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What it takes to be a Best Fleet to Drive For

Feb. 18, 2021
To be a Best Fleet, you need three things. If you can get those three things right, you can get on the list and stay there for a long time.

When we unveiled this year’s Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For, there was a flurry of excited social media shares and congratulations among the winners, along with some disappointment from those who didn’t make it.

Disappointment was understandable since fleets invest their time documenting their programs and going through the analysis process. Unfortunately, there are always some “sour grapes” – we will hear folks question why Fleet X made it while Fleet Z did not. Or say, “How did that fleet get on the list? They don’t deserve to be there.” These types of comments don’t bother me, but the ones that suggest we take bribes or can be swayed leave a big distaste in my mouth. 

Preferential treatment simply doesn’t come into play. Our scoring system is complex and takes out any biases. Hundreds of hours are spent interviewing, scoring, and compiling the data.

It’s a fair competition, yet since we often have fleets repeat on our Top 20 list, it raises some eyebrows. It shouldn’t.

To be a Best Fleet, you need three things – commitment, discipline, and collaboration. If you can get those three things right, you can get on the list and stay there for a long time.

Commitment

Becoming a Best Fleet requires commitment from the very top to create a better workplace for drivers. Demonstrating that commitment requires sacrifices to be made and some may temporarily impact the company’s revenue and profitability. Without having company leadership 100% behind the efforts, success isn’t guaranteed. But, if company leadership is truly committed, the fleet will be ready to do the work required to make it onto the list.

Discipline

Fleets need to have the discipline to maintain effort, continually look for ways to improve, while keeping at it every day. It’s not something that can be done in a few weeks or even a few months. Some companies have been working on it for years. Through that process, there will be stretches where it looks like no progress is being made, but you still need to keep working. You need a lot of discipline to stay focused during those dark days, but for fleets who stick with it, the payoff comes eventually.

Collaboration

The commitment to build a great company may be led by a few people (or perhaps one person) at the top, but they can’t do it alone. From front line staff to executive officers, everyone needs to be involved in identifying the opportunities for improvement, crafting a plan to address them, and seeing them through to completion to see results. 

As simple and basic as those three things may seem, the difference between fleets who make it into the Top 20, and those who don’t, generally comes down to how thoroughly they’re executing on these principles. It’s also a big part of why some fleets are on the list year after year. When fleets do it well, it’s easy to see. Here are some examples of what that looks like.

  • Grand Island Express has been on the Top 20 for 10 consecutive years now and has won the overall award three times. Clearly, they have exceptional programs and have figured out how to keep their drivers happy. Yet they’re not satisfied.  Every time we do an educational session at the TCA Convention (discussing trends and new ideas) their president is the first one in the room and sitting at the front ready to take notes. Their team also pours over information from the Best Fleets ‘results book’ each year. (The book details trends, the scoring legend, and individual scores for each of the winners). They constantly look for new ideas and places where they may be able to improve.
  • Central Oregon Truck Company has been on the list for eight consecutive years and is also an overall award winner. It’s become standard procedure for their leadership team to commission a meeting with our judges to go over programs results and see if we have any advice for improvement. Every year I tell them, it’s not worth the time to meet since they always do well in scoring, yet we meet anyway because they’re that committed to self-improvement.
  • Garner Trucking, a five-timer as of this year, the company spent a full year researching the program, talking to past winners, and getting their house in order before they even participated the first time. 

Those are just a few examples, but there are many more. The fleets that want to become a Best Fleet and go through the nomination process year-after-year but fail to make the list are typically the ones that don’t review the final results report or learn from other successful fleets.

The Top 20 Fleets are named for a reason, and the ones who make it year-after-year work incredibly hard to stay there.

Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association.

About the Author

Mark Murrell

Mark Murrell is president of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry. 

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