Behind the scenes of the Best Fleets to Drive For® program

Published on March 29, 2022

By Rafi Syed - CarriersEdge

The record-breaking 14th edition of the Best Fleets to Drive For program was a season of many firsts. After 207 nominations, 110 interviews, and 93 finalists, the Top 20 lineup at the annual TCA convention featured ten new fleets for the first time in a decade.

Familiar names who had made the Top 20 for 10 consecutive years or 7 consecutive years plus an overall award moved to the brand-new "Hall of Fame", which opened up spots for new and deserving participants. With no upper limit to the number of inductees, the Hall of Fame is poised to welcome new fleets every year as they qualify.

As fleets progressed through the evaluation and scoring stages, members of the Best Fleets program team shared their insights and experiences with the process behind each stage of this program.

17th Dec 2021 - Evaluating the Best Fleets

"There were a lot more interviews to complete this time around," Tiffany Cancian, Content Team Lead at CarriersEdge, says about her return to the Best Fleets program team. "At times we had to reallocate interviews to balance the load among the interviewers. It takes me one to one and a half hours per questionnaire to review, and a bit more to follow up on outstanding information, including making sure all the survey links are working."

The team reads all comments in the questionnaire and reviews all notes, including applicable submissions from previous seasons.

As each interview is highly individualized, there is a difference between the answers Cancian receives based on the number of years a fleet has participated in the program. "I had a lot of first timers this year, but many experienced participants do repeat answers or just add a little bit extra. It's more challenging when you have an experienced fleet because we also go through previous years' responses to confirm that certain programs are still in place."

The pre-interview process sees some interaction between the interviewers and interviewees as they fill the questionnaires.

"We get emails asking for further clarification for different sections of the questionnaire," says Valeria Coiro, Business Systems and User Experience Analyst at CarriersEdge. "Fleets submit the questionnaires at least two days before the interview, so we have enough time to compare all 110 answers per fleet from the previous year. In some cases, there can be drastic changes in their responses year to year, so we always want to be ready to discuss those."

The team meets every week to talk about their experiences, with a stress on asking the right questions in the most easily understandable way. The quality of answers plays a role in determining who proceeds to the final round.

"Some fleets seem to know how to answer questions well and provide info about how they help their drivers," says Anna Stancer, Content Writer & Editor at CarriersEdge. "It's one thing to say they love their drivers but another to really do things for them. They'll often explain why they made a particular change and if it's because of driver feedback, that's a positive thing."

"Returning to the industry after a sabbatical, I was pleasantly surprised to see new, progressive practices and technology in place," says Chrissy Cordingley, Compliance Specialist at CarriersEdge, participating as a first-time observer in the interviews. "I met some excellent business owners with wonderful efforts to provide a great workplace for their drivers."

18th Jan 2022 - Race to the Finish Line

Driver surveys play an important role in determining the finalists. Each fleet has a minimum response percentage to meet based on the total number of its drivers. Fleets don't advance to the final round if the surveys are incomplete, or if they don't meet deadline on New Year's Eve.

"The quality of survey replies matters just as much as that of the interviews," Coiro says. Once all surveys are completed, the team looks for answers that deepen their understanding of a fleet's relationship with the drivers. "Some responses are short, straightforward, and comprehensive, while others are lengthy, unclear, and with not much useable information."

The evaluation process evolves every year, creating a new baseline from which to score as previously exceptional efforts like environmental programs become standardized. The team evaluates every question in pairs, with one reviewer creating a scoring matrix and the second reviewing it. The answers go through a series of reviews, with the entire scoring matrix sometimes changing through the process, until both individual scores and the final matrix match.

"Creating the scoring matrix is done backwards compared to how it is in the classroom," Cancian, a former public-school teacher, notes, after spending over 130 hours evaluating fleets this season. "With Best Fleets, we don't know what we're going to see, so we must sift through all the information first, and then establish a way to score based on the responses we receive. This is a time-consuming process, but it's necessary to ensure everyone gets the score they deserve."

The team grades all answers to one question, and no one person grades an entire carrier, or even an entire category.

Cordingley explains how the team evaluates each finalist. "Zooming in on one small piece of data to see the range of responses to one targeted question really helps remove the opportunity for bias and perception. We factor the driver's experience along with the carrier's programs rather than just being sure the processes were correct, compliant, or best practices - 'What led to a different lived experience for a driver?', rather than looking good on paper or in an audit."

Having spent 20-30 hours per week on the program from November to January, Stancer relies on her law background to parse through every questionnaire. "The facts speak for themselves, and you assign value to the facts relative to what other fleets are doing. At times it depends on how much work the carrier has put into the questionnaire. We try but can't always get the information that would help them do better. If they don't include it, they may not get credit for it."

Proactive programs, safety preparedness, and preventative measures are of high priority during scoring. The team wants to see fleets anticipating issues and resolving them before they happen, through proper training and awareness. Looking out for the drivers, even for something as simple as finding and paying for a parking spot in advance, rather than just reimbursing a driver, plays a big role in determining program scores.

1st Feb 2022 - Revealing the Champions

While the marketing department is all-hands-on-deck for the hotly anticipated 9 a.m. reveal, after spending the first month of 2022 scoring new and returning fleets, the Best Fleets Program team is eager to see reactions from the winners.

"There's nothing like hearing about the industry first-hand," says Cancian, winding down from the busy season. "All at once and from the perspective of different-sized companies."

For some members, the learning experience goes beyond the statistical.

"Listening to some heartfelt stories from people involved made the process extra special," says Coiro. "One owner drove a barbecue truck to make briskets for his drivers in different places. Another tearfully shared what they had done for a driver who suffered a tragedy on the road."

Cancian spoke to the carrier of a driver who had caught COVID and needed to go to the hospital. "They offered to fly his family out, but he was not interested. So, they sent another driver with whom he had a good relationship to visit him in the hospital. This moved me because it showed a culture that cares and understands that emotional support is just as critical as physical support."

The team believes that even though earning a place in the Top 20 or the Hall of Fame is a monumental achievement, going through the rigorous process, becoming a finalist, and showing continued involvement and dedication to improve makes the industry a better place, and an achievement every fleet should be proud of.

While the program team has wrapped up their work for this year, there's still lots of Best Fleets work to be done. Now that the overall winners have been revealed, there are final reports to write, a results book to share, and lots of presentations to share the details of this year's findings.

More on all of that in future editions of this newsletter.