vehicle Spec'ing
Fleets participating in the Best Fleets program uniformly provide newer, higher end equipment for drivers, with the average age of the fleet rarely exceeding two years. That means a lot of spec'ing of equipment, and more and more fleets are including drivers in that process. Spec'ing committees at larger fleets include drivers, and even smaller fleets are regularly collecting driver feedback on a variety of features to ensure driver needs are satisfied.
- Equipment Management
Keeping that equipment running smoothly is just as important as having new gear, and there's a lot more to it than just regular oil changes and inspections. In the past few years, fleets have been developing more elaborate communication processes to ensure drivers and shop staff are working together most efficiently, and more fleets are connecting ECMs and maintenance management systems to automate elements of the process.
Everyone says they respect their drivers, but actions speak louder than words and Best Fleets have been finding new ways to demonstrate that respect on a regular basis. Some of the less obvious places include:
With drivers on the road so much, hometime is a priority for them. Not just making it home, though, but getting home when they need to, not half a day later. Best Fleets have been implementing new policies to focus on hometime accuracy and starting to measure their success in this area as well.
Moving beyond the traditional annual banquet recognizing drivers of the year and million milers, in the past few years fleets have been adding more opportunities for recognition, and doing it more frequently. Programs for highlighting outstanding performance in fuel efficiency, customer service, coaching excellence, and personal improvement are happening quarterly, and in some cases monthly.
A real shift in the past 4 years has been in the area of driver coaching. Previously, fleets provided coaching and mentoring programs for new hires, or drivers in finishing programs, but that was it. Now, it's much more common for coaching to continue for a year or more for new hires, and in some cases that coaching never completely stops. With the prevalence of dashcams, coaches now have more data to work with, improving the overall effectiveness as well.
- Everyday Equality
Great driver programs can easily be undermined simply by locking drivers out of the building and making them use a driver window to speak to coworkers. Best Fleets are recognizing that and opening up their terminals, ensuring drivers have the same access as other staffers. HR policies, benefit packages, and facilities are also being updated so that drivers are treated at least as well as, if not better than, office staff.
Just looking at the 8 areas above, it's easy to see how much the industry is changing, and how quickly. All of these are things that barely registered 5 years ago, and are becoming commonplace now. As always, it will be fascinating to see what this year's crop of Best Fleets are doing for their drives, and how they're continuing to raise the bar for innovation.
Nominations for the 10th annual Best Fleets to Drive For program are open until October 31, 2017. More information is available on the Best Fleets website.
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.
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