Trucking refining its HR practices, Top Fleet program finds

by Sonia Straface

OTTAWA, Ont. — Think your workplace is the best in Canada? Prove it. That’s what CEO Angela Splinter and the staff at Trucking HR Canada have to say to fleet managers across the country who believe they provide their employees with an outstanding work environment.

In 2014, Trucking HR Canada launched the Top Fleet Employers program as a way of addressing the driver shortage and recognizing those fleets within the industry that are taking human resources to the next level.

“We wanted to highlight the positive aspects of the industry while improving the image of the industry and promoting it as a great place to work,” Splinter explained. “And that grew into something bigger and followed our mandate of wanting to share best practices with the industry.”

The program is open to any and all fleets. Whether your fleet is for-hire or private, is comprised of six trucks or 600, you can apply. There is no limit to the number of fleets that can be honored.

In its inaugural year, Trucking HR Canada recognized 10 fleets that met the standard. In its sophomore year, it more than doubled that, recognizing 22 fleets. And in 2016, its third year running, Trucking HR Canada recognized 39 fleets across the country that met its standard for best HR practices.

And though it may seem like a lot of winners, that’s the point of the program, according to Splinter, who is adamant the Top Fleet Employers program is not a competition with winners and losers.

“We didn’t want to make it a competition-based program,” she said. “It’s a program where either you meet the standard or you don’t. We wanted it to be achievable so everyone could recognize how many positive work environments exist in the trucking industry. We have small and medium fleets that are floored when they’re told they met the standard because they didn’t think they could do that. But small- and medium-sized fleets are doing great things and we want to highlight them.”

To be considered as a Top Fleet Employer, fleets have to apply online and provide information on a variety of topics including employee compensation, wait policies for drivers, employee recognition, employee engagement, wellness, professional development, recruitment and retention strategies.

From there, Trucking HR Canada reviews the submissions and follows up the online application with phone interviews in which fleets are asked to provide hard copies of different policies they have in place to verify that the programs they offer are legitimate.

“You can tell us in an online application how wonderful you are, but we need to confirm all of these things and ensure how up to date these policies are,” Splinter said. “I can give you one example of a fleet we had that completed the online application process and they realized they hadn’t updated their policies in 10 years. At that point, they were no longer in the running, because we had to tell them their policies were out of date.”

Splinter also said Trucking HR Canada surveys employees in the fleets that are considered for the program.

“We survey a percentage of all employees,” she said. “It’s not just drivers. We talk to administrative staff, managers, safety personnel, etc. We get all of their feedback and that is very telling. They give a whole other level of depth to the application because you really get a sense of an organization’s culture through the employee survey.”

The program not only boosts morale for small- and medium-sized fleets that aren’t always in the trucking press for their outstanding work but it has created a wave of trucking companies that are dedicated to making their workplaces better. Splinter said that since its first year, she has noticed a number of trends that have now become a norm in the industry.

“We’ve seen increases in compensation. We see more fleets that are looking at total compensation,” Splinter said. “There’s also an increase in the number of employers who offer some combination of pay – pay by the kilometer and pay by the hour. Out of the 39 fleets recognized this year, 85% offered some sort of combination pay.”

As well, Splinter said that 100% of the fleets recognized this year offered benefits.

“We’ve also seen an increase in fleets who are offering retirement savings. Last year, 70% of the for-hire fleets were offering retirement savings. This year it was 100%,” she said.

In addition, all of the fleets recognized this year also have some sort of formal orientation or on-boarding for new hires.

“On a higher level some trends we’re seeing and one that I like to highlight is workplace culture,” Splinter said. “We see it through the employee surveys in particular. I can’t help but think that it’s unique to trucking but we are seeing more fleets having that strong sense of family in their fleet. You can hear it in the comments from the employees and it’s a positive trend we’re seeing, because employees are telling us their employers will give them more time at home and more flexible work hours and it’s a natural thing that should happen in an aging workforce. Employers need to retain that aging workforce, so we’re seeing more flexible work arrangements as a result.”

Standout fleets according to Splinter include Steed Standard Transport based in Stratford, Ont. and Sutco Transportation Specialists, which is headquartered in Salmo, B.C.

“Seventeen per cent of (Steed’s) drivers are under the age of 35,” Splinter said. “That statistic blew us away.”

To achieve this, Ken Wilson, the safety and compliance supervisor at Steed said, “We pride ourselves on our equipment, low CVOR and our shop. The guys in our shop really keep on top of things and our drivers love operating the trucks we have.”

Wilson added Steed ensures its drivers are paid competitive salaries and are respected. Splinter added that in B.C., Sutco impressed the Top Fleet Employers organizers with its unique job ads.

“What we’re trying to push with the industry is having truck driving recognized as a skilled trade,” Splinter said. “And what the government looks at are the job ads. And in trucking, job ads today, they all read ‘no education required’ and that’s not helping us. Sutco is one of the only fleets that have really effective job ads and they are highlighting the education and skills requirements needed for jobs within trucking.”

Doug Sutherland, general manager of Sutco, said the changes to its job ads were deliberate and were meant to enhance the image of the industry.

“We think the ads we put out there are very important in setting the tone of the industry,” he said. “ We think the industry as a whole needs to have ads that properly reflect what we’re looking for in our industry. It’s not just that we take anyone and that’s what a lot of fleets are putting out there. We’ve added language to our ads that Trucking HR Canada suggested and I think major players in the industry will start to have the same sort of language in their ads in the future.”

Sutco’s human resources manager, Nathan L’Heureux, added the company has also rolled out a new report card system for drivers that rewards them for their quality of work.

“We were also one of the first in Canada to offer the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) Pension Plan,” he said. “And our drivers really appreciate that.”

The company also has an enviable benefits plan for its employees.

“And when you tie that all in, with the pension plan, the report card bonus system, it’s all about having the proper things in place for (employees) to be successful,” said Sutherland. “HR is the future. Trucking isn’t what it used to be. HR is one of the most important aspects of a successful company.”

To thank the fleets for applying to the program and reward them even more for their HR practices, Trucking HR Canada is holding the first ever Top Fleet Employers Gala Awards dinner on Oct. 12 at Toronto’s Palais Royale. Awards will be given out to fleets that have “gone above and beyond,” according to Splinter. Awards will be given to the top small, medium, large and private fleets. As well, there will be an award for the HR Leader of the Year.

For more information about the gala or how to submit an application to become a Top Fleet Employer, visit

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