Joyce Brenny, owner of Minnesota-based open-deck carriers Brenny Transportation and Brenny Specialized. 
 -  Photo via Joyce Brenny Facebook

 Joyce Brenny, owner of Minnesota-based open-deck carriers Brenny Transportation and Brenny Specialized.

Photo via Joyce Brenny Facebook

Two very different fleets. Two passionate leaders. One important thing in common: A love of drivers that comes from the very top.

That’s what struck me after recent conversations with Joyce Brenny and Cari Baylor.

Joyce is co-founder of Minnesota-based open-deck carriers Brenny Transportation and Brenny Specialized, running about 60 trucks. Cari is the third-generation owner of Indiana-based Baylor Trucking, a 200-truck dry van truckload fleet founded in 1945 by World War II veteran (Cari’s grandfather) Chester Baylor.

Both emphasized a company culture based on treating people right, and with National Truck Driver Appreciation Week this month, I wanted to share some of their insights.

I called Joyce Brenny after she 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, she posted that retention among drivers at the company longer than three months but less than a year was now 100%.

“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. The Brenny “Road Map to Success” is all about providing champion customer service, being champions of safety, maintaining a service attitude, and emphasizing core values of trust, communication, commitment, accountability, and results.

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

Brenny emphasized the importance of putting your people first.

“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?”

Brenny even comes in and bakes chocolate chip cookies for the drivers each morning during National Truck Driver Appreciation Week. “It sounds corny, but it was, ‘I love you guys and wanted to do something extra special because you deserve it.’

 -  Photo courtesy Baylor Trucking

Photo courtesy Baylor Trucking

I talked to Cari Baylor after getting an announcement that the carrier is raising its professional driver wages by 7%.

“Our drivers are a different breed,” she explained. “We want to make sure that [we employ] people who share the same values: love of country and taking care of the community and taking care of the family. We can’t be all things to all people, but we’re going to reward, attract and pay for professionals that embrace our culture and the things we stand for.”

For instance, the company works to make sure drivers don’t get stuck with a meager paycheck through no fault of their own, whether that be breakdowns, shipper delays, or family health issues. Each week, someone from its driver advocacy group sits down with payroll and makes sure that if, for instance, a driver whose son was seriously injured in a car accident wasn’t able to get his miles, that he would still get a living wage during that time period.

“We’re not going to do gimmicks, we’re not going to do asterisks,” Baylor said. “That’s not who we are. We’ve never had a sign-on bonus and we’re never going to have one. We want you to come here because you believe in us and believe in what we’re doing here, and you trust us to treat you right.”

Why are drivers so important to Baylor?

“When I look back at all the cherished moments of my life, there’s a truck driver in every one,” Baylor said. “Whether it’s my father, grandfather, or our Baylor trucking professional drivers. We’re just trying to take care of our own.”