Garner Trucking won the inaugural Stratosphere Award.

What makes a winner among the Best Fleets to Drive For?

April 10, 2024
Actionable feedback, company culture, appreciation, and kindness helped propel these three fleets to win the annual Best Fleets to Drive For awards.

Gathering actionable feedback, maintaining stellar company culture, and simple moral kindness drew international appreciation during this year’s Best Fleets to Drive For overall winners

CarriersEdge announced the 2024 winners at the first Best Fleets to Drive for Education & Awards Conference, held at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, April 8-9. 

Best Fleets identified winners across three awards: Best Overall Fleet in the large carrier category, Best Overall Fleet for small carriers, and the new inaugural Stratosphere Award.

Best overall large carrier: Challenger Motor Freight

Challenger Motor Freight, a Canada-based fleet operating about 1,500 trucks, won Best Overall Fleet in the large carrier category.

A key contributor to Challenger’s standout driver service was gathering employee feedback and directing that information toward company improvement.

“I think that our main pillars for our organization have always been: people, customer, profits,” Steve Newton, director of safety and driver development for Challenger Motor Freight, told FleetOwner. “Our philosophy is: if we take care of our people, they’re going to do well by our customers, and then, obviously, the profit comes on later.”

Part of Challenger’s successful relationship with its drivers comes from its Good to Great culture improvement journey. Started in 2014, the Good to Great program.

“We went to our entire fleet and we asked the question: what can we do better and how can we do things better?” Newton said. “We have interviews with all of our top internal employees, we did surveys with all of our drivers, and we focused on what the outcomes of those surveys and those meetings were. Then that created that road map for us: we’re good today, how do we become great? And that was really the whole intent behind it.”

Best overall small carrier: K&J Trucking

The Best Overall Fleet in the small carrier category was K&J Trucking, a South Dakota-based fleet operating across the lower 48 states.

For K&J, hiring the right people to support the fleet’s core values helped win the Best Overall Fleet recognition.

“We have 4 values at K&J that we hire to and everybody that works there embraces them,” Shelley Schipper, president of K&J Trucking, told FleetOwner.

K&J’s four values are: do the right thing, go the extra mile for drivers, own it, and be geared to the community.

“We own it ... What does that mean?” Shelley Schipper said. “We just own the process and we own our jobs. We own our mistakes. We own our freight. We own our decisions; we own it.”

Shelley Schipper said that the K&J workforce collectively embraces these four values, which has been key to its successful driver relations. “Those four core values were developed by our team, everybody believes in them, and everybody does them. We practice them every day and I think that’s what elevates our company to a Best Fleet.”

To reinforce these values, K&J makes sure to carefully choose employees that buy into the company culture.

“We are very particular about who we hire. We don’t compromise,” Shelley Schipper said. “Anytime you do, you start having problems. Our [controllable] turnover reflects that: year to date, it’s under 6%.”

This workplace culture and careful hiring have helped K&J consistently onboard and retain great drivers, according to Dan Schipper, marketing manager for K&J.

“I don’t think it can be understated, the importance of hiring the right people or the people in the right mindset,” Dan Schipper told FleetOwner.

“I can unequivocally say that we have the best drivers that I’ve seen. We have the highest standards that I’ve ever seen. These men and women have fed our family for years and they are consummate professionals; it’s easy to want to do the right thing for them and to try to show up because that’s what they’re doing.”

The Stratosphere Award: Garner Trucking

The first Best Fleets Conference also featured a new overall winner category: the Stratosphere Award. This award recognizes the top-scoring fleet among those in the Best Fleets Hall of Fame

Garner Trucking, an Ohio-based fleet, won the inaugural Stratosphere Award. According to Garner’s CEO, simple moral rules can help direct a fleet to greater driver service.

“I think it’s simple. It’s do unto others as you would have them do unto you. You just live by those golden rules,” Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, CEO, president, and owner of Garner Trucking, told FleetOwner. “I get out in the truck as often as I can, and I go out for a whole week. I pack my bag like I’m going camping and it’s going to be fun. At the end of it I’m so appreciative of what they do, because it’s hard.”

Garner’s driver service has drawn drivers to appreciate both the company and Brumbaugh herself.

“Sherri, there’s no other like her,” Rich Robinson, company driver for Garner Trucking, told FleetOwner. “She’s not a boss, but she’s more than a boss, and she treats her employees like gold, like family. Employees start to realize that. I told my dad one time that, sometimes, it feels like Garner hires you to retire you. I can see it myself for the long run, working for retirement.”

What is Best Fleets to Drive For?

The Best Fleets to Drive For program is an annual survey and contest, launched in 2008, recognizing for-hire carriers that provide the best workplace experiences for their drivers.

Presented by CarriersEdge, Best Fleets to Drive For looks at for-hire carriers, operating 10 tractor-trailers or more, that received a nomination by one of their current company drivers or owner-operators.

The program scores nominated fleets across multiple workplace categories, including compensation, benefits, professional development, HR strategies, operations, and work/life balance. The program recognizes the top 20 highest-scoring fleets as the Best Fleets to Drive For. 

The Best Fleets program also maintains the Best Fleets to Drive For Hall of Fame, reserved for fleets that receive the Best Fleets distinction for 7-10 consecutive years. These fleets must then maintain their Best Fleets status each year to requalify for the Hall of Fame

The 2024 edition of the program received 117 nominees. Of the nominees, 67 became finalists and advanced to the scoring round. Best Fleets announced the Top 20 carriers in late January and waited to announce the 3 overall winners until its April conference.

About the Author

Jeremy Wolfe | Editor

Editor Jeremy Wolfe joined the FleetOwner team in February 2024. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point with majors in English and Philosophy. He previously served as Editor for Endeavor Business Media's Water Group publications.

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