In today's trucking economy, more and more fleets are focused on improving their key assets-drivers. According to information derived from Best Fleets to Drive For, a program run by the Truckload Carriers Assn. and CarriersEdge, carriers are developing new and innovative ways to retain and reward their drivers. This not only keeps driver job satisfaction levels high, which helps maintain optimal safety performance, but also lays the foundation for retention once the job market for drivers turns around.

Fleet sizes have decreased due to the economic downturn and carriers are finding themselves able to retain only their safest drivers. With that in mind, motor carriers are searching for creative programs to meet the needs of their drivers and hoping that they, in turn, will not only stay with the company but also perform to higher safety standards.

Keeping safe drivers satisfied has long been an uphill battle in trucking. Carriers never want to lose their safest drivers to another carrier because the drivers feel under-appreciated or because better opportunities exist elsewhere. Standby programs such as safe-driving bonuses and mileage-based awards, while still in place, have become stale and institutionalized. Carriers have recognized this problem and developed new and innovative reward programs.

Some carriers that have been nominated to the Best Fleets to Drive For program offer incredibly creative employee perks. Programs focusing on charitable donations, employee assistance programs to aid drivers and their families while the former are on the road, and even new spins on old financial incentives are some of the initiatives that clearly set carriers apart.

“Charitably” speaking, many carriers have developed programs to aid their community and drivers. One company, often faced with overlapping requests, developed a contributions committee to organize and manage local requests and contributions. Another carrier developed a rather unique retention program — a quilting club. Suggested by the drivers, the quilts are made during a driver's idle time and the final products are either donated directly or raffled off and the proceeds are donated.

Employee assistance perks have also become popular. One carrier has developed a corps of “training engineers.” These roving mentors provide drivers with company information, regulations or other job-related topics. Moreover, this position offers drivers an additional career path to choose from without giving up the road. Another carrier allows the use of the company's Intranet so family members can see the satellite position of their loved ones when they are away from home. Age-old financial perks are also being implemented to boost morale, but with a twist: They now include fuel-efficiency bonuses and employee stock options.

While these economic times have been tough, carriers across the country have demonstrated that effective employee programs can be useful in finding ways to improve morale and effectively retain safe drivers, which is certain to pay off in the long run.

When creating an environment that shows your safest drivers they are your most valuable asset, the rewards will be tenfold. Not only will you be nominated to the Best Fleets to Drive For program, but your fleet will gain an even better safety record.

David Heller, CDS, is director of safety and policy for the Truckload Carriers Assn., responsible for interpreting and communicating industry-related regulations and legislation to the membership of TCA. Send comments to Mr. Heller at