View from the Edge

Best Fleets 2019: Why Execution Is So Important

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.

Best Fleets to Drive For 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.

For the 11th edition, which opened for nominations September 4, 2018, the program has been updated to dig even deeper into participating companies. While the program has always sought out great ideas and innovations, this year's questionnaire increases the focus on another equally important ingredient - execution.

In addition to capturing the places where companies are finding new approaches to the industry's problems, this year the Best Fleets program is spending more time on exactly how companies keep those new ideas running smoothly. After all, new ideas are great, but if they're not delivered consistently, or if they're undermined by other actions in the company, they don't benefit anyone. The Top 20 Best Fleets have been separating themselves from the pack by demonstrating top notch execution in their programs, so we'll be exploring how they're doing that, and the best practices that are emerging from those efforts. Here are some of the specific areas we'll be looking at.

Communication

How companies solicit input from their drivers has always been an important part of the Best Fleets evaluation process. Collecting that feedback regularly, and acting on it, is a critical part of continuous improvement for a fleet. However, even with larger programs in place to capture driver sentiment (e.g. surveys, town halls), the day-to-day communication in the business can unwittingly negate those efforts. Fleets may talk about how important drivers are, and how the doors are always open, but if the daily communication to drivers is impersonal, overly bureaucratic, or intimidating, the company will struggle to build a collaborative and productive culture.

Fleets that are executing well in this area have the same communication process for both driving and non-driving staff, with much of it handled through phone calls, email, or text messaging. That consistency, and the informality that inevitably builds through short, casual conversations, sends a clear message to drivers that the company sees them as part of a team, rather than a separate group requiring different rules. This approach contrasts sharply with fleets who still employ the “formal note in a mailbox” approach - invariably seen by drivers as stiff, impersonal, and often unsettling. With such a wide range of practices seen just through anecdotal evidence, this is one area where a deep dive is expected to provide some real insights into what works and what doesn't.

Operations

Building on the broader communication piece, the specifics of day to day operation will also get a deeper look. Throughout the 10+ years of the Best Fleets program, we've seen a big shift in how fleets plan loads and dispatch drivers - moving away from the basic First-In-First-Out to today's more personalized, automated load assignment systems that consider driver requirements, preferences, proximity, available hours, and a variety of other variables when matching drivers with freight. Those innovations have improved things for drivers overall, but there will always be situations where the assigned loads are a problem for drivers. How fleets deal with those issues will be an area of focus this year:

What's the process when a driver wants to change an assignment?
When a driver needs to be home for a specific date, does the company meet that requirement?
How much cushion do they build into their planning to account for unforeseen delays?
How do they ensure drivers understand the assignment process, and feel it's fair?

These are just some of the things that can make or break a driver's experience with the company. Much of the time problems are a result of an unclear process or lax oversight, so we'll be looking at what fleets do to proactively avoid problems.

Payroll

Payroll is another area where a strong process and consistent execution can create either an exceptional or terrible experience for a driver. For the last few years, the Best Fleets evaluation has looked at how companies ensure payroll accuracy, and the responses have varied widely. Some fleets have no formal plan and deal with individual issues as they come up. Some fleets have a multistep process, with redundant checks to ensure accuracy. This year, the evaluation will start to dig more deeply into dispute resolution. Every company may have its own process for managing payroll accuracy, but mistakes and disputes will inevitably arise. How the company handles those unforeseen issues will be remembered by drivers long after the individual issue is settled.

These are just some of the new areas we'll be looking at as we interview this year's crop of Best Fleets nominees. As always, it will be fascinating to see how companies are addressing these challenges, and where they're heading in the future.

Nominations for the 11th annual Best Fleets to Drive For program are open until October 31, 2018. 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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