All That's Trucking

Can a Fleet of Many Colors Help Recruit and Retain Drivers?

Blog commentary by Deborah Lockridge, Editor in Chief

September 13, 2017

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Plastic Express's fleet is so colorful it's been nicknamed the "jelly bean" fleet -- but its trucks are well known in the regions it runs. Photo: Plastic Express
Plastic Express's fleet is so colorful it's been nicknamed the "jelly bean" fleet -- but its trucks are well known in the regions it runs. Photo: Plastic Express

In the quest to attract and retain drivers, these three trucking companies have found that a fleet of colorful tractors is one stepping stone on the path to success.

The rainbow of different-colored trucks at Plastic Express, a Southern California-based for-hire carrier and packager of bulk plastic resin, have been called the “jelly bean” fleet, says Tom McKellar, vice president of transportation and terminals.

“We’re fortunate in the West we have equipment that people are enamored with, and they like the idea of seeing themselves driving something shiny and colorful."

At one time, McKellar was a salesman at the Peterbilt dealership that sold Plastic Express trucks. “They said it was because we can remember colors better than numbers, but the truth is it gives the drivers a sense of ownership. They take care of trucks. They’re all individuals, and we have to recognize that.”

Although the company today is 100% Freightliner rather than Petes, the colorful trucks are still one of its hallmarks.

It’s just one small piece of a driver-focused operation. It starts out by hiring drivers who are professional and safe (including having to submit a resume via Indeed.com), and continues with an extensive onboarding and driver training and mentoring process, a guaranteed minimum salary, generous health insurance benefits, and ongoing respect, communication, and recognition.  

Wisconsin-based Halvor Lines recently branched out into a broader color scheme for its new trucks. Photo: Halvor Lines
Wisconsin-based Halvor Lines recently branched out into a broader color scheme for its new trucks. Photo: Halvor Lines

They might not be quite as colorful as Plastic Express’s "jelly beans," but Wisconsin-based Halvor Lines started adding black and silver Volvo sleeper trucks this past year. “We’ve always had white or yellow trucks, and this year we added black and silver,” explains Debbie Landry, director of driver services. “A lot of drivers have a specific request for a certain color.”

Landry’s job goes well beyond matching up drivers with different colored trucks. She spent many years directing the recruiting department, but is now focusing on driver retention. One driver even nicknamed her the “vice president of happiness” because of her focus on keeping drivers of the fleet’s 425 trucks happy.

With her 16 year career at Halvor Lines, she knows every driver and most drivers are comfortable discussing issues that may arise such as home time, routes, equipment, etc. She brings these issues to the appropriate department or management team to work towards a resolution.

“When a new driver comes out of orientation, I assign them their tractor. A driver might come in who doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough miles or just feels he wants to change driver managers, It’s different every day. They ship things to my office because they’re not home. A lot of times if they have something with dispatch, maintenance, payroll, maybe a question about wanting to switch divisions from van to reefer or flatbed or vice versa.

“Every fifth truck comes in a different color, and if you had all our trucks lined up, you’d see a sea of colors," says Matt Blinsky of Washington-based Floyd Blinsky Trucking. Photo: Kenworth
“Every fifth truck comes in a different color, and if you had all our trucks lined up, you’d see a sea of colors," says Matt Blinsky of Washington-based Floyd Blinsky Trucking. Photo: Kenworth

When Matt Blinsky was asked the company’s fleet color, he answered with a laugh. “That’s a good question. We don’t have one. We’ve got 74 trucks, and probably 25 different colors running around. It’s all by design.”

Operating primarily Kenworth T680s, Yakima, Washington-based Floyd Blinsky Trucking doesn’t believe in conforming to the norm. “We believe in individuality,” said Blinsky, who serves as vice president of the company. Blinsky’s dad, Floyd, started the company in 1977 and is serves as president. Floyd is “semi-retired” with the company.

“Every fifth truck comes in a different color, and if you had all our trucks lined up, you’d see a sea of colors. Our drivers love it – you can see our trucks 10 miles down the road.”

According to Blinsky, the company has always had a “driver-first” mentality. “My dad started the operation as driver and grew the business into a small flatbed fleet in Montana,” he said. “He also started buying some refrigerated trailers and got into the business of hauling produce out of Yakima. With an eye on growth, he decided to relocate the business there in 1987, and become predominately a reefer fleet. That way new drivers could spend more time at home.”

That, coupled with a close-knit work environment, Kenworth trucks spec’d to the nines, and no truck older than model year 2015, has helped Blinsky keep driver turnover “well below the industry average,” said Blinsky. “I, too, was once a driver for our company, so my dad and I have always understood the importance of a quality truck to drive. We wouldn’t want to have a driver operate something we ourselves wouldn’t want to drive. And to that point, I still get behind the wheel of a truck, and so does my dad. We both enjoy driving, and I think our drivers like seeing us log some miles. It keeps us grounded.”

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Author Bio

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Deborah Lockridge

Editor-in-Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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