Learning from the Best Fleets to Drive For

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Best Fleets to Drive For logoOne of the best ways to improve is to learn from the best! That’s why I was so excited to participate in a recent webinar on driver-centric retention strategies from some of the 2019 Best Fleets to Drive For®. The Best Fleets to Drive For® program is produced by CarriersEdge in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. Jim Guthrie from Prime, Inc., and Jonathan Wolfrum from Keller Trucking joined moderator Jane Jazrawy, CEO of CarriersEdge to share some of the strategies that led them to be part of this distinctive list of fleets.

To understand why each of these carriers was chosen as a Best Fleet, listen to what their drivers say! Drivers nominate carriers for this award, and Jazrawy shared what they said about both Prime and Keller.

The driver who nominated Prime said:

Prime has always been like a second family since day 1. They have no problem with investing in equipment, technology, and their drivers. They strive for the best rates possible for their contractors and provide great benefits. You can walk right up to anyone’s desk and have a conversation … a true family atmosphere.

Despite being a significantly smaller carrier, the driver who nominated Keller said:

Keller Trucking is a direct reflection of the values and work ethic of its founder. From my first contact with the friendly and HONEST recruiting department to the tremendous staff of dispatchers, safety, and maintenance, I have always been treated as a valued and important part of a great team.

Feedback like this indicates that these carriers are world-class fleets from the drivers’ perspective. But how did they get here?

Taking the Pulse

The first step Guthrie and Wolfrum shared was gathering feedback from the drivers. There are a wide variety of ways they collect this feedback, including:

  1. Formal surveys, like those we offer (both carriers use our surveys) get solid data from all drivers that can be analyzed to find the best ways to increase driver satisfaction.
  2. Informal check-ins fill in gaps between formal surveys. Wolfrum shared how Keller has set up a retention schedule for new drivers to check in with them throughout their early experience. This category also includes informal surveys and polls, such as on social media, to get immediate driver feedback on a specific question.
  3. Driver advisory boards are used by both Prime and Keller. These regular formal meetings allow drivers to share what they are thinking in an in-person setting. There’s also an extra benefit to this strategy that drivers communicate more frequently with one another. Drivers who cannot be at the meeting share what they want to be brought up with drivers will participate.

I was particularly intrigued by the driver advisory board strategy. These widely publicized meetings unite drivers and reinforce the message that they are heard.

Get Feedback, Act on It, Get Feedback, Act on It (Repeat)

Following these feedback practices begins a pattern of alternating between getting feedback and acting on it. Prime and Keller shared many specific examples of acting on feedback from drivers.

Guthrie shared how drivers wanted the opportunity to pursue education or help their family members to do so. Prime partnered with Bethel University to offer discounted education for them.

Prime also developed the Highway Diamonds program to honor female drivers and to cultivate more female trainers. This program helped them increase their percentage of women drivers from 6% to 13%. Similarly, they released the Prime Good Dads program to help drivers develop strong families based on the unique livelihood of the driver. Both programs responded to challenges drivers specifically called out through Prime’s feedback methods.

Keller listened and learned about their drivers before committing to the Operation K.A.V.I.C. (Keller Assists Veterans in Crisis) program. They found that a full 30% of their drivers were themselves veterans, so this effort to help veterans who need assistance was a project drivers felt personally invested in.

Similarly, Keller went all-in on truck driving championships. They purchased a truck simulator, trained up their drivers, and then had their own competition to celebrate the hard work and expertise that goes into commercial driving. The top contestants go on to the Ohio Trucking Association championship.

Building a Program

Prime and Keller’s examples are inspirational, but how does an average carrier get started?

It all begins in with planning. Your leadership team must answer the question:

What problem are we solving?

Is it high turnover? Do you find that certain types of drivers are not doing well with your carrier? Defining your problem early on helps everything fall into place.

Then you must ask a potentially hard question:

Whose input do we have? Is it the drivers? Or is it someone else?

If it’s not the drivers, seek out driver feedback, perhaps with one of the three methods listed above.

Just as important as ensuring you are getting driver feedback is building support at all levels of your business. Executive buy-in is essential for a program to succeed and, as Jazrawy noted, is a prerequisite if you ever intend to be in the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For®.

Then you can turn to your implementation strategy. Chances are, after going through the previous steps, you will be able to hone in on what you need to do. Guthrie shared how for Prime, their primary objective is to make things better for drivers and their careers. Similarly, Keller created a system whereby every person on their team had one hiring and one retention task to accomplish, and they hold one another accountable for them.

Conclusion

I learned a lot by listening to the strategies, methods, and wisdom shared by both Guthrie and Wolfrum. There’s a reason both Prime and Keller are in the top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For®, and I believe that by understanding how they got there every fleet can move toward building a driver-centric culture that wins in retention.

There was so much more insight in this webinar that I don’t have time to share here. Luckily, this webinar is still available to be watched free of charge by TCA members at the TCA education website.

You can find more information on the Best Fleets to Drive For® program and how to enter for 2020 at http://www.bestfleetstodrivefor.com/