Nine traits top-performing carriers share

by Sonia Straface

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – In trucking, it’s easy to point out the top performing carriers. They win awards every chance they get, they don’t have any turnover, and their drivers are, for the most part, happy on the job.

To help smaller fleets, or fleets that that are not a part of these groups, Jack Porter and Chris Henry of the Truckload Carriers Association’s profitability program, put together a presentation at the TCA’s annual convention to point out the habits and traits of top-performing carriers, as seen in the TCA Best Practices Group.

Here’s what the best carriers in the business are doing, according to Porter and Henry:

1.Addition by subtraction

Top performers are looking for ways to reduce and clear redundant tasks first, Henry explained.

“Top performers add by subtraction,” he said. “So they’re not focused on looking at shiny new projects and buzzwords. They’re first looking at things they should stop doing. So everywhere in your business there’s some task that is being completed right now that you don’t need to do. So by reducing these redundant task first, these top performing carriers and leaders, they are making room for the other stuff.”

2.Invest in both tangible and intangible assets

The most successful carriers recognize that finding new drivers is hard to do, said Henry, so they are hiring on professionals to help them to do more with the same amount of drivers or more with less.

These fleets will invest time and money into assets that will help them achieve this goal.

One carrier in the program, Henry said, actually worked with a software company to help develop a new process.

“And we’re seeing this more and more,” he said. “Instead of going to default vendors, they are building something internally to add value to the business, and put a fence around their customer. Building a competitive advantage isn’t just done with great customer service, or great family atmosphere…We’re talking about real things that add value to the bottomline.”

3.Build a skilled workforce

Unfortunately turnover is not just affecting the driver workforce in trucking. High turnover is also starting to affect those in the non-driving community in trucking, for example, technicians, operations employees and administration.

To combat this, those fleets in the best practices program, focus on education, Henry said.

“So one of the things we notice with top performing fleets is they were spending a significant amount of time and money in remedial training and safety training, for drivers, and leadership training with non-driving staff,” he said.

Henry added that top performing fleets are also looking at non-traditional sources of education, like free online courses.

“They’re more affordable online, and you can have your employees learn about things coming up in trucking, like blockchain,” he said.

4. Get out of the whirlwind

Work on your business, instead of in your business, Henry said.

The whirlwind refers to a trucking leader actually getting away from the office or terminal to help make better business decisions.

An easy way to achieve this, Henry said, is during an management meeting or strategy meeting, go and take a walk with your team and talk it out outside.

“Because good decisions require contemplation,” he said.

5. Embrace the concept of an idea meritocracy

To be successful, you have to make sure you are capturing good ideas from wherever they come from, Henry said.

“If you don’t already have an efficient way of capturing good ideas, not just from your senior leadership team, but from your drivers, you need to have one,” he said. “In my former career, my inbox was our suggestion box. So I would put it out there all the time, asking them how can we do something better.”

And if you have that culture, Henry said, it will benefit your business in more ways that just getting an good idea. It will help build driver or employee rapport, and show your employees that they are valued.

6. Spend 95% of their time listening

Good leaders listen, Henry said.

And that’s to their drivers, to their non-drivers, other staff, customers, and their competition.

“And this helps because when they have an opinion, they know they’ve thought about it from all sides,” said Henry.

“God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason,” added Porter.

7. Understand the value of time

Top fleets understand that investing in a new project isn’t just about the money, Henry said.

“If you have five of your senior leaders in a room, three times a week, add up the cost of that and put that in perspective,” he said.

8. Understand the value of discipline

Discipline is very important for leaders in trucking, said Henry.

“It takes discipline to ride out the waves, in this business in particular,” he said. “Top performers in the program have a strategy and stick to it.”

In addition, they don’t just talk about good ideas, they execute the good ideas.

“It’s also important to celebrate the wins, when it happens to be a really good idea,” he said. “But don’t harp on the failures. If the idea doesn’t work, then get rid of it and move on.”

9. Want to get 1% better every day

Celebrating slow progress every day is something top performing fleets do, Henry said.

“A big thing with all the group is scorecarding or making your drivers accountable,” he said. “Also fleet managers, maintenance, admin…everyone has something that can be incentivized regardless of their role, and that’s what top fleets are doing. It helps everyone out.”

Another thing carriers can do to improve every day is to make sure to stick with your weekly staff meetings, Porter said, even if it’s just 30 minutes.

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