By Mark Murrell

After 12 years of evaluating participants in the Best Fleets to Drive for Program, CarriersEdge has documented many industry changes. And, the organization has learned that the Best Fleets in the industry continue to innovate—regardless of market conditions—and these fleets are always looking to improve company culture and improve efficiency. That held true again in 2019.

 

Improving the shipper-driver experience

Drivers don’t have the patience for shipper delays, nor should they. It costs them money. Since the standardization of ELDs, the need for a driver to maximize their hours of service is more important than ever. The Best Fleets understand all this, and we’ve seen a number of them work with their drivers, creating innovative ways to minimize shipper delays. Or, if they are delayed, compensation is increasing, and coming sooner. Recently, we have observed Best Fleets use mobile apps to enhance transparency between the shipper, driver and fleet.

Many of the apps are designed so that a driver can rate the pickup and delivery experience. This makes it easy for a driver to provide honest feedback about their negative or positive experiences with specific shippers. It’s especially important during this pandemic when facility access may change from day to day.

 

Guaranteed Pay

As expected, we saw fleets continue to adopt guaranteed pay programs. Nearly every Top 20 fleet offered a full guaranteed pay structure to drivers this past year.  As we see more fleets transition to offering base salaries, it may not be long before this becomes the standard form of pay in the industry. The stability of knowing how much is in a paycheck, combined with the benefits we’re seeing some fleets offer when drivers exceed goals, is becoming increasingly desired by drivers.

 

Maximizing Uptime

On the surface, servicing a truck during a driver’s “home time” seems simple, but when you factor in that even drivers with the Top 20 Best Fleets average only 34-48 consecutive hours of home time a week, it’s not so easy. Scheduling can be a challenge. Nonetheless, even in the short time frame, we’ve found that nearly all of the Top 20 Best Fleets have programs in place to perform preventative maintenance during that window to keep drivers on the road while reducing equipmen-t-related downtime. It makes a difference in maximizing productivity, and more fleets will likely make this a core requirement in coming years.

 

Development and Career Growth

In an industry that has long held onto its traditional ways of managing operations, we’ve seen many fleets in recent years use technology to their advantage. Every Top 20 Best Fleet this year used social media to some degree.

Social media eliminates the many headaches that come with delivering important company messages while drivers are on the road. CarriersEdge research showed that 60% of the Top 20 Best Fleets used social media tools to supplement or replace their traditional driver meetings, and we’ve noticed some fleets regularly reach 100% of their drivers through these channels.

Podcasts grew in popularity among fleets as another way to communicate with drivers. We’ve seen fleets use this tool as a way to share company information and driver success stories.

 

Environmental Practices

This year’s report shows that the Top 20 fleets significantly improved their environmental practices—something unexpected. For a number of years, fleets have upgraded to more fuel-efficient equipment and integrated systems to improve aerodynamics to reduce their trucks’ carbon emissions. But that was typically the extent of their environmental-based decisions.

In 2019, more fleets took a more holistic approach to their environmental programs by improving sustainable practices at their facilities, in addition to adding fuel-efficient equipment.

 

Future Outlook

COVID-19 wasn’t a concern in 2019 when the Best Fllets to Drive For Program wrapped up. Now, with COVID-19 sweeping the entire globe, fleets are tasked with finding solutions to the many operational challenges the virus poses. Fleets that have never dealt with the impacts from a natural disaster are adjusting on the go. It’s too early to tell how this may shape the industry long-term, but next year’s Best Fleets to Drive For program should provide insight on how Best Fleets adjusted to such unprecedented circumstances.

 

Mark Murrell is co-founder of CarriersEdge, a leading provider of online driver training for the trucking industry, and co-creator of Best Fleets to Drive For, an annual evaluation of the best workplaces in the North American trucking industry produced in partnership with the Truckload Carriers Association. He can be reached at www.carriersedge.com.