Fleet Management

2010 Truck Fleet Innovators on Being a Good Fleet to Drive For

August 2010, TruckingInfo.com - Fleet Innovators

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor, and Diana Britton, Managing Editor

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Last month, we introduced you to our 2010 Truck Fleet Innovators. Throughout the year, we'll be sharing their insights on various issues important to the industry. This month, our innovators talk about how they make their companies a good fleet to drive for.


Ben Bauman, President and CEO, Bolt Express:

For Bauman, the key to having a loyal and stable workforce at Bolt Express is trying to make drivers feel like they're part of the team. To accomplish this, Bolt's operations teams call drivers by name and treat drivers as they would like to be treated.

"With the driver on the road and operations inside and the two hardly ever meet each other, it comes down to trust," says Bauman. "Most drivers will tell you that they do not trust the operational departments. That is one area we have worked on. It is part of our quality statement, 'We desire to be predictable, reliable, trustworthy, safety conscious and willing to go the extra mile for something we believe in and be the best at what we do.'"

The company's "Driver Support Service" department is committed to spending time with drivers and help those who are not compliant with Bolt's policies. Bolt also sends out a monthly safety newsletter with an educational focus. "We provide a very educational driver orientation and ongoing safety meetings," Bauman adds.

Jim Burg, President and CEO, James Burg Trucking:

Even in the height of the trucking boom years, when many fleets had turnover of more than 100 percent, JBT topped out at less than 60 percent.

"I try to do a good job of interviewing and background checks and training to weed out the idiots before they go on the road," Burg says. "If they make it here a year, then they're usually lifers. At that point if they leave, it's a matter of they found a better job, something I couldn't offer them."

As a regional company, home time is a big plus. In-state drivers are gone a couple nights a week at the most; the drivers responsible for longer hauls are home at least on weekends and sometimes more frequently. Drivers are hired within the company's lanes to help make this happen. "We tell them we need their flexibility, but dispatch also works with them to get them home when they want." Dispatch also does a good job of getting drivers turned around quickly, without long waits between loads, allowing drivers to make more money in the same amount of time.

Burg also gives the drivers a sense of ownership. "I tell my drivers that I'm one person, and even though it is my company, it's their company more than it is mine," Burg says. "If there's 70 of them and one of me, they affect the operation a lot more than I can. I stress how and why we should do things, but it's up to them to buy into that idea. And when we've had good times, we've rewarded our employees, and when things get better, we will reward them again."

Jim Mickey, Co-owner and President, Coastal Pacific Xpress:

CPX has high standards for its drivers; 80 percent who apply get filtered out for experience or attitude issues, Mickey says. But in return, they're treated well and paid better than average. As a result, the company's worst turnover has been about 30 percent.

"We set out to hire better and to reward the best, and we help duke it out on behalf of our drivers," Mickey says. "We're using our recruiting process to find out who's good, instead of using our fleet (and customers) to find out. If we're having a bunch of turnover in our less than one-year guys, obviously someone's doing a bad job of hiring. Everybody laughs, but we literally hire truck drivers for life."

Mickey says his job is to give drivers an environment that does not cause them to think it's going to be better at another outfit. "Coming in the door, we let them know if they do their part to take care of the customer, we're going to make a comfortable working environment."

That includes holding customers responsible for wait time, making sure drivers are shown respect both within the company and by the customers. A dispatcher is not allowed to raise his voice, coerce, hold a grudge, or shade the truth. "I say if I were a driver, how would I feel?"

Tom Voelkel, President and Chief Operating Officer, Dupr Logistics:

Tom Voelkel keeps drivers with the company and satisfied through his basic leadership philosophy, which involves serving not only the customer, but Dupr's employees as well. To be a good fleet to drive for, you've got to be committed to the drivers and their families. It's about treating people right, he adds.

It's also important to have similar values and a shared stake in the deal. Working at Dupr involves a similar commitment on the part of the drivers to make the company profitable.

"It's a tremendous benefit to be able to go to work and not have to compromise your values," he says.

Besides these key elements, there are a number of technologies Dupr has in place that appeal to drivers, including electronic logging technology, SmartWay spec tractors, GreenRoad driver safety improvement technology and predictive analytics technology. In addition, Voelkel believes in paying drivers by the hour, an initiative that has made Dupr a popular place to work. "We had [drivers] standing in line to work for us."

Doug Duncan, President and CEO, FedEx Freight:

Duncan aims to create a safe and respectful work environment. He wants to ensure that FedEx's drivers and dockworkers work hard every day, but also get to go home every night, safe and sound. Duncan runs with the attitude of putting the employees of FedEx Freight first and supporting them in any way he can. "This is a people business," he says. "It takes a lot of labor components to do the work that we do."

FedEx Freight offers many awards programs for drivers, including the Humanitarian Awards for reaching out to those in need; the FedEx Purple Promise Awards, presented to those who have demonstrated a commitment to making every FedEx experience outstanding; and Safe Driving Awards. The company also participates in the National Truck Driving Championships. This year, driver Don Logan from Eskridge, Kan., won in the three-axle class, while Troy Swenson, Watertown, S.D., won in the sleeper berth class.

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