By Rafi Syed - CarriersEdge
What makes a Best Fleet? A well-rounded compensation and benefits strategy lays a stable foundation for drivers and can be a deciding factor for a driver considering joining a fleet, or staying beyond the first 30, 90, or 180+ days.
With each passing year, the Best Fleets team takes note of common areas of change among fleets. 2022 was no different, with an increased focus on new or improved Work/Life and HR strategies that directly relate to higher Best Fleets To Drive For® scores.Compensation
Surveys show that drivers are more concerned about getting regular paychecks rather than being paid based on fluctuating mileage. Recruiting messages that paint a realistic picture of job requirements, pay ranges and other benefits have more positive long-term results for driver satisfaction and peace of mind.
Pay consistency is directly linked with the quality of life and overall driver fulfillment. Financial uncertainty can amplify stress and burnout, making efforts on the HR side of the business less effective in the long run. Ideally, pay ranges for company drivers and owner-operators should be dependent on experience and expertise. The 2022 Best Fleets to Drive For® questionnaire shows that carriers are offering a greater consistent range, either when employment commences or after six months into the job.
Freight rate changes from fleet to fleet, depending on fuel prices and the time of year. These factors create a general sense of uncertainty in the industry. For drivers, guaranteed minimum pay is a key differentiator during times when freight experiences low traffic, or the price of a gallon is too high to offer competitive pay per mile.
In the 2022 season, sixteen fleets in the Top 20 and the Hall of Fame offered full guaranteed pay, eighteen fleets had a starting minimum pay range from day one, five offered financial incentives in addition to base rates, and nine provided profit sharing programs.
Orientation pay has seen a similar increase compared to previous years. Over time, companies have recognized the importance of paying drivers for completing their orientation.
“A decade ago, there wasn't much orientation pay in the industry,” says Jane Jazrawy, Co-founder of the Best Fleets to Drive For program. "Now everyone does it, to an extent.”
Some fleets pay around $200 a day, others are offering $500 or more. Sign-on bonuses continue to be used occasionally, with varying levels of success, but most fleets cover overnight stays and meals throughout orientation.Benefits
While the amount drivers get paid is calculable, benefits are measured by their quality. How benefits are provided, what is covered, and the ease of access for repayment is vital to drivers.
For most drivers, benefits begin after the end of the 90-day probation period. However, some fleets are now including benefits from day one. This growing trend has prompted the Best Fleets to Drive For program questionnaire to include the length of the qualification period required.
The program also tracks driver engagement based on retirement plan contributions. Despite the wide availability of contribution programs, driver participation has remained on the lower end. This is largely due to the lack of easily understandable instructions and explanations on how it works.
Fleets that are not currently offering retirement plans describe low driver interest as the reason for not including plans as part of their benefits package. How fleets show the benefits of a long-term financial strategy during onboarding makes a difference for drivers. With 54% of new hires set to replace retirees, offering contribution programs has become a lucrative draw for drivers.
According to Mark Murrell, Co-founder of the Best Fleets to Drive For program, opting for short-term financial gain or long-term investment is also dependent upon the age and experience of the driver. “Those who have been on the road for a while want to be taken care of in retirement. Senior drivers who have already benefited from contribution programs should help by describing their experience to new and young drivers as testimonials during orientation.”Vacations
Carrier scores for vacation have remained unchanged from the previous year's program. While some fleets do not offer any vacation, others stick to the standard practice of one week for the first year and two weeks for the second year. Top performing fleets are reducing the length of service required to qualify for longer vacation days, such as offering three weeks of vacation for drivers in their fifth year with the company as opposed to the industry standard of ten years.
Drivers feel more at ease knowing they can take a break when required, even if they are not going to use the time given. “Fleets are realizing that drivers need more personal time to rest, recover, and recharge, especially when they work for six days a week most of the year,” says Jazrawy. “The option of converting unused vacation days into monetary payouts has also gained traction.”
Driver burnout across the industry has increased over the last couple of years, highlighting the importance of fair and relevant compensation and benefit programs.
Murrell says the benefit is not only experienced by the driver, but also the carrier - reducing turnover, collisions, and improving performance over time. “It's better to have a vacation, get some rest, return to the job without stressing about loss of pay or uneven pay checks. If companies can find a way to get drivers more consistency and time to recharge while giving them options for future financial security, everyone ends up in a better situation overall.”