Editor’s note: The Best Fleets to Drive For program is the only annual program dedicated to uncovering the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. It’s produced by CarriersEdge, in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. In this year’s selection process, more than 150 nominated fleets were evaluated and more than 8,000 driver surveys were analyzed.
When we evaluate fleets for the annual Best Fleets to Drive For program, we look 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. We also conduct surveys from drivers. Lots of them. Those fleets that make the cut 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 Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For will be announced on Jan. 29, but here’s a sneak peek of cumulative results from these fleets:
One area that stood out was operational strategy – what fleets do through their daily operations to make life better for drivers.
There have been many stories about fleets increasing their driver pay, but what fleets do to keep drivers moving and productive can be just as important. Those experiences can often have more impact on a driver's overall satisfaction level than any pay package.
Minimizing maintenance downtime
Reliable equipment that runs smoothly has long been a key for success and this year is no different. The vast majority have taken advantage of technology to manage preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling and have processes in place to ensure drivers get routed into a shop with minimal headaches.
A new scoring metric that emerged this year is how long it actually takes for PM to be completed. Some of the Best Fleets are changing the game for when they schedule PM, resulting in less down time. Why take your truck out of service for part of the day when you could have it worked on when it’s already scheduled to be off the road? That’s what some fleets are doing, and it’s working. Fleets that have switched to scheduling PMs when a driver is off duty have been able to cut down on their downtime drastically. An appreciable number of this year's finalists make a point of scheduling PMs for weekends or overnights, when the driver is already off duty.
For independent contractor fleets, the focus on equipment uptime takes a slightly different route. While fleets have to be careful what services they offer, they are typically providing free inspections for contractor vehicles, discounted labor at company shops, and most have arranged substantial parts discounts. Put together, these options can dramatically improve the efficiency and lower the cost of routine maintenance for contractors.
Minimizing shipper delays
Fleets have always paid drivers for excess waiting time, but what constitutes “excess” time has been changing. As fleets find ways to improve the driver experience, the average wait time before receiving detention pay has decreased. Instead of having to wait up to four hours before detention pay kicks in, the standard now appears to be two hours – 55% of this year's finalists pay drivers at that point.
Even better? Another 38% of the finalists pay sooner than that, with 22% paying out after 90 minutes. A few even start the clock as soon as the driver enters the yard, effectively paying for all pickup and delivery time.
Use of trailer pools is increasing, with more fleets using dropped trailers to speed up the loading/unloading process for drivers. This continues to be a popular option for drivers, allowing them to get in and out.
With more freight than drivers, the majority of this year's finalists have also taken the opportunity to improve the driver experience at shipping points, relying on feedback from drivers to do so. More fleets are using customer scorecards to track metrics such as ease of access, use of washrooms, general treatment, and speed of loading/unloading. Several have adopted Amazon-style “rate-this-load” surveys through their mobile apps, giving drivers an opportunity to provide quick feedback.
Of course, collecting feedback is only half the battle – doing something with it is what counts. Most fleets using scorecards or surveys have formal processes in place to share that feedback with customers.
It's worth noting that many of these proactive customer management tools are just as common in contractor fleets as they are in fleets using company drivers. In fact, 82% of contractor-only fleets this year have some kind of customer scorecard or post-delivery survey to collect feedback on the experience. While many don't pay contractors for their waiting time, the majority are collecting feedback on ways to improve the process.
Put together, these efforts can make a big difference in the experience for drivers. If they can have PM completed without losing productive time, get paid for everything except minor delays, have the opportunity to provide feedback on customers, and see that feedback translate into changes, then the driver's job can get a whole lot better.