Fleet Management

The 2016 Truck Fleet Innovators

Meet some of trucking’s best and brightest leaders.

March 2016, TruckingInfo.com - Cover Story

by Deborah Lockridge and David Cullen

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John Sliter has made driver recruitment the keystone of V3’s rapid success. 
John Sliter has made driver recruitment the keystone of V3’s rapid success.

Smarter is faster

John Sliter and business partner Bob Poulos launched V3 Transportation with “two cellphones and two laptops” in early 2013. Three years later, Sliter, president and COO, and Poulos, CEO, report the expedited carrier ranks among the fastest-growing operations in its field.

“Everyone says they use the best-in-class technology,” says Sliter. “What separates us is we went back to basics to focus on customer service.” He says a key element of V3’s success has been recognizing that “drivers were being under-served in the expedited market.” That led him to put in place programs that “treat drivers as importantly as we do our customers— because drivers drive revenue.”

He says V3 will haul for anyone to anywhere nationwide, but it primarily serves the automotive sector in the vast central region of the country that’s home to OEM and supplier plants.

John Sliter, president and COO V3 Transportation
Brunswick, Ohio
John Sliter, president and COO V3 TransportationBrunswick, Ohio

Of the fleet’s 90 power units, 70% are straight trucks, mostly 24-footers, another 10% are over-the-road tractors, and the rest are Sprinter vans. Some 80% of the straight trucks are driven by teams. V3’s trailers are leased from XtraLease and all its power units are owner-operator, 70% of which are sourced from small fleet owners.

Sliter and Poulos set out to build an operation that would overcome “traditional pain points for carriers in our industry.” Poulos focused on building a deep and diverse customer base that he says “provided the perfect engine for John to make key changes in driver recruitment that immediately differentiated V3 from our competition in.”

For starters, Sliter put in place a highly collaborative and transparent “recruiting experience” that involves the owner-

operators and/or the fleet owners they drive for at the outset of securing business. He notes that since the Great Recession, “in our business there’s been a shift from the individual owner-operator to fleet owners. A typical fleet owner might own from 5-350 trucks. With most expedited carriers, the fleet owner has to find and seat drivers while abiding with the carrier’s requirements.

“What we do is involve the fleet owner and driver in our sales process,” Sliter continues. “Instead of simply tendering a load, we want them to understand the bidding process, market fluctuations and operating factors that result in high revenue miles. This way, our drivers feel they’re part of the solution— not just part of a process.”

Sliter’s gone still deeper by supporting the efforts of fleet owners to identify and recruit new drivers. “Happy drivers and fleet owners are our best recruiters,” is how he puts it. For example, the carrier has set  up customized recruiting landing pages that are branded for its large fleet owners. On the front end, these link visitors to social media and other driver-recruiting websites and, on the back end, they link to V3’s recruiting system. Sliter credits this end-to-end system with fleet owners running 75% fewer unseated trucks — “generating an incremental 1700-3500 revenue miles per week.”

Once onboard, Sliter says retention stems from working to maintain a “long-term relationship” with drivers. “I believe in rewarding their longevity, which might involve increasing their pay.” Although a self-described “accountant by trade,” Sliter recognizes it takes more than dollars to win over drivers. He says that both LTL and truckload carriers can offer drivers “a more consistent lifestyle” than running expedited freight. Thinking outside the box, he targets underdeveloped labor segments, including “Millennials” and truckload drivers who might be considering exiting the business.

V3 Transportation’s show truck was both painted and modeled off a police car. It is used for local charity events and at local schools safety towns and DARE programs.
V3 Transportation’s show truck was both painted and modeled off a police car. It is used for local charity events and at local schools safety towns and DARE programs.

“Through social media, we can tap the under-35 Millennial generation, who are typically new to truck driving,” says Sliter. “We offer a variety of equipment types, so we can place these drivers into a Sprinter van and get them familiar with the expedited industry. We prefer they have a CDL for the vans, but it is not required. Once a non-CDL driver has a few successful months under his/her belt in a Sprinter, we encourage them to get their CDL B and put them into our training program.”

In that program, trainees with CDL permits join a 14-hour trainer team for up to six months, with the goal being to reseat them in their own trucks soon thereafter. “Several of our fleet owners were once successful drivers who took the leap to purchase trucks and then have the V3 recruiting department seat their assets.” As for truckload drivers looking to exit, Sliter seeks to recruit them to operate 22-foot straight trucks. “It’s an easier piece of equipment to drive. We’re attracting a lot of guys who want to be home more often and be able to park their truck in their driveway.” He notes that “driver churn is 40% less than in the truckload market.”

Sliter also points out that recruiting doesn’t just happen. It takes an investment in, naturally enough, people. “Right from the start, we staffed up with three people in charge of recruiting owner-operators. Today, we have four. There’s a set plan. For every seven trucks we bring on, we hire one customer-service person to manage them. It starts with adding customers, then capacity to support that business and then we add employees to manage the operational end.”

He says the thing to bear in mind about recruiting drivers is that “we’re all fishing from the same pond. You have to react quickly to prospects — that same day. The landing pages we provide help a lot. You want to make it easy for your fleet owners to add capacity. Generally, we can turn around a team in three to four days.”

Looking ahead, Sliter says V3’s approach will soon see it fielding over 100 trucks. What’s more, the carrier is aiming to be a 400-truck fleet within four years. “It’s all about working to bring on customers and to bring on drivers.”


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Comments

  1. 1. Jack Underwood [ March 16, 2016 @ 08:35AM ]

    Deborah and David,
    Thank you for sharing your research on these industry leaders in innovation. More forward thinking by key people in the world of trucking will continue to move the industry and thus the U.S. economy forward. Keep up the great work!
    Regards,
    Jack Underwood

  2. 2. William [ August 23, 2017 @ 07:06AM ]

    Gerry cut the maintenance department in half and quadrupled the driver call time. Great job!

 

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