View from the Edge

2018 Best Fleets to Drive For: Benefits for an Aging Workforce

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.

The winners of the 10th anniversary edition were announced at the end of January and a previous article discussed some of this year's data related to driver compensation. However, with a driver workforce that continues to age, components of the broader compensation package, such as health insurance and retirement planning, are increasingly important. Here are some things that this year's Best Fleets are doing to provide support for driver needs in those areas.

Health Insurance

Options for driver health insurance have continued to evolve through the life of the program. When the Best Fleets program first started, in the depths of the recession, company-sponsored insurance was often sparse, with few choices and high premiums. Of course, much has changed in the health insurance world since that time, and that's clearly reflected in the options fleets provide for their drivers.

Where fleets in the past might have had a single, bare bones plan for drivers and another, fuller plan for office staff, it's now more common for fleets to offer a selection of plans that are the same for all employees. Those plans often include a range of coverage and deductible levels, options for spousal, single parent, and full family coverage, and a corresponding range in premium levels. The selections have been steadily increasing for the past 5 years, with this year's participants including the widest range yet seen.

While that growth has been steady, another area has changed dramatically in the past couple of years: the time to qualify for benefits coverage. Previously, drivers would need to work for a fleet for anywhere from 3 to 6 months to qualify for insurance coverage, but over the past 2 years that's changed dramatically. 35% of this year's participants allow drivers to get on their insurance after 60 days of employment, and another 20% only require 30 days of service. This is a significant change in a short time. On top of that, several other fleets (5 confirmed, plus some unconfirmed) noted that they were planning on making similar changes in 2018, so this is clearly an idea that's catching on.

The reasoning behind it is simple, and consistent across fleets making the move. Older, more experienced drivers have shown a reluctance to make a move if it means going without health insurance for an extended period. They recognize that a few cents per mile, or improved work conditions, can easily be overshadowed by a health issue during a period without coverage. Fleets wanting to attract those older drivers, whose experience and stability can be a tremendous asset to the fleet, have recognized those concerns and adjusted the insurance waiting periods accordingly.

Retirement Planning

Part of the reason those older drivers are careful about jeopardizing their insurance coverage is because they're thinking about their retirement and are conscious of the need to save for when they stop driving. Fleets have been working to support those efforts for a few years, with 401(k) plans that include a company match portion.

The great recession saw fleets slashing their 401(k) contributions, but they've been working their way back to pre-recession levels ever since. For the 2018 edition of the Best Fleets program, nearly every fleet employing company drivers (96.3%) had a 401(k) program, and 86.5% of them had a company match of some kind as well.

The amount each company contributes to those plans on behalf of drivers varied widely, from 0.2% of total payroll at the low end, up to 5.9% in the most generous case. The average across all participating fleets was 1.75% of total payroll.

Profit sharing plans have also been growing, in the shadow of company-supported 401(k) plans. While still relatively rare, with only 13% of Best Fleets participants offering one, that's a sizable increase over past years.

Finally, with the number of publicly traded trucking companies growing over the past few years, the number of participants offering stock options and discounted stock purchase plans has also increased.

While some of these efforts may appear to be small, their combined effects show that the Best Fleets are starting to tailor their offerings to serve the needs of their mature drivers. While new entrant programs, realtime performance scorecards, and social media may work well for the younger drivers, these programs show that fleets are looking out for drivers at the other end of the career spectrum.

The two overall winners in the 2018 Best Fleets to Drive For program - Best Overall Fleet for Small Carrier and Best Overall Fleet for Large Carrier - will be announced March 26, 2018 at TCA's Annual Convention.

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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