Expert: Fleet Employment Management Undergoing Rapid Change
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AUSTIN, Texas — CarriersEdge President Mark Murrell showed on Oct. 16 that employment management in the trucking industry has been going through rapid changes in the past year.
“The first thing that really has popped out for us in the past year is that the pace of change in the industry is increasing very rapidly,” Murrell said. “It used to be that we would see an idea, and then it would take a few years to sort of get out to a few other people, and then eventually it would become sort of standard practice. And that might take five or six years for that whole life cycle to happen. That’s no longer the case.”
Murrell added these ideas now go from niche to standard across the industry within two years. He noted at that point those ideas don’t really get scored anymore since they are just standard practice as opposed to something innovative or unique. American Trucking Associations hosted the presentation as part of its 2023 Management Conference & Exhibition.
“Really quick adoption of ideas, movement in terms of innovating, and that’s important for everybody to recognize because it means that the people that are at the front of the pack are racing ahead faster and faster, they’re getting farther and farther ahead,” Murrell said. “It also means that fleets need to keep moving and keep moving quickly in order to keep up.”
Fleets need to keep moving and keep moving quickly in order to keep up.
CarriersEdge President Mark Murrell
Murrell pointed to human resources as potentially a major reason for why change is occurring so quickly. He noted that carriers went from rarely having such a department to it now being common practice.
Murrell added that this doesn’t just help with employee management; the HR professional can sometimes bring new ideas into the industry. He believes the trend has shifted the dynamic in terms of building workplace culture.
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“When we first launched the program, we almost never saw somebody who had an HR job title and certainly didn’t have an HR background,” Murrell said. “If there was a person with an HR job title, they often didn’t do anything with drivers, and that has now completely changed. Almost every fleet we talked to has got dedicated HR people that are focused on the drivers, and they are coming in with a formal HR background, often from outside of the industry.”
Murrell noted that compensation is what he is asked about the most. He does track the metric to get a sense of overall trends, but he said that data is not included in the ranking of best carriers to work for since wage pressure generally impacts everyone about the same. He pointed out that because carriers were scrambling to find drivers up until a year ago, pressure on wages and benefits was strong.
“We saw a lot more of the sign-on bonuses coming up, more significant sign-on bonuses,” Murrell said. “We saw also a big shift in benefits. So, things like health insurance that used to be three months, up to six months, before they would kick in, drivers are getting those in the first month, sometimes getting those on day one.”
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Murrell added that the onboarding process has undergone major changes and that fleets are focused on onboarding their drivers successfully. This has resulted in an increase in the average daily pay drivers receive for onboarding going from $100 to more than $200.
“That is up quite a bit,” Murrell said. “We see people now that are paying their drivers up to $500 a day for attending orientation, which is what pushed the average up over $200 for the first time. That’s pretty significant. Related to that though, is that the whole onboarding practice has changed.”
Murrell added orientation in the past could have been as simple as three days of classes before the driver hits the road. But now it’s commonplace for that process to involve a multiphase program to help people get onboarded. His data showed 84% of the fleets have a check-in program in which they are talking to drivers after orientation is finished.
“It’s usually every couple of weeks, or maybe the first 90 days or so,” Murrell said. “More than half make onboarding a multidepartment experience; where you’ve got operations coming in, you’ve got maintenance coming in. The more creative fleets take the drivers to those departments rather than have the department come in.”
CarriersEdge also found that 32% of fleets have a highly formalized onboarding process. Its data also showed that 70% of fleets have a mentor and coaching program.