View from the Edge

Best Fleets to Drive For: What Drivers Say

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, nearly 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.

While much of the attention this past week has focused on the announcement of the two overall winners, and the programs they're running, it's also important to look at what drivers had to say in their surveys.

This year the Best Fleets program collected nearly 8400 surveys from company drivers and independent contractors alike. While there are certainly differences from one fleet to another, there were also areas of consensus across all respondents.

In general, drivers and owner-operators completing the survey were pretty happy with their current carriers. 82.1% were likely or very likely to recommend their current company, and a similar number would like to stay there for the rest of their career.

Drivers didn't indicate significant dissatisfaction with their pay. The Best Fleets finalists have traditionally been competitive with pay but not at the top of the industry range, and this year was the same. Drivers, in general, weren't unhappy with that: 88.9% felt that the company's pay model was working for them, and 88.1% felt that they were compensated fairly. Considering the amount of attention paid to compensation in the industry over the past year, this was a surprising result.

Drivers do, however, have a clear interest in profit sharing or stock option programs. Perhaps a result of an increase in media stories over the past year, or perhaps because of other drivers talking about it: whatever the reason, drivers are thinking about the issue. Survey respondents expressed more interest in having a company profit sharing program than receiving increased bonuses or other rewards.

There were three areas where fleets across the board scored lower, relative to other responses.

Determining Routes

The first is a question asking whether drivers feel the company has a fair method of determining routes. This question has always produced responses that are less positive than others, and this year's results are no different. 20.9% neither agreed nor disagreed, a much higher level of indecision than seen in other questions. Supporting comments from drivers suggest that there's significant uncertainty among drivers about how companies determine routes and decide who's doing what. What makes this more notable is that the majority of evaluated fleets have very similar processes in this area: assigning loads based on proximity, available hours, driver preferences, and several other variables. Fleet efforts were consistent enough that we didn't score it (not enough differences to generate a scoring matrix), but all fleets were taking significant steps to ensure driver preferences were accommodated and loads were assigned fairly. This would seem to be primarily be a disconnect in communications, but it's a consistent disconnect across all participants.

Providing Input

The second area with generally lower scores from drivers is a question about whether they have ample opportunity to provide input into business decisions affecting them. This is a place where fleets are investing significant effort (as noted in the pages to follow), so it's expected that scores in this area will improve in the coming years.

Getting Together

The third weaker area is the issue of company meetings, and whether drivers feel they're effective. Here, the results from fleet to fleet vary considerably, depending on whether the company is using modern meeting tools or relying on in-person events, but overall the response is less positive than in other areas. As with the point above, it's an area where fleets are starting to make significant changes so the responses will likely improve in the near future.

It should be noted that the Best Fleets Top 20, and indeed all this year's finalists, did not score poorly in these areas, just that the feedback from drivers was less positive than in other areas. On their own, these scores were perfectly acceptable (and enviable in many cases), but they were weaker than others on a relative level, indicating opportunities for growth in the future.

And finally, one statistic shows an opportunity for all fleets to improve engagement among drivers: 76.5% of respondents report being active social media users, but only 58% actually follow their own company on social media.

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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