The Truckload Carriers Association and CarriersEdge have announced the 2012 winners of Best Fleets to Drive For, a survey and contest that identifies North American for-hire trucking companies that provide the best workplace experiences for their drivers. This year’s winners are as follows:
• Best Cartage – Kernersville, N.C.
• Bison Transport – Winnipeg, Manitoba
• Boyd Bros. Transportation Inc. – Clayton, Ala.
• Celadon Canada – Kitchener, Ontario
• D.J. Knoll Transportation – White City, Saskatchewan
• Don Hummer Trucking – Oxford, Iowa
• Erb Group – New Hamburg, Ontario
• Fremont Contract Carriers – Fremont, Neb,
• Gordon Trucking Inc. – Pacific, Wash.
• Grand Island Express – Grand Island, Neb.
• Kriska Holdings – Prescott, Ontario
• Landstar System – Jacksonville, Fla.
• Motor Carrier Services – Northwood, Ohio
• Paramount Freight Systems – Ft. Myers, Florida
• Sammons Trucking – Missoula, Mont.
• Steelman Transportation Inc. – Springfield, Mo.
• Tennant Truck Lines – Orion, Ill.
• Trimac Transportation – Houston
• WTI Transport Inc. – Tuscaloosa, Ala.
• Yanke Group – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
In addition, five companies have been identified as “Fleets to Watch” (honorable mentions) for demonstrating innovation in their driver programs:
• American Central Transport – Liberty, Mo.
• Epes Transport System, Inc. – Greensboro, N.C.
• Liberty Linehaul, Inc. – Ayr, Ontario
• Melton Truck Lines – Tulsa, Okla.
• TimeLine Logistic International – Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
The nomination process for the fourth annual contest began in fall 2011 when company drivers and owner-operators were asked to nominate carriers that operate 10 or more trucks. After confirming the validity of the nominations and the trucking companies’ desire to participate, CarriersEdge interviewed human resources representatives and executives of the nominated fleets about their corporate direction, policies,and programs. Nominated fleets were evaluated against a scoring matrix covering a variety of categories, such as:
• Total compensation package – including base pay, bonuses, vacation, and sick day allotment
• Health benefits
• Pension plans
• Professional development opportunities (training, coaching programs, etc.)
• Career path/advancement opportunities
• Commitment to employee personal growth, including work/life balance, driver family support and employee-directed charitable contributions
• Commitment to continuous improvement, including dispute resolution processes and inclusion of driver feedback in policymaking
• Team building and driver community development activities
• Annual driver turnover rate and efforts to improve it
• Fleet safety record
A selection of each fleet’s drivers also was surveyed, with its feedback compared to management’s and incorporated into the final score. The responses then were tallied, resulting in the selection of this year’s winners and honorable mentions.
“For 2012, we saw a heightened level of interest from the nominated fleets,” says Mark Murrell, president of CarriersEdge. “It seems that everybody wants to be named a Best Fleet to Drive For. Some folks even called us before we began interviewing just to double-check that we had their current contact information.”
TCA’s leadership is not at all surprised by the fleets’ enthusiasm. “We saw a 35 percent increase in the number of fleets that not only agreed to participate, but completed all their interviews and paperwork on time to make it to the final segment of the competition,” said Gary Salisbury, TCA’s 2011-12 chairman and the president and chief executive officer of Fikes Truck Line Inc. of Hope, Ark. “I have to say it’s not easy to become a Best Fleet. It takes serious thinking outside the box and a willingness to do whatever it takes to improve the quality of life for your drivers.”
The best practices that surfaced from this year’s winning fleet interviews indicate trends that many in the trucking industry will want to note. More fleets seem to be offering drivers profit sharing as part of their compensation packages. Also, fleets appear to be replacing their traditional safety-based bonus systems for more comprehensive programs. Although safety is still a critical component, today’s drivers also are being rewarded for their performance in areas such as fuel efficiency, on-time deliveries and maintaining current training.
The survey found that company drivers are driving the same number of miles and earning about the same income as last year. For owner-operators, miles also flat, but income has increased by a scant 5 percent. “One might think that as the economy improves, a driver might earn more, but surprisingly, these statistics appear to show otherwise,” says Murrell. “Fortunately, the drivers at our winning fleets still have high driver satisfaction levels as a result of well-balanced program offerings.”
When it comes to continuing education, today’s drivers seem to have many different and more flexible options than in the past. Nearly half of the fleets surveyed said they are offering tuition reimbursement for drivers who take accounting, management or similar programs at a college. They also are making a better effort to send drivers to conferences and trade shows and to help them earn various professional accreditations.
Now that the winners have been named, the next phase of the contest is to announce the highest-scoring fleets from each of two categories: Best Overall Fleet for Owner Operators and Best Overall Fleet for Company Drivers, sponsored by Marsh Inc. These overall winners will be honored at the TCA Annual Convention, set for March 4-7 at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla.