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Evolution of the Best Fleets and the secrets to success

June 27, 2024
For years, the Best Fleets to Drive For program has highlighted how trucking companies are improving the driver experience. Fleets focused on their workers can gain a head start in this always-evolving industry.

It's been 16 years since we created the Best Fleets to Drive For program to recognize the for-hire carriers providing the best workplace experiences for their drivers. Through the years, we've found that the fleets named to the Best Fleets Top 20 list are proactive in making a difference in the industry. They are active in their associations, experiment with new programs, and educate the non-trucking world about the industry's benefits.

By sharing their experience in benchmarking groups, at national and regional conferences, in the media, and in conversations with their peers, the Best Fleets have improved the driver experience and brought a new generation into the industry.

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

Breaking new ground

We first heard about guaranteed pay years ago from Nussbaum Transportation and Boyle Transportation, both in the Best Fleets Hall of Fame and celebrating 10 consecutive years as a Best Fleet. Now, many more carriers are using some form of driver pay stabilization.

When ELDs were mandated, many of the Best Fleets were already using them. Years before the mandate, these fleets had already experienced drivers quitting because they didn't like the ELDs and then coming back because they realized the grass wasn’t greener on the other side.

We first heard of driver scorecards well before CSA (Compliance, Safety, and Accountability) was introduced in 2010. Before CSA, many companies couldn’t track or communicate with drivers about their performance. Now, it’s not about whether or not you have a scorecard but how effectively you use it and how well it works with your camera system.

The Best Fleets continue to lead. When the rest of the industry says, “It’s impossible,” they ask, “How can we make this work?” They experiment with new communications tools, ways to improve the driver experience on the road, and environmental innovations (including electrification), and they test out new solutions to the complex issue of driver home time. They have been leaders in driver education and are producing the next generation of million-mile drivers.

What is the secret to becoming a Best Fleet?

First, let me talk a bit about workplace culture. In 2020, when no one could go to work normally, workplace culture became a hot topic. Nowadays, companies tout their amazing culture when they recruit, but they don’t really talk about what it means. I suspect they don’t even know.

The reality is this: Culture is not a fixed object. It doesn't stay in one place. Your workplace is an organization, and organizations are like living entities—think of a garden.

Every day, your company is pulled and pushed by your driving team, office team, customers, management, and sometimes investors. To make your company a Best Fleet, pay attention to that pulling and pushing. Like a garden, things sometimes grow where they shouldn’t. When that happens in a garden, you can do some weeding or replanting. When that happens in your business, you make small corrections, introduce new programs, and move things so they are pointing in the right direction.

How do you do that? This is where the secret to becoming a Best Fleet comes in. It’s a ruthless reflection.

Ruthless reflection

What does that phrase mean? This means that every year, regardless of whether you make the Best Fleets Top 20 list, your team answers approximately 100 questions about what you do for your drivers. You participate in an interview with us, where we might ask you some unsettling questions. You get a report, and you look at the driver survey responses.

Instead of saying, “We can’t do that,” you ask yourselves, “How could we do this better?”

You do this every year. You make small incremental improvements that mold your culture to be more driver-centric. Win or lose, you come back the following year. Rinse and repeat.

The value of Best Fleets is not in whether you make it onto the list. The value is in the annual process of reviewing the many questions we ask and thinking about the answers.

You can’t move forward and get better if you don’t look back and take an honest look at where you’ve been. This is true for individual companies and for the entire industry.

What we do every year through the program is give every nominated fleet a chance to start practicing ruthless reflection. Our questions change as the industry changes, so they sometimes seem strange. However, the fleets that participate in this process and think about the questions have a head start on issues that will likely impact the industry within the next few years. The Best Fleets know that the process works, and we invite every fleet to be a part of it in 2025.

About the Author

Jane Jazrawy | CEO

Jane Jazrawy is the CEO of CarriersEdge, providers of online safety and compliance training tools for the North American transportation industry, and co-creator of the Best Fleets to Drive For. Jane has been a leader in education and performance improvement for more than 25 years, and through Best Fleets, works to promote positive and diverse workplaces in the trucking industry. She can be reached at www.carriersedge.com.

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