Posts

Trucking Truth with Alessandra Szul

Starting a trucking business isn’t easy. However, this didn’t stop Alessandra Szul, who saw an opportunity in the industry and started her own trucking company, Flatbush Freight Express, while still in her early twenties.

Started in 2018, Flatbush Freight Express is a female-owned and operated trucking company based in North Carolina.  Drive My Way’s CEO, Beth Potratz spoke with Alessandra about what she’s learned in her time in the trucking industry, how she tackles driver recruiting, and her advice for others looking to make the jump into starting their own trucking business. 

Q: What’s your background and how did you end up in the trucking industry?

I come from a very strong entrepreneurial background. 30 years ago, my mother and grandmother started the largest cosmetic company in the country of Venezuela. I saw the freedom you could have by owning your own business and kept that with me growing up. I ended up going to school for applied computer science and business, because I saw pursuing those fields as a good way to build a foundation that would help me transition into starting my own business.  

After earning my degree, I worked at a few different places in the technology industry. Last year my current partner at Flatbush introduced me to a friend who owned his own trucking company in North Carolina. He was kind enough to show us his books and my first thought was, “This is what I’ve been looking for. Why can’t I do this too?” 

Q: How was your first year in operation and what was your biggest lesson?

It’s been exciting and informative to say the least. Not coming from a background in trucking, there was a lot to learn, and I’m very grateful I have my partner to help me with everything.  

One big lesson I’ve learned is to make sure all my drivers have front-facing dashboard cameras. One of my drivers was involved in an accident earlier this past year. The towing company that arrived on the scene insisted that the truck needed to be towed away to their yard, but my very experienced driver felt that was unnecessary. The whole incident ended up costing us over $10,000 all-in-all before the towing company would release the truck back to us. That’s not to mention that the trailer was fully stocked at the time of the accident, so there was a delay in delivery as well. If we had just invested in a dash cam upfront, the whole issue could have been avoided.  

On a positive note, Flatbush has been able to grow from 2 to 4 trucks over the past year. Our goal for this next year is to make it to 10 trucks and go from there. We’re also looking to hire our own mechanic. Because as we learned, it’s not just the repairs themselves that cost money. It’s the loss of money from not having one of our trucks on the road that makes the biggest difference.  

Q: How does Flatbush Freight Express handle recruiting?

Having a strong recruiting pipeline is extremely important to us. Even if we’re not hiring, we make sure to be very active on Drive My Way. As a young company, having a constant online presence and making sure drivers know about us is vital to our growth. 

Aside from that, we focus on hiring the right driver, not just the first person. I made that mistake early on and it ended up costing us. That’s why we love hiring through Drive My Way. I was lucky enough to find a driver through Drive My Way who had a background in safety and compliance work for Ryder Logistics. It was the perfect match on both ends since our number one core value at Flatbush is safety.

Q: Not being able to have face-to-face time with your drivers must be difficult. How are you still able to build a relationship with them?

Aside from safety, building a strong relationship with our drivers is the most important thing for us. This has been more difficult with Covid, but, something I still actively try to do. For a lot of good reasons, many drivers are skeptical of company owners. That’s why I like to spend time talking with my drivers, building that trust between owner and employee. It’s taken some time, but I’ve gotten to the point where my drivers will reach out with comments and concerns or just to chat and send me something they find funny. It’s a great feeling and definitely contributes to the kind of culture we’re building at Flatbush.   

Q: What advice would you have for someone considering starting a trucking company?

Be honest with yourself if it’s something they can afford to do or not. It’s very easy to be put in a bad financial spot or even be out of business due to unforeseen circumstances. I would also recommend getting your CDL before anything else. Then saving up to buy one truck, and go from there. It’s much easier to find financing if you hold your CDL, even if you don’t plan on driving. And once you start earning money, a bank or financial institution will be much more likely to help you finance the second or third truck, so you don’t have to bootstrap it all alone.

Alessandra finished with these thoughts:

While everyone at Flatbush Freight Express has their role to play, without the drivers, there’s no business. That’s why I do everything possible to take care of my drivers and make them feel appreciated. They give up such a huge portion of their lives for this job, that it’s the least I can do. For anyone looking to get into this industry, make a point to treat your drivers like family. Do that and the rest will fall into place.

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

Jason Crowell Custom Commodities Transport

The impact of 2020 is not finished. All of the repercussions are flowing through the supply chain, and it’s impacting manufacturing, the food system, and the labor shortage everywhere. Even though we are on the down swing of the virus itself, everyone is looking for a Truck Driver right now. Therefore, the job market is competitive, making it extremely hard on Driver Recruiters. Drive My Way’s CEO, Beth Potratz, spoke with Jason Crowell, Director of Recruiting at Custom Commodities Transport, and Jason shared his advice for staying motivated and recruiting for retention.

Q: What keeps you motivated as a Driver Recruiter?

A: Being a Truck Driver Recruiter can be a burn out job.  Each week, we Recruiters have the highest of hopes and often, we also have big letdowns in this unprecedented market. A Truck Driver is likely talking to 4 or 5 Recruiters at once in their job search, saying yes to one of them, and leaving the other recruiters hanging.  We call it “ghosting” and it’s on the rise, contributing to the Recruiter’s stress. The toughest part for today’s trucking company is finding and retaining qualified Drivers, putting incredible pressure on the Driver Recruiter because the success of the business often hinges on the Recruiter’s work. The recruiting office is getting more visits from the CEO than ever before. 

To keep myself motivated, I focus the positives. We know that what is happening in the market is cyclical. We are riding the best of economic times with more business than we can handle, and the gating factor is having the Drivers to do the work. With the executive team tuned in to the gravity of the recruiting need, it’s a great time introduce new and improved employer brand strategies, cutting edge recruitment advertising technology, and cool retention initiatives.

Q: Why is recruiting for retention so important now and always?

A:  The Drug & Alcohol Clearinghouse came online and eliminated tens of thousands of Drivers in the American workforce. Older Drivers are retiring at a faster rate since COVID-19, younger Drivers are not going into the trucking profession, and the Truck Driver schools were closed for a year. We recruit to retain because the nation-wide Driver shortage is only getting worse! America needs Truck Drivers. Retaining our brightest and best Drivers will make or break trucking companies over this next year.

Q: How do you combat pressure on Recruiters and how do you motivate them to rise to the challenge?

A: The state of the market has allowed Recruiting to have a seat at the Leadership table. Driver recruiting is no longer considered an admin function. We’re just as important as operations, safety, and sales.

To motivate our Recruiters, I like to share the bigger picture with our team. When our Recruiters know they serve a greater purpose and understand the vision of the organization, they can also communicate this to Drivers. All of a sudden, their job becomes more than just making calls and filling trucks. Recruiters are part of fulfilling a greater purpose.

Q: How do you incentivize Driver Recruiters?

A: Of course financial incentives are important, but we like to celebrate small wins and show appreciation for the work of Recruiters.  We’re trying to cultivate a culture of appreciation. If we meet our Recruiting KPIs for the week, that’s to be celebrated, not just with the recruiting team but also with the executive team. It’s important to have fun while we are working, so we share KPIs and headcount goals and get other departments involved.

Good Recruiters stay positive in nearly impossible situations, they find solutions, and they are tenacious and scrappy. It takes a unique personality to love the work, but for those of us who do, these are wild times. I’m having a blast!

Q: How much should a recruiter be selling the position vs listening to Drivers about their needs?

We never want a Recruiter to oversell the job to bring a Driver in under false pretenses. As a matter of fact, we share our “realistic job preview” to tell Driver candidates about the goods, the bads, and the uglies of the job.  Every candidate can’t fit into our jobs, and it’s the Recruiters’ job to help with that all-important selection. The Recruiter should really be listening to what the Driver wants and needs to identify if there is a mutual fit.

We’re working to provide our Recruiters with a library of Driver stories about every aspect of the job.  Recruiters can use these stories to demonstrate to the candidate how the company operates without reading bullet points from a script. We find that these stories are what stand out for the Driver in our recruiting process and that the stories are often what distinguishes our recruiter from some another company’s recruiter who may just be listing features and benefits.

Jason finished with these thoughts:

I must commend our executive team here at Custom Commodities Transport for being so open to new ideas.  We measure everything and use data to assure good decision-making, but this results-oriented team has shown that they value Drivers, understand the recruiting & retention challenge, and are willing to make big, bold moves to make Custom Commodities the benchmark that customers and competitors use to measure themselves.

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

chelsee patton riverside transport

Becoming a trucking recruiter is a job that takes time to build up expertise. To be a top recruiter takes a combination of the right personality and a detailed understanding of the driver experience. Drive My Way customer Riverside Transport Inc. (RTI) is one of the companies that gets recruiting right. Drive My Way’s CEO, Beth Potratz, spoke with Chelsee Patton, Director of Recruiting at Riverside Transport Inc., who has her CDL and spent a year on the road. Chelsee elaborated on her driving experience at Riverside Transport and shared some trucking truths on recruiting for retention. 

Q: How did you get your CDL? 

A: I got my CDL through RTI’s Train Your Team program. I was learning to drive and learning to back and learning about all of the requirements to drive a truck while I was actually driving it. They put you in head first as far as the Train Your Team program! 

It runs a bit differently today because you have to have your CDL to be in that program. Nonetheless, I started running from Kansas City to Louisville and back on a Dedicated run. During that time, I would be trained on pre and post trip inspections, and we’d do backing exercises. I got to run freight and train to get my CDL, finally pass my test, and I got to blog that experience for Riverside. 

I did that right after I finished some schooling, but I had been in driver recruiting for some years before that, and I just feel very vested in the industry. I really care about the drivers and I have fun talking to them. I resonate with them. I think even more so now that I have my CDL, I understand what life is like out there on the road for them. 

Q: How did having your CDL and driving for a year, the experience out on the road, change your perspective as a recruiter?

ChelseeInPink

Chelsee, Director of Recruiting at RTI

A: As a recruiter in this industry, you have to gain the drivers’ trust. That’s the number one thing. I think that having my CDL and being in the driver’s seat allows me to do that much quicker and more effectively. 

It’s a great experience. When I’m talking to drivers and they mention something, I kind of throw it out there, and sometimes they catch on and sometimes it takes them a little bit to think, “Well, wait a minute…you have your CDL? You drove?” So, that’s really fun throwing that out there in some of the conversations that I have with potential drivers. 

Q: If you’re a recruiter and you don’t necessarily have the opportunity to get your CDL or don’t have that experience under your belt, what are some of the other things you can do to help learn about the industry and build rapport with the drivers?

A: One thing that you can potentially do, it’s going to be based on your company and their policies, is check and see if you have the opportunity to do a ride-a-long with a driver. Even if it’s just with a local driver for a day, spend some time there. That would be really cool. There’s also a lot of bloggers out there and so you can go and watch some of the trucker bloggers online and gain some insight there. 

When you’re talking with drivers, be inquisitive. If you really take the time to pay attention to what the drivers are saying and not try to rush them off the phone, you can gain some insight into what their life is like. 

The other thing that I would really encourage is when you’re talking with drivers, be inquisitive about the things that they’re saying. You really learn a lot through driver recruiting. It takes time. As a new person in the industry, it’s like, “What’s a dry van? What’s a fifth wheel?” but then you learn all those things, and if you really take the time to pay attention to what the drivers are saying and not try to rush them off the phone, you can gain some insight into what their life is like. 

Q: What tips would you give recruiters about effective interviewing? 

A: I would take a look internally at your current approach to recruiting and think about how different you can be versus what you’re doing today. What I really mean by that is, when you have a driver call you, and you are talking to that driver, listen to what you’re saying. Are you automatically going into, “How much experience do you have? How many tickets? How many accidents?” versus conversationally talking through all that with them. That’s something we recently got some really nice training on, and one thing I would definitely encourage is to qualify your drivers through conversation. 

Q: A parting question – when you think about the recruiting team and the culture you’re trying to build, what are some of the things that you and your team hear from drivers?

A: I would say I’m pretty proud of my team in that regard. Sometimes when drivers call the Riverside Transport recruiting line, they get surprised by the way the Riverside recruiters speak with them. We try to keep it very friendly and honest. We like our recruiting team to know as much information as possible and be willing and able to give that to the drivers. So, a lot of times, we’ll hear, “I’ve never had a recruiter be so nice” or “No one’s honest.” That’s definitely a truck driver recruiter stigma out therethat we’re all liarsso we’re definitely trying to change that and ultimately make sure that that driver feels valued and like they’re not being lied to. 

Beth finished the interview with these thoughts:

You really bring it back to the person and to their needs and to the relationship. And you even go so far as to really walk a mile in their shoes, or I should say, sit in the seat behind the wheel. We salute you and your team and all the innovative things that you’re doing, all of the commitment you’ve demonstrated to make a difference in the industry, and to help highlight that trucking is an industry that people can really join and enjoy. There’s a lot of fun to be had, and a lot of respect that’s been earned.

To hear more from Chelsee as the Director of Recruiting at Riverside Transport Inc., follow her on Instagram or Youtube as @ChelseeInPink.

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

trucking dispatcher relationship
The trucking dispatcher and driver relationship is one of the most important relationships to keep a fleet running smoothly. Unfortunately, it’s very easy for dispatcher-driver relationships to become strained. Tension can arise from small problems that escalate as a result of poor communication or different priorities. Some challenges in the trucking industry require large investments of time and money. Fortunately, this isn’t one of them. There are several ways for a trucking dispatcher to improve their relationships with drivers without spending a single dollar.

1. Promote Clear Communication

Communication and miscommunication are at the heart of strained trucking dispatcher and driver relationships. Dispatchers and drivers are doing two entirely different jobs and may not see eye to eye. As a result, clear communication is absolutely essential to bridge that gap. Set clear expectations for drivers and their roles. Dispatchers typically have a higher level vantage point, so they may need to clarify some of their decisions to drivers. 

One of the best things a dispatcher can do is prioritize transparency.

Drivers don’t need a detailed analysis to explain every decision, but they should have a general understanding of why dispatchers are making decisions in a specific way. Transparency at all levels is a great way to build trust. There will inevitably be times that dispatchers must ask drivers to do things they don’t want to. If a driver understands the constraints that dispatchers work with and has a history of respect with the dispatcher, they are much more likely to willingly take on less pleasant loads when necessary.

MNS1 Best Carrier for Driver CommunicationDrive My Way customer MNS1 Express was recently recognized as the Best Carrier for Communication by Chad Hendricks, host of the Recruit and Retain podcast. Chad praised MNS1 Express saying:

“This is the first time I’ve called drivers from any company and had every single one talk about their dispatcher in a positive way.”

Good dispatcher and driver relationships play a huge role in retention, and MNS1 is leading the way.

2. Walk A Mile In Their Shoes

otr truckOne of the best ways to improve dispatcher-driver relationships is by creating more common ground. Most dispatchers have never been CDL drivers, and most drivers have never been dispatchers. Both sides need to have a basic understanding of what the other is doing in their day-to-day life and to get to know each other. If you are a dispatcher and haven’t been a driver in the past, ask to go on a ridealong for a day. You don’t have to get a CDL to get a glimpse of your drivers’ typical workload. Take a few days to see the day-to-day responsibilities of your drivers. 

Beyond understanding their job, get to know your drivers personally. It builds better company culture and makes daily communication much more pleasant. Demonstrate to your drivers that they are more than just a worker. A friendly relationship also goes a long way when challenging situations arise. It also allows communication to go in both directions. If there are things you wish your drivers knew, tell them! A mutual understanding of each other’s work and respect goes a long way toward facilitating open communication and improving the trucking dispatcher relationships with drivers.

3. Don’t Create Impossible Situations

dispatch memeMutual respect and understanding can only go so far. Even in the best relationships, drivers won’t be happy if they are regularly put in impossible situations. An impossible load is one that looks good on paper but has very little room for error or unexpected incidents. Think twice before accepting this kind of load.

The profit is often tantalizing, but if you’re compromising drivers, the cost is too high. Drivers who regularly face impossible loads will quickly become frustrated, and you may start losing drivers

Instead, try to give drivers (and yourself!) a small compliance cushion. That way, when things do go wrong or there are unexpected delays, everyone has a little breathing room. This eases the tension for everyone. Drivers will appreciate not being penalized for things out of their control, and as a dispatcher, you’ll have more happy customers receiving on-time loads.

4. Give and Take Feedback

employee feedbackLike any hard-working employee, truck drivers want to feel respected and appreciated. To help develop a climate of respect, make the trucking dispatcher and driver relationship a partnership. Ask drivers for feedback throughout the year and make sure to implement their suggestions when possible! Drivers will feel good knowing that their input matters, and it’s an important way to build social credit. Then, once you’ve developed a rapport, you can give drivers constructive feedback as well. Mutual respect is the foundation for good feedback and communication.

ultimate guide to retaining truck drivers

Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

Get the Ebook

truck accident procedure

No one wants to manage cargo claims or contract disputes, and a nuclear verdict in a catastrophic accident is a trucking nightmare. Unfortunately, if you’re in the industry long enough, there’s a good chance you will find yourself handling accident claims. To protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation, make sure you have a strong truck accident procedure in place well before it’s needed.

1. Establish A Clear Internal Procedure

Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law

Eric Zalud, Benesch Law

Once an accident occurs, you’re working against the clock. It’s critically important to have laid the groundwork beforehand. We spoke with Eric Zalud, Partner and Associate Chairman of the Litigation Department and Chairman of the Transportation & Logistics at Benesch Law. He emphasized the importance of the “Golden Hour” and arguably a golden first few days.

These hours immediately after the incident are critically important for collecting evidence, alerting key members of your response team, and handling medical emergencies. If a lawsuit occurs, it may not happen immediately, so it’s important to preserve any information that may support your case as close to the time of the incident as possible.

One of the best ways to ensure that accidents are handled smoothly and efficiently is to establish a clear communication tree. Zalud notes that this often starts with the driver contacting the safety manager who then takes the lead in the rapid response efforts. In some companies, the in-house counsel or even the company CEO may lead the accident response efforts. You should also be prepared with a team of responders who help form the line of defense.

When asked who companies should keep in their rapid response Rolodex, Zalud recommended:

  • Approved legal counsel
  • Insurance carrier
  • Engineer
  • Hazmat unit
  • Truck manufacturer
  • Toxicologist
  • Company media spokesperson

Not all fleets need to have all of the listed resources in-house. For smaller fleets, maintaining an updated preferred provider list is a good accident response option. Any necessary responders should be contacted as quickly as possible after the crash to resolve the accident scene and preserve evidence for a later date.

2. Facilitate Driver Practice

Accidents are highly stressful situations, and even the best truck accident procedure in the world can’t perfectly predict human behavior. Drivers need to practice their role in the event of an accident so that they don’t freeze and forget important details. One method for training drivers is to use dashcam footage from previous accidents to proactively review safety procedures. This can be done either in group training or for the individual driver. Zalud notes that “drivers often are receptive to [the footage]. They get interested in what the camera is showing. That type of training also helps prevent accidents and also helps minimize liability.”

Safety incentive programs are another good way to encourage drivers to practice safe driving behavior. In addition to safe driver training, have drivers practice taking photos as documentation in the event of an accident. Drivers should use their phones for documentation only after the accident has occurred and they have secured the situation. As a baseline, drivers should photograph all vehicles involved, license plates and VIN numbers, regular and close-up shots of the damages, and pictures of the surrounding area and road conditions. Additional photos may be needed depending on the type of accident.

Drivers may be concerned about the repercussions of an accident on their job. Communicate that the best thing they can do is report the incident quickly and thoroughly without being overly defensive. Drivers should also receive clear instructions on what information to communicate to the safety manager and to any external responders.

3. Meticulously Document Accidents

A strong truck accident procedure includes detailed documentation from before and after the accident. It is the responsibility of the safety manager and/or your in-house counsel to keep current in HOS and FMCSA regulations as well as local, state, and municipal regulations and ordinances. Zalud adds that equipment information, maintenance records, and inspection data should all be part of systematically developed backdrop information that can help contextualize the accident. Safety managers should also have accurate records on all driver activity related to safety, including driver training, maintenance records logged and documentation of all pre-trip and post-trip inspections. 

In addition to traditional safety training and documentation, telematics and big data are becoming increasingly critical in accident proceedings. Outward-facing dash cams are standard equipment now, and they often help clarify the events of a truck accident. When asked about the role of dashcam footage in accidents, Zalud shared:

“Number one, they’re exonerative… That can kill many lawsuits in their embryonic phases. [On the other hand, if you are at fault,] knowing that can affect your dealings with the claimant or his or her counsel. You can cut a deal earlier. You can save litigation costs that way.”

A dashboard that enables crash analysis across your fleet over time is a valuable tool. The dashboard should include data that spans across your fleet and tracks statistics over time. At a minimum, document reasons, date, equipment failures, cost of repairs, preventability rating, drivers with multiple crashes, and similar information.

4. Keep Comprehensive Records

Tracking key data is only half of the equation. Securely retaining that data is just as vital, especially in the event of a catastrophic accident. The FMCSA has a three year requirement for accident record keeping, so that is the minimum length of time records should be on file. Failing to retain evidence can result in what’s known as a Spoliation Claim which can result in punitive damages. To avoid this, make sure to collect evidence early and preserve it securely to reduce your liability.

Ultimately, having a strong truck accident procedure is critical, but it’s only as good as your diligence in following it. Ensure that everyone in your fleet is confident in their role. A comprehensive truck accident procedure paired with well-documented driver training and meticulous record-keeping will help protect your driver and your company in the event of litigation. You may not be able to prevent a lawsuit, but you can reduce the liability and save valuable time and resources.

STAY UPDATED ON INDUSTRY TRENDS AND BEST PRACTICES

Join our community of thousands of employers who receive our updates.

pet friendly trucking companyBeing a pet friendly trucking company is more than just a perk for some drivers. Offering a pet rider program strengthens company culture, retention, and recruiting. Ultimately, pet programs are about driver satisfaction and happiness and should be considered part of an overarching retention strategy. With strong marketing that displays a positive company culture, pet programs can also bolster driver recruitment efforts. 

Driver Happiness Improves Driver Retention

Fundamentally, pet and rider programs are about driver happiness which directly influences driver retention. According to our Drive My Way Driver Happiness and Retention Survey, drivers who are unhappy at their jobs are more than 60% more likely to have job searched in the past 3 months. Unhappy drivers also report being unwilling to recommend their company to other drivers and do not want to work at their company for a long time. In contrast, the majority of drivers who are happy rarely think about looking for a new job and would recommend their company to other drivers.

Company drivers indicate that company culture is the second most important factor that drivers are attracted to their company. Being a pet friendly trucking company is only one small piece of company culture, but for some drivers, it makes a big difference. Offering a pet program is a great way to boost driver happiness, continue building a positive company culture, and increase driver retention.

Pets Improve Driver Happiness

As any pet owner knows, pets make our lives better in countless ways. Studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression, have lower blood pressure in stressful situations, and lower cholesterol. For truck drivers, the benefits of a pet while on the road are even greater. Some truck drivers struggle to maintain their health. Having a pet that needs regular exercise encourages drivers to regularly get out of their truck, stretch, and walk around. In addition, pets can reduce depression among drivers who spend long periods of time away from home. They fill our need for human touch and give companionship during long stretches away from loved ones.

We spoke with Sydney Abernathy, Director of Recruiting at Super T Transport. She shared her perspective on the benefits of being a pet friendly trucking company.

“We have a pet policy to attract and retain drivers and the benefit is increased wellness in our drivers. A pet can promote wellness for a driver with increased activity, reduced stress and anxiety, and by filling a need for companionship  Driver wellness is one of the biggest challenges a driver faces on the road. If you consider a pet policy part of your driver wellness program it is easy to see the return of the policy on your bottom line.”

Establishing A Successful Pet Program

woman and dogOffering a pet program is a great way to boost driver happiness and retention, and there are several best practices that will make your program successful. First, consider the guidelines you will share with drivers. It’s reasonable and recommended to include some restrictions on the type of pet or size of the animal to reduce the likelihood of equipment damage. Weights limits that allow pets up to either 30lbs or 60lbs are common among top carriers. Similarly, some fleets encourage drivers to stick to either cats and dogs and allow petitions for other pet requests.

Top carriers including JB Hunt, Knight, and Crete are known for allowing pets on the road and are a great model for implementing a successful pet program.

Communicating With Drivers

Whether you are starting a new pet program from scratch or revising an existing program, communication is key to success. Give clear expectations about cab cleanliness and communicate these from the start. Additionally, set concrete repercussions for not meeting those standards. For additional protection, some companies ask for a deposit to cover any potential damages. If you implement a deposit requirement, make sure the cost of the deposit is not prohibitive. An exorbitant deposit amount breeds resentment because you are then only offering a pet program in name.

Once you have established the basic guidelines for a pet program, help drivers take care of their pets on the road. Ultimately, a healthy, happy pet is a better companion and is less likely to damage equipment. 

Here are a few simple tips:

  • Encourage drivers to take their pet for a vet check before going OTR. 
  • Let pets get familiar with the space before drivers are far from home.
  • Drivers should be aware of any dangerous chemicals or work sites and keep pets out of harm’s way.
  • Remind drivers to prepare food, water, a waste plan, and an exercise plan before they hit the road.
  • Offer resources for drivers to be successful and safe with a pet on the road.

Marketing Yourself as a Pet Friendly Trucking Company

bulldog in semi truck

Good marketing transforms pet programs into a recruitment tool in addition to a retention asset. Consider advertising yourself as a pet friendly trucking company in everything from general ads to specific job descriptions. Position your pet program as part of driver care and a positive company culture. Having a pet program is unlikely to attract drivers if the rest of the job is not competitive. That said, if you have a compelling job offer, being a pet friendly trucking company may give you the edge over your competitors.

Communication is crucial in recruitment conversations, so be open upfront about the structure of your program and any restrictions. Drivers will appreciate the clarity and the drivers who are a good fit for the position will stay engaged.

Being a pet friendly trucking company benefits company culture, retention, and recruiting. Pets increase driver happiness, and that decreases turnover. Pet programs are a great way to attract quality drivers while supporting the physical and mental well-being of your fleet.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

Get the Results

calculate cost per mile

Cost per mile (CPM) is a clear, concise way to save time and evaluate financial success so you can easily decide how to run your fleet efficiently. Cost per mile compares the operating costs of your fleet against the number of miles that your trucks drive. An optimized fleet maximizes their CPM and reevaluates this number regularly to continuously improve the output. Start by itemizing your operating costs and evaluating your current truck mileage. Then, review ways to reduce costs or increase mileage-based profit and decide what is best for your fleet.

Operating Cost

Operating cost includes any cost associated with running your company. Typically, that includes fixed costs, variable costs, and salaries. It’s not enough to have a general sense of your costs. To run a finance-savvy company, define operating costs clearly. Detail costs to the point that they capture each transaction. Precision is extremely important when calculating operating costs because ignoring small costs or generalizing with rounding can quickly snowball into a completely inaccurate picture of your finances. Once you have a clear picture of your operating cost, use this to calculate your cost per mile.

Using Cost Per Mile

Understanding your Cost Per Mile allows you to save time while making financially sound decisions. A baseline cost per mile is a reflection of the cost of each mile your trucks drive. Fleets can calculate CPM by comparing your operating costs to the miles your trucks drive. This rate should inform the rate that you charge shippers and will also highlight any financial red flags. Profitable businesses have load rates that are (on average) higher than the company cost per mile. Being confident in the cost per mile rate allows owners to better identify costs and optimize spending.

Profitable businesses have load rates that are higher than the company cost per mile.

There are three main types of costs to account for when calculating your cost per mile rate. Because some of these costs will change frequently, your cost per mile will be a fluctuating rate. As a result, reassessing regularly is key. Monthly or quarterly is a good place to start.

truck lotFixed Costs

As the name suggests, fixed costs are the expenses that stay the same month after month. You will incur these costs regardless of whether your trucks are running miles or sitting on a quiet lot. Permits, insurance, and property lease payments are a few examples of common fixed costs. Typically, fixed costs are very consistent.

semi truck in the desertVariable Costs

Variable costs are the counterpart to fixed costs. These expenses will fluctuate over time, sometimes minimally, other times dramatically. Unlike fixed costs, variable costs are closely tied to how much you run your trucks. Diesel fuel, maintenance, food, and lodging are all variable costs. The more you run your trucks, the higher these costs will be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

happy truck driverSalaries

In many ways, salaries are a variable cost, but they deserve a third category because salaries have such a big impact on CPM. Typically, salaries are one of the biggest recurring costs. Like other variable costs, the more miles that trucks run, the more the variable cost increases.

Becoming More Profitable

While there are typically several large, upfront costs associated with launching a new company, truck cabs and trailers actually are not the biggest cost long term. According to the Truckers Report, fuel is by far the greatest operating expense.  Based on their estimations, diesel fuel can account for a whopping 39% of operating costs. Driver salaries come in as the second-highest expense at 26% of total fleet operating costs. Assuming your goal is to create a more profitable yet sustainable business, you have two options.

Reduce Operating Costs

Cost per mile is a rate. Therefore, you can change either factor (operating costs or miles) to shift the balance in your favor. One way to do this is by cutting operating costs. In some cases, calculating your CPM may have highlighted several areas of extraneous spending. Others might already be running a lean mean operation. Think carefully before you decide whether and where to cut your budget. Some decisions, such as decreasing driver salaries, may seem appealing because they can dramatically reduce costs. However, the long-term effects might not pay off if that leads to higher turnover and increased recruitment costs. Consider the short and long-term effects.

Increase Gross Income

The other way to grow your company’s profitability is to increase income. Raising load rates is one way to do this. Quite simply, a higher load rate will mean better returns on your loads. Another option is to run more miles. In this case, fixed costs stay the same, and variable costs are proportionally reduced. As a result, the CPM rate drops.

Understanding how to calculate your cost per mile rate will help save you time when you need to make critical financial decisions. A keen understanding of the balance between decreasing operating costs or increasing gross income is fundamental to growing profitability. To be a top trucking company, analyze your CPM rate regularly to effectively respond to industry or fleet-based changes. 

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook

safety incentive program for truck drivers

All trucking fleets have safety standards, so why is a safety incentive program so important? A safety incentive program can help motivate drivers to high standards AND help document strong safety behaviors. Incentive programs keep the focus positive. As an employer, you encourage the right behavior while also boosting company morale. This type of program infrastructure can be a great way to build driver loyalty and accomplish several safety priorities simultaneously.

Do I Really Need Safety Incentives?

The short answer is yes. Here’s why.

Most trucking companies have safety procedures and expectations, and some may also have specific metrics for their drivers. Fleet safety should be a high priority, and incentive programs are an excellent way to communicate that to drivers and encourage behavior changes

While it may not be glamorous, fleet safety and tracking are key to regulatory compliance. In the event of a safety incident, you may need to be able to demonstrate safety protocol among your team.

regulatory compliance checklist

An incentive program can encourage drivers to record their safe driving and creates a positive feedback loop. An incentive program that rewards strong performance is also good for company culture and team morale. Everyone wants to be recognized for a job well done, even if it is a job expectation. There’s also an undeniable benefit to your bottom line. A strong company culture is likely to reduce driver turnover, and that’s a tremendous economic advantage.

The benefits of a well-run safety incentive program also extend to recruiting and marketing. In addition to building internal morale, companies can build off a strong reputation and safety-centric messaging in marketing and recruitment efforts. Use driver recognition and feedback to help create positive brand recognition as a recruitment tool. 

What Should Be Part of a Safety Incentive Program?

A thoughtful safety incentive program has several distinct characteristics. First, if you are offering monetary incentives, offer enough to be meaningful to drivers. The exact amount will vary based on your location, the type of driver, and your standard compensation package. If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other ways to reward drivers. Internal or external recognition, visible insignia for drivers to show off, and flexible home time are just a few non-monetary possibilities that will still motivate drivers. Not all employees are motivated by the same thing, so you may also consider implementing a multi-pronged incentive program. Ultimately, decide what you are best able to offer, and create a strong program based on your resources. 

If a meaningful monetary incentive is out of the question for you, consider other awards that benefit drivers. There are many ways to motivate and reward hard work.

As you design or reshape your safety incentive program, keep sustainability and structure top of mind. Ensure that the program you develop is sustainable for your current and future staff. Even though safety incentive programs are often supplementary to other safety efforts, they take time to maintain. Design something within your capacity. In addition, make sure the safety program is incentivizing the right behavior. For example, a program based solely around mileage may be unintentionally encouraging drivers to drive beyond their safe limits. Thoughtfully determine success metrics when you launch the program. Then, adjust the metrics as needed when you determine points of improvement.

When to Offer Safety Incentives (And When They Won’t Work)

A successful implementation strategy for incentive programs effectively identifies “When.” Common choices for the program cycle are quarterly or annual rewards. To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Will your incentive program be effective for both local and regional drivers? If you prioritize safe driving miles, do drivers have similar routes? Or do some drivers have primarily rural routes while others are largely urban? How will this impact drivers’ ability to perform well in your program?

To decide what is best for your fleet, you may need to consider the types of jobs you offer. Then, decide what driver metric you will measure and how drivers will accumulate rewards.

Another timing question to consider is about rewards accrual. Will incentives accumulate for drivers or will they start clean for each new time increment? Similarly, decide whether to offer tiers of incentives or whether you will regularly feature a set of drivers like an employee of the month. Regardless of how you structure the program, start incorporating training and clear safety policies from the beginning as part of driver orientation. 

How to Communicate Safety Incentives to Drivers

happy truck driverEarly and often is the best rule of thumb for sharing a safety incentive program with drivers. Set clear expectations at the start so that drivers know how to succeed. Based on your metrics for driver incentives, tell drivers exactly what they need to do. The results should be measurable, so drivers feel it’s a fair and attainable goal. Then, share the program in clear, simple language so there’s no confusion or feeling of mystery! 

When you talk about the safety incentive program with drivers, make sure to convey the program as a reward! Internally define the program objective, then highlight the benefits and positive rewards to drivers. Avoid a system that is punitive and focuses on how drivers lose points. If designed and communicated well, your safety incentive program will stand out as a positive differentiator from other companies.

driver happiness and retention survey

FREE SURVEY REPORT

Driver Lifestyle & Job Happiness Survey

We surveyed over 400 CDL truck drivers nationwide to discover what makes them happy in their career and life. Access the survey report to see the results.

Get the Results

slip seating

Traditionally, the philosophy in the trucking industry for regional and OTR was “one driver, one truck.” As with many things in the industry, recent regulatory and economic changes have made that norm less practical for many companies. Equipment efficiencies and financial incentives are pushing some companies to implement slip seating. There is, understandably, some driver resistance, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons. Then, thoughtfully evaluate whether slip seating is right for your company at this time. 

What Is Slip Seating?

In short, slip seating means that multiple drivers share a truck. Drivers don’t have a single cab that they are solely responsible for or that is reserved for their use.

Why Does It Matter?

In the trucking industry, slip seating has not historically been the norm, especially for regional and OTR drivers. There are good financial reasons for employers to use it. That said, slip seating often comes at the expense of employee satisfaction. 

Pros

empty semi trucks in yardBetter Equipment Utilization

As an employer, you are responsible for the overall financial health of your company. From that perspective, slip seating often makes good economic sense. First and foremost, it allows for greater equipment utilization because you can drastically reduce the amount of time that a truck will sit empty in the yard while its designated driver is not on shift. Slip seating allows a company to make more runs in the same amount of time without buying more equipment. 

Tax Incentives

In addition to time efficiencies, there are tax incentives for slip seating. You can take advantage of these incentives if you account for the depreciation of trucks as an asset. According to Duff Swain, president of the consulting firm Trincon Group LLC in a FleetOwner article, trucks can be depreciated over a 3 year period. The best way to maximize profits while minimizing expenses and taxes is to drive at least 700,000 miles per truck in three years. Realistically, 700,000 miles over three years is not feasible for a single driver. So, to reach optimal mileage, multiple drivers are a must.

Cons

Driver Dissatisfaction

Perhaps the biggest downside to slip seating is that many drivers don’t like it. This is particularly true for Regional and OTR drivers. It might be easy to dismiss driver concerns under the pretense that they will soon adapt to new policies. However, think twice before making your decision.

Driver complaints are legitimate and could affect not only company morale but also the company’s bottom line. Driver happiness is a huge driver of retention.

Drivers cite messy cabs, the inefficient use of time required to remove belongings from the cab, and less well-maintained equipment as top concerns about slip seating. In some cases, no driver views the truck as their own. Then, they may also be less likely to treat it with care and cleanliness. 

semi truck repair garageMaintenance & Health

In addition to driver concerns, employers should consider that slip seating increases the number of miles driven on each tractor. As a result, routine maintenance or repairs may come up more frequently. Health concerns should also be a top consideration, especially this year. Multiple drivers using the same enclosed space in rapid succession means that disinfecting and other health safety protocols should be a high priority before each driver change. 

It’s a Fleet-Based Decision

There are clear benefits and drawbacks to implementing slip seating in your fleet. Ultimately it’s a company decision. Some companies may also find that it makes sense to use slip seating for some trucks, but not for the entire fleet. Is the cost of driver dissatisfaction worth the potential financial upside for your fleet at this time?

To bolster driver retention and recruitment, consider whether there are other things you can do to improve driver satisfaction.

Implementing slip seating may increase driver turnover, especially in the short term if drivers do not agree with the decision. Fleets should be prepared to allocate recruiting and retention resources in their budget while they make the transition. To bolster driver retention and recruitment, consider whether there are other things you can do to improve driver satisfaction. Ultimately, most people are willing to put up with working arrangements that aren’t ideal if they like their job and the people they work for. For example, employee recognition, incentive programs, or career-building opportunities can all go a long way toward improving driver satisfaction and improving your bottom line by reducing turnover.

ultimate guide to retaining truck drivers

Ultimate Guide to Retaining Truck Drivers

You work so hard to recruit the best truck drivers for your fleet. The trick is retaining them. This guide is packed with tips for retaining your fleet.

Get the Ebook

hazmat driverRecruiting drivers to fill your fleet is often a never-ending task. Recruiting a Hazmat driver can help focus your efforts, but it also narrows the candidate pool. Before you launch your next recruitment campaign, make sure you know exactly which drivers you’re trying to reach. Then, implement some fresh recruiting tactics along with your tried and true strategies to attract drivers and retain them as valuable additions to your fleet.

1. Know What Makes Hazmat Drivers Different

When recruiting a Hazmat driver, it’s important to identify characteristics that differentiate these drivers from other drivers. This is part of building a driver persona. One obvious distinction of Hazmat drivers? These drivers were willing to put in the extra effort for their endorsement. There are many reasons why a driver might have decided that the endorsement was worth the time and money, and not all drivers will have the same reason. However, as an employer, you can confidently say that these drivers were willing to work hard for a goal and that they accomplished that goal. When you have a clear understanding of the driver personas you are recruiting, use your value proposition to tailor a recruitment message to their priorities. 

When you have a clear understanding of the driver personas you are recruiting, use your value proposition to write an appealing job description.

In addition to their endorsement, Hazmat drivers typically have several years of prior driving experience. This can be a tremendous asset when you hire because you can be more confident in their skills. It also means you can rely on behavioral interviewing and past experiences to select the best driver. That said, for many drivers, with more experience comes the expectation of higher pay. Drivers who have some experience typically expect respect and a quality position from their employer. To get quality drivers, jobs should be advertised at or above industry average pay for that type of position. Experienced drivers are also looking for comprehensive benefits and career growth opportunities. At the end of the day, a good job offer helps attract top drivers. 

2. Refresh Your Recruiting Techniques

Identifying your Hazmat driver personas is an important first step, but getting those drivers in the door is often much more challenging. Driver referrals are a good place to start. Hazmat drivers on your team are likely to know other candidates who are qualified and would be a good fit for your job. By relying on the networks that drivers naturally develop, employers can incentivize referrals for candidates who come with a good peer recommendation. 

truck driver

To help encourage drivers who are undecided about a job change, make sure your job is compelling. Good benefits, regular home time, newer equipment, and competitive pay are essential.

Recruit from a wide demographic base in your recruitment efforts. This allows you to tap into untapped markets and strengthen your fleet. Especially for endorsement-based positions like Hazmat, quality is more important than quantity. Work to establish a sustainable long term strategy for keeping turnover low and driver satisfaction high.

3. Implement a Retention as Recruitment Strategy

Once drivers are successfully onboarding, retention is one of the most time-saving and cost-efficient ways to keep your fleet full. While retention is not the same as recruitment, these aspects work in parallel to keep your trucks full. Financially, most drivers reported in the Drive My Way Driver Happiness Survey that they would rather earn incrementally higher pay and a smaller sign-on bonus than have a larger sign-on bonus but lower pay. Incentives like a performance bonus or small pay increase may feel costly, but over time, they may be comparable or less expensive than regularly recruiting and training new drivers.

Retention is not the same as recruitment, but they work in parallel to keep your trucks full and your drivers happy.

Ultimately, driver satisfaction is key to a successful “retention as recruitment” strategy. Driver satisfaction starts with a clear, appealing job and position description. That includes competitive pay, reliable home time, full benefits, and clear route expectations at a minimum. Once these essentials are met, focus on building a strong company culture. Each of these aspects of hiring plays a key role in successfully recruiting your next Hazmat driver. 

ultimate guide to truck driver recruiting

Ultimate Guide to Truck Driver Recruiting

Current ways of recruiting truck drivers just don’t work anymore. That’s because recruiting isn’t a transaction. This ultimate guide helps carriers recruit for retention.

Get the Ebook