Pets, pay, and other ways Best Fleets are improving the workplace …
The Best Fleets to Drive For program run by CarriersEdge for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) is a wrap. The scoring has been completed. The winners have been publicly acknowledged. The Hall of Fame expanded to accommodate new members.
That’s it for another year, right? Not so fast, according to administrators of the program, who still have more than 5,300 fleet responses and 9,000 driver surveys to slice, dice, dissect and share. After all, sharing best practices employed by the Best Fleets winners is one of the program’s mandates.
“We are aiming to recognize the programs that move the industry forward, first and foremost,” Mark Murrell, co-owner of online training firm CarriersEdge said during a two-part webinar series that looked to do just that. “A lot of the stuff that’s working really well isn’t that difficult to implement.”
The webinar series shared several best practices that have been proven effective by some of the Best Fleets to Drive For.
Pay, benefits and vacation time are not surprisingly three of the top things drivers say they’d like more of. While the Best Fleets program doesn’t score companies on compensation, it does keep an eye on emerging trends. And this is a good news story for drivers.
Program judges use a simple calculation of total compensation divided by miles to arrive at a Total Rate Per Mile, which is designed to take bonuses into account. This year that average among the Best Fleets was 77 cents/mile. That’s a sharp jump from the last time the questions were asked in 2020 (62 cents/mile) and 2019 (53 cents/mile).
“This is a massive change in the course of four years,” Murrell said of driver compensation, noting it’s the sharpest jump seen in the program’s history.
Fleets may not like giving out sign-on bonuses, but most are doing so. However, Murrell said these programs are often a source of confusion for drivers who may be expecting the full payout on Day 1 with a company, only to be disappointed when they learn it’s paid out after a period of time. “It’s a great opportunity for them to be grumbling about what they perceive to be a bait and switch,” Murrell said of the commonly used recruitment tactic.
Pay for orientation
More fleets are paying drivers to participate in orientation, and the amount of compensation offered is also on the rise. The average is about US$213 a day, judges found, up from about $100 on average just a couple years ago. Some fleets even pay as much as $400-$500 per day of orientation. Meanwhile, fleets are moving some aspects of orientation online to reduce class time and keep drivers home if possible, while at the same time better compensating them for the time spent on the premises during orientation.
Trucking companies are also getting more generous with paid vacation time.
“This year, half the fleets are doing way more vacation than that,” Murrell said, referring to the legal minimums. Drivers at the Best Fleets are also finding they can attain more vacation time faster than in the past. Some are also getting access to vacation time sooner after starting the job. “Drivers are fans of it,” Murrell said.
Surprisingly, fewer companies are involving multiple departments when onboarding drivers. Only 23% of carriers involved executives in onboarding new drivers. “It used to be much more prevalent,” Murrell said, wondering if mentorship programs are being used instead.
“Expectation exchanges,” where drivers and their employers discuss mutual expectations of each other before hitting the road, are also on the decline. Those who do it continue to do so but the rise in fleets doing expectation exchanges has flatlined. Welcome gift packs are something that’s on the rise, however, which Murrell said is an inexpensive and effective way to welcome a new driver to the organization.
More fleets are incorporating driver-specific metrics into their evaluations of managers, with most evaluating managers on driver recruitment and retention. After all, a strong retention rate means managers are likely doing a good job at keeping drivers satisfied and productive. But only 15% of fleets are prioritizing driver retention over hiring, with more attention going to finding new drivers than keeping the existing ones from leaving.
The blind spots
Each year, the Best Fleets program uncovers areas where fleets could be doing a better job involving drivers. An example of this is safety programs. The Best Fleets program asks about all preventable and non-preventable accidents, which doesn’t sit well with some fleets that feel non-preventable incidents shouldn’t be counted.
“Even if it’s deemed non-preventable it still inconveniences the driver,” Murrell explained. “We look at it through the driver’s perspective.”
This extends also to maintenance. More fleets are doing scheduled truck maintenance after hours, to minimize the impact it has on the driver’s ability to earn income.
“We look at, what is the driver’s experience like when they have to schedule something, or when they have a breakdown on the road?” Murrell said. “If a driver loses six to eight hours of driving time unpaid, it’s not a great experience.”
Some fleets are now providing loaners when a driver’s truck is down for maintenance or repairs, if the work can’t be done at night or on weekends. And this also extends to cybersecurity; few fleets think their drivers need to be considered in their cybersecurity programs. However, Murrell noted drivers are accessing company email, servers, etc., on their own devices, making them vulnerable to cyberattacks targeting the company.
In addition to wanting more pay, benefits, and vacation time, drivers also want more say in new equipment and technologies. There has actually been an increase in the drivers surveyed who say they don’t get a say in spec’ing new equipment, with 5.2% saying they “strongly disagree” when asked this question. Only 45.2% say they “strongly agree,” which has fallen sharply from the usual 70-90% range. Murrell acknowledged this could be a function of fleets having fewer choices in spec’ing equipment over the last couple years due to supply chain constraints.
Fleets do better involving drivers in choosing other technologies they’ll interact with, for example in-cab technologies or driver scorecards.
Some drivers voiced frustration that there’s not a strong correlation between job performance and compensation, noting their years of experience still gets them the same rate as a new hire. Others said there’s no compensation for “going above and beyond.”
While 48% of fleets do multiple performance reviews a year with their drivers, many drivers don’t see a correlation between those reviews and compensation.
The Best Fleets program also discovered only 58% of drivers follow the company they work for on social media. Murrell said this is surprising, since social media is a well used tool by fleets to communicate with their people. “It seems like a low-hanging fruit, to get more of them involved,” he said of drivers and social media.
Surveyed drivers said they would like to receive boot and uniform allowances, especially from companies that require a uniform or special footwear. Of those fleets that do offer such allowances, there was a big jump in the amount offered this year, to about $200-$250.
Drivers also said they’d like to see more after-hours resources offered, including from safety, dispatch, and Customs personnel.
Pay for parking is also on the rise, and something drivers appreciate when it’s offered by their carrier. Even parking at terminals goes a long way toward satisfying a driver – and it’s free.
And it should come as no surprise that drivers want to be able to travel with their pets.
“We definitely see fleets that are investing in this area,” Murrell said, noting some are building kennels, dog walks, and pet relief areas into their terminals. “Drivers absolutely love it.”