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Best Fleets to Drive For: Nussbaum Transportation

Nussbaum engages drivers with higher pay packages, educational and career opportunities

“You can’t fix things with some nifty perk. It takes the right people with the right attitude as a foundation.” That philosophy has helped Nussbaum Transportation land on the TCA/CarriersEdge Best Fleets to Drive For list for 2021. (Photo: Nussbaum Transportation)

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: Nussbaum Transportation

Nussbaum Transportation operates 480 trucks with 460 drivers (600 total employees) hauling dry van freight across the lower 48 states with a heavy Midwest footprint.

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What does it mean to you to be among the Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For?

NUSSBAUM: “This contest is not easy. To be named among a group of peers and fellow carriers like this is a true honor. But most of all, it is a tribute to our people, who they are, how they treat one another and the culture they create by coming to work every day with a purpose in their hearts.”

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What do you consider your strengths when it comes to the recruiting and retention of drivers?

NUSSBAUM: “We aim to keep our pay package up towards the top of the industry. That is important to get candidates interested initially, of course. Our online reputation has really flourished as well, and many new hires share the positive reviews and the impact that has on their decision. Once in the door, how well do we meet expectations? We sell true averages to candidates and that has been extremely effective for retention. The fewer surprises after a candidate starts the better.” 

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?

NUSSBAUM: “One recent change was something we call ‘guarantee savers.’ Our drivers have a weekly minimum guarantee if they are available for dispatch all week. Guarantee savers now allow drivers an option to ask for a Friday afternoon or Monday morning, to be sure they can get a longer weekend, without losing their minimum salary.” 

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What is the messaging about your company that you try to convey to your drivers and potential drivers?

NUSSBAUM: “Work is about more than a paycheck. Work can be a purpose. It can be a platform where you can make a difference in the lives of others and be a blessing.” 

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What tools/strategies do you utilize to maintain lines of communication with drivers?

NUSSBAUM: “The standard messaging systems of course. But we also have our own mobile app with our Info Center, we use video messages frequently, we have a Dashboard Nussbaum-only website, the Terminal Exchange podcast, the Dashboard Radio episodes, road captains for peer-to-peer communication, a Nussbaum support group Facebook page, management weekly driver pulse calls, and annual third-party phone-based surveys. Drivers are provided with a tablet so we can be certain they have easy access.” 

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: How do you approach driver training?

NUSSBAUM: “Fresh CDL holders make up about 25%-30% of our hires. They have better long-term turnover and safety results in our fleet. In October 2021, we are beginning a partnership with a community college, the Nussbaum Trucking Academy at Heartland Community College, to help train and prepare CDL drivers within our community.” 

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: Do you provide a driver career path? If so, can you explain?

NUSSBAUM: “Career advancement means different things to different people. We have numerous past Nussbaum drivers in non-driver roles. We have dedicated, regional and flatbed options. Drivers can take road captain mentor roles or training engineer roles for our training program. Drivers can enroll in Certified RED and work through the Nussbaum Academy and earn certifications, completing educational and performance steps to climb the certification ladder. Each step comes with additional pay and recognition rewards. The aforementioned trucking academy will enable us to use Nussbaum drivers in CDL school instructor roles.”

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?

NUSSBAUM: “When drivers refer a peer to a company, they are not as influenced by a referral bonus as we might think. It is first motivated by the desire to help out their fellow driver find a solid home.” 

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: What advice can you share with other fleets when it comes to driver management and becoming a destination for drivers?

NUSSBAUM: “Fancy programs do not work unless your culture is in place first. You can’t fix things with some nifty perk. It takes the right people with the right attitude as a foundation.”

Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at [email protected]