Judging for this year’s Best Fleets to Drive For program revealed fleets that were cost-conscious in a down market were still resourceful and creative in improving driver programs, often in ways that didn’t require a significant monetary investment, reports Trucknews.com.
Six Canadian Fleets were named as finalists for the contest. They are:
C.A.T. – Coteau-du-Lac, Que.; Challenger Motor Freight – Cambridge, Ont.; Erb Transport – New Hamburg, Ont.; Fortigo Freight Services – Etobicoke, Ont.; Kriska Holdings – Prescott, Ont.; and Wellington Group of Companies – Aberfoyle, Ont.
“This was a year of fleets circling the wagons and retrenching on their core elements and focusing on optimizing what they’ve been doing rather than implementing a whole lot of broad experiments and trying a whole bunch of new things,” Mark Murrell, co-owner of CarriersEdge, the online training firm that runs the program, told Trucknews.com. “It’s been sort of a retrenching year.”
Many fleets over the past year were in cost-containment mode, as freight volumes dried up and rates contracted. Drivers, too, suffered from the slowdown. Trish Bethell, Best Fleets program manager with CarriersEdge, reported total compensation for drivers (including bonuses, accessorial pay, and benefits), fell 2.6% from 77 cents/mile to 75 cents. Drivers were also putting fewer miles under the tires over the past year, further hindering their pay.
But carriers continued to make efforts to improve the workplace for their drivers, despite the tough operating environment. And some of those initiatives weren’t particularly costly.
Fleets stepped up management training in an effort to better support drivers, noted Rick Duchalski, communications specialist with CarriersEdge. He noted 57% of Best Fleets nominees had some form of leadership or management training in place, well above results from previous years.
“Companies are investing in teaching their leaders how to lead drivers,” he said.
Duchalski also noticed an increase in the number of fleets providing drivers with formal mentorship programs, and the depth of those programs has improved.
“There was a time where the mentoring program was, you give the new recruit the phone number of another driver,” he said. “This year, we have 67% that have some kind of formal mentoring program. They have 30-, 60-, and 90-day check-ins and have feedback between the driver and mentor that’s much more robust.”
The 67% of nominated fleets with formal driver mentorship programs was up from just 59% last year.
Many Best Fleet finalists improved vacation policies. Murrell said trucking employers are beginning to catch up with employers from other industries in offering RRSP or 401k contributions as well as paid vacation time and more flexibility around taking advantage of that vacation time.
Best Fleets judges were prepared to see trucking employers cut back on their human resources programs, but they found that carriers were instead becoming more focused on who they were hiring and how to support them.
“There were definitely some that were still pretty aggressive on their new entrant programs and trying to keep drivers,” Murrell said. This included more outreach to former drivers who left the company.
Bethell noted a sharp increase in carriers that check in with new hires after orientation, to 75% from just 32% last year. And now 35% of fleets are personally calling former drivers who have left the company to see if they’d be interested in returning.
The industry also has room for improvement when it comes to detention pay, Murrell added. The amount paid to drivers when waiting at shippers and receivers, and when that detention pay picks in, is inconsistent.
He added few industries require an employee to wait two hours before they’re compensated for their time while on the job. “You make your employees hang around for two hours waiting to work and don’t pay them?” he pointed out.
Some fleets have shortened the wait time before detention pay kicks in to 60 minutes. And others have gone a step further and now pay the moment the driver arrives for their loading or unloading appointment.
“But, while that is moving forward, I’m surprised by the number that are still on that two hours and some that are even longer,” Murrell said.
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