CINCINNATI—Three companies were honored for their successful transportation systems with FleetOwner 500 Private Fleet of the Year awards at the final general session of the National Private Truck Council’s NPTC 2022 conference at the historic downtown Netherlands Hilton.
The awards were presented to Pacific Gas & Electric, Meijer, and Hillyard fleet executives by FleetOwner’s executive editor and Jean-Sebastien “J.S.” Bouchard, co-founder and EVP of sales for Isaac Instruments, which sponsored the awards.
Pacific Gas & Electric, the 49th largest fleet on the FleetOwner 500: Top Private Fleets, was named the overall 2022 winner by FleetOwner editors. The fourth-largest private utility fleet in the U.S., PG&E is firmly committed to sustainability. Its work in California is laying the groundwork for fleets across the country that will be working to reduce emissions in the coming years. The fleet already operates more than 1,300 battery-electric vehicles and 60 that run on compressed natural gas.
See also: What do drivers really want? Ask them
Michael Glover, senior director of shared services for PG&E, said he’s most proud of the learning and engagement he’s accomplished with his team from the first-generation EV technology his fleet uses. In addition, his fleet created specification review committees that bring in operators, technicians, engineers, and other employees together to develop the next wave of vehicles for the utility fleet.
Based in San Fransisco, PG&E provides electricity and natural gas to two-thirds of California. The fleet of Classes 1-8 vehicles intends to convert all its light-duty vehicles to EVs by 2030. It looks to convert 10% of its medium-duty and 5% of heavy-duty vehicles to EVs during the same timespan.
“It’s exciting and it’s a challenge,” Glover said of California’s push to decarbonize the commercial vehicle industry. “There may not be a clear path to get there right now—but the path will emerge at some point. And I feel fortunate that I’m on a team that’s pioneering that path at the scale that we’re able to do it at.”
Glover credited his engineering team for helping guide his fleet through its first generation of zero-emission vehicles and is moving PG&E into the next generation. For him, it’s all about engaging his fleet stakeholders in the future. “We’re balancing out the operators’ view with the engineering view with the mechanics’ view,” he explained. “It all helps to get a better product once we’re done—as opposed to one person developing them in a silo and hoping that they got the solution right after a long production cycle.”
Hillyard: 2022 Private Fleet to Watch
For the first time in the history of the FleetOwner 500 Private Fleet of the Year award, the publication is honoring a fleet that did not rank in the annual FleetOwner 500: Top Private Fleets list, which was unveiled in the April print edition of the magazine (and will be available online later this month).
Chuck Amen, Hillyard’s transportation operations manager, said he doesn’t want to just fill his truck seats with a warm body. “We rely a lot on word-of-mouth and referrals to find top-quality drivers,” he said. “We like drivers who are looking for longevity and a career with our private fleet. We don’t micromanage—we allow them to do their jobs. And our people are professional. We know without a doubt when we fill that seat, that’s a professional driver in our truck with our brand on the side.”
More than 100 years ago, the cleaning solutions company invented the modern wooden basketball court finish that is still used today, along with its many floor and other cleaning products. Over the past two years, the company used its fleet to donate cleaning supplies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based in St. Joseph, Missouri, Hillyard is active in the community through several charitable organizations, most recently partnering with Every Kid Sport, which helps ensure children are not priced out of youth sports.
Amen said he uses the annual NPTC benchmarking report to set up his fleet’s success. “We’re extremely excited we were able to keep our cost of delivery in check despite rising costs of everything,” he said. “NPTC has the annual benchmarking, we do it monthly. We adopted it so that when our monthly financials come out, we can look and see exactly what our percentages are over the previous years, what our cost of delivery is per pound, per pallet, per shipment mile.”
That data, Amen said, has proved his fleet’s value to the Hillyard leaders. “We’ve drawn some attention to the private fleet’s contribution to the company’s bottom line with our inbound revenue.”
Meijer: 2022 Private Fleet of the Year finalist
Meijer Logistics, the private fleet for the Midwest supercenter grocer Meijer, was honored as FleetOwner 500 Private Fleet of the Year finalist. The five-time EPA SmartWay Excellence Award winner committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 50% by 2025.
“Meijer is definitely very proactive when it comes to safety technologies, fuel-efficient technologies,” said Carol Heinowski, the fleet’s outbound logistics manager. “We’re definitely a company that’s willing to test different things to see how they work out.”
Like many fleets, Meijer has seen some drivers leave to chase hiring bonuses at other carriers. But despite this, the fleet set a hiring goal last year to reach 400 employee drivers, Heinowski said. “But we were able to hit that goal, which we saw as a huge accomplishment given the climate right now. A week after reaching that goal, we decided to raise the bar,” she added. “So we’re going to keep hiring now.”
Heinowski said that Meijer Logistics prides itself on being a safe fleet that looks out for its drivers: from working to reduce driver injuries to never pushing drivers to exceed their hours of service. “I get a lot of questions about having to go over hours of service from drivers in interviews wondering if they have to worry about violations with us,” Heinowski said. “It’s just not part of our safety culture.”
Jeramy Quick, Meijer’s lead dispatcher, said that if a driver hits his or her hours limit while on the road, someone on the fleet will go pick the driver up. “There’s no ifs, ands, or buts,” he said. “We never push them into an unsafe predicament.”
FleetOwner 500 and awards
For more than 20 years, FleetOwner magazine has compiled and published the most comprehensive listings of the top private fleets in the U.S. The FleetOwner 500: Top Private Fleets uses various sources to rank companies by total power units.
The 2022 list was released in the April print edition of the magazine and will be featured on FleetOwner.com later in the month. Earlier this year, the FleetOwner 500: Top For-Hire list of the largest truckload and LTL for-hire carriers in the U.S. was published.
Editors select winners of the annual FleetOwner 500 Private Fleet of the Year awards based on fleets’ accomplishments, safety records, technology adoption, community outreach, and more. All companies on the FleetOwner 500: Top Private Fleets list are eligible along with all NPTC member fleets.
In 2022, a record number of award nominations were received. Fleets, customers, and readers will again be invited to nominate companies for the 2023 awards early next year. The goal is to recognize excellence in trucking—regardless of size or duty cycle—and how the fleets contribute to keeping the nation moving forward.