KISSIMMEE, Fla. — This morning, the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA) and its partner CarriersEdge named the overall winners of the fourth annual Best Fleets to Drive For survey and contest.
Motor Carrier Service, Inc. (MCS) of Northwood, Ohio, was selected as the Best Fleet for Company Drivers, sponsored by Marsh Canada, Ltd. For the second year in a row, Paramount Freight Systems (PFS) of Ft. Myers, Fla., was selected as the Best Fleet for Owner Operators.
Best Fleets to Drive For is an annual survey and contest identifying the North American for-hire trucking companies that provide the best workplace experiences for their drivers. Nominated carriers are evaluated on the range and depth of offered programs, the overall effectiveness of those programs across key metrics, and the responses of surveyed drivers. The top finishers are identified as Best Fleets to Drive For, and the highest scoring fleet in each category is named overall winner.
Both companies received their awards on March 6, 2012, as part of the TCA Annual Convention at the Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, Fla.
Motor Carrier Service, Inc., like most carriers, measures driver performance as a routine part of daily operations. However, unlike other fleets — where evaluation methods are created at the management level and then communicated to the drivers — MCS actively solicits its drivers’ feedback up front. For example, drivers were recently asked what they should be measured on and which factors they believe are less useful indicators of performance. When they suggested that truck cleanliness and driver attitude be taken into consideration, MCS incorporated these measurements into the overall evaluation procedure. The result was a resounding success that “changed things dramatically,” according to Keith Tuttle, president. He continued, “The process resulted in better understanding between management and drivers — especially when it became clear that both groups agreed!”
MCS drivers also provide integral feedback via a Driver Liaison Committee that reviews company policies and makes recommendations for changes and future programs. At twice-yearly safety meetings held in conjunction with driver rodeos, the committee watches as fellow drivers are randomly selected to perform maneuvers. The committee suggests improvements, offers advice, and helps their fellow drivers understand how local and national regulations might apply to the situation at hand. This type of driver-to-driver feedback has proven to be highly effective for MCS, moving the focus of the safety meeting from a passive listening situation to an active skill-building scenario.
Paramount Freight Systems continues to build on the outstanding workplace environment for which it was recognized last year. Like Motor Carrier Service, Inc., it maintains a committee of drivers who provide their input on company policies and procedures. It also uses a “buddy program” to pair experienced contractors with those just starting out. Both programs are fairly common in carriers that employ company drivers, but are somewhat unusual for an all-owner-operator fleet.
PFS has been reaching out to new drivers through social media. Early on, it embraced social media tools and now runs an aggressive and effective social media campaign that includes Facebook and Twitter. The company says it has hired 25 new owner operators as a direct result of its social media posts.
In general, drivers leased to the company seem content. One driver wrote: “Paramount has great runs, and they get me home weekly so I can be a mother and still have a good paying job. They are really focused on hiring women and have always done what they said they are going to do. The operations department is helpful and friendly and always willing to go the extra mile to help out owner operators. With the high price of parts, the parts discounts they offer are saving me thousands of dollars each year. Paramount is truly a class act and second to none.”
This opinion seems to reflect the feelings of most of the drivers leased to PFS, as the company enjoys a very low driver turnover rate. In fact, 60 percent of its drivers have been with the company for more than five years. Of fleets operating in the United States, it has one of the highest percentages of drivers who have been with the company for 10 years or longer.
Mark Murrell, president of CarriersEdge, said, “Both of this year’s overall winners are fairly small fleets of under 200 drivers each, yet they act like ‘big companies’ in terms of their driver outreach efforts, committees and programs. They are out there every day pushing the boundaries of what is traditionally thought of as a ‘normal’ program, and it’s clearly working. It goes to show you don’t have to be big to be progressive.”
Gary Salisbury, outgoing chairman of TCA and the president and CEO of Fikes Truck Line, Inc., of Hope, Ark., agrees. “Motor Carrier Service, Inc. and Paramount Freight Systems dispel the myth that small companies can’t compete with the big guys. No matter what your size, you can still create an outstanding work environment for your people.”
The Best Fleet to Drive For survey and contest was open to any fleet operating 10 trucks or more, regardless of TCA membership status. Fleets had to be nominated by at least one of their drivers (either a company driver or an owner operator). Nominated fleets were evaluated against a broad range of criteria reflecting current HR best practices, such as driver compensation, pension and benefits, professional development, driver and community support, and safety record.
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