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: Bison Transport

Bison Transport is a Winnipeg-headquartered transportation company established in 1969 that has grown to become one of Canada’s largest trucking companies with more than 3,700 employees and contractors, which includes 2,300 drivers operating a fleet of 1,500 tractors and 5,000 trailers throughout North America. Together with its affiliated companies, H.O. Wolding, Searcy Trucking and Britton Transport, Bison services a wide variety of multinational, national and local customers offering full truckload service, full-service logistics, less than truckload, intermodal, dedicated fleet operations, yard management, and warehousing and distribution.

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

STEPHANIE FENSOM, SENIOR MANAGER, SAFETY AND COMPLIANCE: “Bison takes a lot of pride in being selected as a Top 20 Best Fleets to Drive For. It validates that while there is always room to improve, we are moving our programs in the right direction. Taking part in this Best Fleets also allows us to learn from other top-tier carriers. As an industry, the more we can learn from each other the better the industry will be as a whole and that’s good for everyone. It is also important to note that the whole process starts with one of our drivers nominating us and then validation through the surveying of our drivers that our programs are more than just words — we live and support them every day through our actions.”

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

FENSOM: “The two key areas that differentiate Bison is our flexible lifestyle options and our commitment to the safety of our people and the public. Professional drivers need to have work options that fit their lifestyles. These needs will change over time, but Bison has a business model that allows a driver to work one day to 25 days a month with various options on length of lane. Our commitment to safety is supported with our ‘Right To Decide’ policy with live examples of this shared openly with those in our fleet.”

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?

FENSOM: “One of the exciting changes we have seen this last year is with virtual training. While it was on the road map, COVID forced us to speed up our plans and it has proven to add value on all sides. Our professional drivers appreciate the flexibility to attend training sessions, with less disruption allowing for training to occur in a timelier manner. The cross-regional mix and instruction also allows for more interaction across the business with driver collaboration and shared perspectives.”

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

FENSOM: For both current and potential drivers, we want them to know their safety comes first. The most important goal is for all of our employees and contractors to make it home safe at the end of their shift or their trip. If we both approach decisions with that in mind, the rest takes care of itself.”

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

FENSOM: “We aim to offer a variety of communication options for our professional drivers to ensure they have the information/support they need. Our online platform and apps allow our drivers quick and easy access to load information, memos, etc. This past year it has also expanded to include a driver chat feature that allows our drivers to get information when they need it quickly. Outside of this we complete regular check-ins to make sure needs are being met.”

TRUCKLOAD INDEXES: How do you approach driver training?

FENSOM: “We look at training as an opportunity to continue building skills and competencies with regular touch points. It is all about skill development and ensuring our drivers have the necessary skills to make it home safely from every trip.”

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

FENSOM: “Professional drivers can have a career with lots of options. … Selecting work options with different choices on [number of] days out and lanes is just one option to keep a driver’s career moving. Taking it back to the beginning, we offer an entry-level driver training program which allows those new to the industry to get their start and grow their skills to be a professional driver. Options to continue growing are available in areas such as transitioning from company driver to owner-operator, giving back as an in-cab instructor or on-the-road mentor, or moving into our training department as an instructor. There is also opportunity for our professional drivers to keep doing what they love while driving change as a member of one of our many steering committees (i.e., driver advisory board and health and safety committees). In the past year, we had drivers move into our maintenance and continuous improvement departments to ensure that we continually have a driver’s perspective in our programs.”

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?

FENSOM: “This year the biggest topic that stood out to me was COVID. Our professional drivers validated that the steps we took internally to manage risk and keep them safe were welcomed and appreciated. We implemented protocols such as mandatory masks prior to formal government guidance as a proactive step and quickly had masks, gloves and sanitizer available to all our drivers, contractors and non-driving team members. At the time, this was a big step to take, but our people adapted and worked with us to maintain a safe work environment.”

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

FENSOM: “Taking advantage of programs like Best Fleets is a great opportunity to identify what’s working for other successful carriers and use these insights and learnings to build or enhance your own programs. The core fundamental of caring about people holds true. Get to know them, understand what the pain points of the job are and strive for continued improvement — that and supporting them with staying safe and building their skills and career will set the stage for a quality program.”

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