In a recent Facebook post, Joyce Brenny said, "I still get excited about new trucks!" 
 -  Photo via Joyce Brenny Facebook page

In a recent Facebook post, Joyce Brenny said, "I still get excited about new trucks!"

Photo via Joyce Brenny Facebook page

It’s probably the cookies.

This summer, Joyce Brenny, owner of Minnesota-based open-deck carriers Brenny Transportation and Brenny Specialized, posted on her Facebook page that the company’s turnover was down to 13.79% – or what Brenny prefers to call an 86.21% driver retention rate. A couple weeks later, Brenny posted that retention among drivers at the company longer than three months but less than a year was now 100%.

As a relatively small fleet with 60 trucks, the company would probably be expected to have lower turnover than its big truckload brethren, but that’s still truly impressive.

Joyce is one of our previous HDT Truck Fleet Innovators for her work bringing on younger drivers, so I called her to get some insight into the company’s success.

“Our retention’s always been probably better than most, but I think right now we’re really impressed with it,” she told me. “That three months to one year usually was our hardest to manage and most difficult stage, so that’s something we’re super proud of.”

How did they do it? By re-emphasizing the company culture with drivers in that time frame. The Brenny “Road Map to Success” is all about providing champion customer service, being champions of safety, and a service attitude, using core values of trust, communication, commitment, accountability, and results.

Joyce Brenny says putting people first is key to success, whether it's keeping driver turnover low or relationships with customers. 
 -  Photo courtesy Brenny Transportation

Joyce Brenny says putting people first is key to success, whether it's keeping driver turnover low or relationships with customers.

Photo courtesy Brenny Transportation

“We’ve honed back in on that; we make sure everything revolves around it – any decision, coaching, mentoring, revolves around that. We keep bringing drivers back to it.”

For instance, she said, while assigning a driver mentor to new drivers isn’t a new thing, she admits they had gotten kind of “willy-nilly” with it. Now each driver is assigned someone from the Driver Review Board to be a mentor and answer trucking questions. In addition, they get a behind-the-scenes mentor in the back office who works with the drivers on questions about company culture, dispatch issues – anything not related to driving.

Brenny has a private Facebook group for drivers, where they can communicate with each other and with the driver team in the back office. Drivers often post photos of their interesting loads, such as a recent delivery of a memorial for veterans of the Korean war.

One of those core values is accountability, and Brenny says that means the team is encouraged to hold each other accountable. “Expectation reminders” are gentle reminders of those core values. For instance, one of those core values is having a champion attitude, and Brenny says that means a positive attitude. While legitimate concerns are one thing, if someone has an attitude of just “bitching, pissing and moaning,” they’re reminded of the roadmap to success. If someone’s having a bad day and just wants to quit, they’re reminded of the core value of commitment – that champions never give up.

“We really focus on the fact that we’re not perfect. Under our trust value, it says we admit our mistakes without excuses and we forgive ourselves and each other. We’re not saying we want perfection; we want people to realize you’ll be held accountable and you appreciate it when someone get s you back on track because you want to be better than the average person out there.”

Hiring the Right People

To do that, you have to hire the right people in the first place. Brenny spends a lot of time and effort making sure they’re not just hiring their turnover. The company uses a Myers-Briggs personality test as part of its hiring process, because it has found there’s a certain personality type that its best drivers possess.

“The people that come to our company are the ones that roll up their sleeves and say, ‘Yeah, I want to be part of that.’”

Part of the hiring process is also talking about the Brenny Road Map to Success. “We tell them, ‘It might seem corny, but we have the longevity, the profit margins, and the sweetest trucks on the road – so it works.’ And you can pretty much tell if they think it’s the dorkiest thing ever,” or if they’re the type that wants to help make it work.

And as Brenny says, the company’s success seems to show that it works. In addition to the low driver turnover, the company has generous benefits, “amazing” bonuses and retreats when the company meets its goals. “We can do all that because we aren’t tolerating people who just don’t get it, or don’t want to get it. We hold each other accountable. Joyce isn’t the heavy who walks around with a big stick. A mechanic can hold me accountable – and has.”

Putting People First Pays Off

Brenny emphasizes the importance of putting your people first – even though she says when she tells people that’s the secret of her success, she often gets “a rolled-eye kind of response.

“I always give a little speech that at Brenny, you’re allowed to be a human being. You don’t have a work brain and a home brain – you have one brain. We want to know what’s going on in your personal life. How can we help our team members so they feel good about their job?” That may include anything from the wellness program to doing fun things as a team like going to a baseball game or everyone participating in community service projects.

This type of culture, she says, not only results in lower driver turnover, but lower employee turnover in general – and longer relationships with customers.

“I’ve been working with some of the same customers for 30 years. They know what to expect from the service they’re going to get. So you get the good people and show them you care, and they’re going to show the customers you care.”

So back to the drivers… what about those cookies?

In comments on Brenny’s Facebook post about turnover, a couple of people mentioned cookies. Turns out that during Truck Driver Appreciation Week, Joyce makes cookies every morning. She wasn’t trying to make an impression, she says, although apparently it did. “It sounds corny, but it was, ‘I love you guys and wanted to do something extra special because you deserve it.’"

About the author
Deborah Lockridge

Deborah Lockridge


Reporting on trucking since 1990, Deborah is known for her award-winning magazine editorials and in-depth features on diverse issues, from the driver shortage to maintenance to rapidly changing technology. 28 Jesse H. Neal honors.

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