Twenty carriers have been named to the Truckload Carriers Association and CarriersEdge 2021 Best Fleets to Drive For list. This year’s Best Fleets includes four carriers new to the list and 16 carriers that were also named to the 2020 list.
Produced by CarriersEdge, in partnership with TCA, Best Fleets to Drive For is an annual survey and contest that identifies the for-hire carriers providing the best workplace experiences for their drivers. All the carriers will be honored during TCA’s convention — Truckload 2021: Las Vegas — being held Sept. 25-28 at the Wynn Las Vegas.
Two overall winners in the large and small fleet categories will be announced at the conference. The overall winner awards are sponsored by EpicVue and TruckRight.
Nominations for the 2022 Best Fleets to Drive For are being accepted through Oct. 31.
Truckload Indexes will profile fleets in this year’s top 20 prior to Truckload 2021: Las Vegas. Answers have been edited for style and brevity. The entire list for 2021 is available here.
Fleet: Grand Island Express
Grand Island Express’ fleet is currently comprised of 147 power units and 140 drivers. Overall, the company employs just over 180 team members and operates in 38 U.S. states, staying east of Colorado and Wyoming. The primary headhaul freight is fresh and frozen beef out of Nebraska.
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What does it mean to you to be among the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For?
DEEN ALBERT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS: “It is always a huge honor to be a member of this elite list. It is a validation that we are listening to our employees’ suggestions and acting on them. Our employees challenge us to become better each year, and their input is invaluable. To be among the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For — and to do it for 10 consecutive years — is a true reflection of what we are and what we want to become as a company.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What do you consider your strengths when it comes to recruiting and retention of drivers?
ALBERT: “Our core strength is a strong culture that has been built since day one. While we’ve enjoyed profitable, steady growth over the course of the last 60 years, we also identify ourselves as a close-knit family. Our drivers have direct access to anyone on the management team, including our president and owner. When we recruit drivers, they are typically amazed that they have reached a company that does what it said it would do, plus so much more that they didn’t expect.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What are some of the unique programs and processes you’ve implemented over the last 12 months to improve the lives of your drivers?
ALBERT: “One of the biggest changes we’ve implemented is an interactive podcast platform. Certainly the last 12 months have provided challenges to a company like ours that thrives on personal interaction with our drivers. We get our best ideas from those interactions, and we needed a way to continue that. We found an awesome platform that allows us to communicate easily with our drivers but also allows them an easy way to ask questions, make comments and offer suggestions. It’s been wildly successful and I expect that we’ll continue that even as things continue to open up and we can have more in-person meetings.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What is the messaging about your company that you try to convey to your drivers and potential drivers?
ALBERT: “The message is that we’re different. Our message is not to say that there aren’t many other good companies out there. With that said, Grand Island Express is unique. We use a lot of our resources to have that personal interaction with our drivers. We use a lot of our resources to make sure we’re compensating our drivers well and offering the home time that was promised to them. We use a lot of our resources to make sure our drivers have a rich retirement coming out of a successful career where they were able to provide well for their families. We truly want to be a destination for drivers that haven’t had some of the best experiences.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What tools/strategies do you utilize to maintain lines of communication with drivers?
ALBERT: “As mentioned, we now have a great interactive podcast product that allows drivers to safely dial in to the latest company news. We also have a regular cadence where our fleet managers are checking on the well-being of our drivers. Further, we have regular communication with our drivers’ families where we invite them to participate with our Grand Island Express family as much as possible.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: How do you approach driver training?
ALBERT: “We utilize a true driver training program. We do put some students through an approved CDL program locally. Others come to us needing a finishing program. Our trainers are exactly that. When they have a trainee with them, they operate off of one clock so our trainers focus their on-duty hours on training and coaching not only on driving but time management, shipper/receiver strategies and strategies for their rest stops. Our trainer program is a great ‘next step’ in our drivers’ careers.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: Do you provide a driver career path? If so, can you explain?
ALBERT: “Yes, we have several avenues. The first would be becoming a trainer with our company. There are also opportunities to become a mentor, and then there are opportunities to become brand ambassadors for us. We also offer a very competitive owner-operator program that focuses heavily on the driver’s ability to pay their truck off quickly and maximize their profit within our network.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: Within the annual Best Fleets process, the driver surveys are a crucial part of the scoring process. The results of these surveys can validate or invalidate the interview and questionnaires. What were some of the comments or results from this year’s survey that you took note of?
ALBERT: “I think the validation is the biggest takeaway. Drivers’ comments pretty well directly reflect our efforts and also pretty well align with the items we’re working on where those opportunities exist.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What advice can you share with other fleets when it comes to driver management and becoming a destination for drivers?
ALBERT: “Listen, take action, then communicate with your drivers as to what you’ve worked on. Trucking is extremely imperfect, but our ability to solve problems separates us from the pack. Embrace the problems and look to them for your next opportunity.”
TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: Is there anything else you would like to add that you believe would be relevant?
ALBERT: “I would just say that we don’t take the honor of being part of Best Fleets lightly, but we see the largest benefit from the process. Going through the extensive process of being named of the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For allows us to constantly improve and allows us to measure our progress.”