CCJ Solutions Summit: fleet managers share ideas for winning driver culture

Emory Mills, director of safety and driver administration for FTC TransportationEmory Mills, director of safety and driver administration for FTC Transportation

“You can have an open door policy but it takes a lot for the driver for want to cross that threshold,” said Emory Mills, director of safety and driver administration for FTC Transportation.

Mills joined two other fleet managers on a panel at the CCJ Solutions Summit in Phoenix, Nov. 13, to discuss what it takes to have a driver-centric culture.

The panel was moderated by Mark Murrell, president of online driver training firm CarriersEdge, which runs the Truckload Carriers Association’s Best Fleets to Drive For program.

The front-line driver managers shared strategies they use in the following areas to effectively improve driver retention.

Communication

Mills gave suggestions for fleets to create an open-door policy that drivers actually believe in.

The Oklahoma City-based contract carrier operates 30 trucks. The small company has a five-member driver committee that meets regularly with the company’s president and directors to give feedback and help shape decisions on equipment specs as well as other areas of concern.

Every month, the office staff holds a safety committee meeting. The detailed agenda is immediately made available to drivers afterwards in the fleet’s CarriersEdge online training platform.

The fleet’s open-door policy includes meeting with the company’s president when drivers come to the office for Smith System training. The president and fleet managers also go on ride-alongs to know drivers individually and to evaluate — and recognize — them for safety.

By meeting drivers in their own work environment, management not only gathers important feedback, Mills said, but drivers understand the fleet’s open-door policy is not just incumbent on them “walking into the office and striking up a conversation,” she said.

Debbie Landry, director of driver services for Halvor LinesDebbie Landry, director of driver services for Halvor Lines

Another example of driver communications was given by Debbie Landry, director of driver services for Halvor Lines, a 500-truck carrier based in Wisconsin that operates dry van, reefer and flatbed equipment.

The company organizes cross-functional department team meetings as part of a 4DX program it uses from Franklin Covey. The teams reach out to drivers for input on initiatives to reduce cost and achieve other objectives.

A strategy that emanated from a 4DX meeting was a customer relationship management (CRM) system for drivers. Halvor Lines is using the application to share information about communications that take place with drivers.

Another idea from a 4DX team meeting led to providing a welcome bag for drivers who come to orientation training meetings. Drivers now start the job with a welcome letter from the company’s president and detailed agenda of their upcoming training schedule.

“It’s something so simple and inexpensive that shows how much you care about them,” she said.

To improve driver communications, TLD Logistics has a “kaizen” team that analyzes any issues causing turnover in the fleet, such as home time and equipment. The company surveys its drivers regularly “to get a pulse on what they are thinking and feeling,” said Nina Jolly, human resources manager of the 450-truck carrier based in Knoxville, Tenn.

TLD Logistics calls drivers 7 days after orientation to obtain feedback on how they can improve the orientation program. They also do a 30-day follow up phone call, she said.

Nina Jolly, human resources manager of TLD LogisticsNina Jolly, human resources manager of TLD Logistics

Health and wellness

The driver management panel stressed the importance of providing drivers with the same employment benefits that office staff receive, and to promote healthy lifestyles on the road.

“We treat our drivers just like we are treated,” Jolly said. “The benefits are the exact same across the board.” One of the benefits drivers appreciate is being able to call a nurse, at no cost, to discuss any ailments and to get prescriptions while on the road, she added.

Halvor Lines has a full-time wellness coordinator on its staff that councils with drivers. The company has exercise equipment — steppers, incumbent bikes and a band system — that drivers can check out and keep in their trucks. The fleet also specs refrigerators in its trucks to make it easier for drivers to bring healthy food options from home.

FTC Transportation ordered new trucks, the 2019 Freightliner Cascadia, with inverters, microwaves, refrigerators and improved seats based on its drivers’ input. The fleet’s turnover is about 24 percent.

“Drivers told us ‘if you want us to be healthy and eat right, we need to have more flexibility there,’” she said.

Managing performance

Scoring and rewarding drivers for their professional achievements was a major point of emphasis by the panel.

Mark Murrell, president of CarriersEdgeMark Murrell, president of CarriersEdge

FTC Transportation developed a detailed scorecard for each driver that is applied towards award a quarterly bonus of up to $1,100 dollars. The bonus is determined based on the percentage of points drivers achieve of the maximum. Drivers earn bonus points for clean roadside inspections and from positive customer feedback.

FTC’s scorecards are also used to determine the winners for its annual awards banquet.

Halvor Lines developed a scorecard that pulls together data from different systems and assigns letter grades with a GPA average for the different measurement categories.

The CCJ Solutions Summit took place Nov. 12-14 in Phoenix at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass.