By Al Muskewitz
Editor, Wright Media
One of the reasons Deep South Freight has been well below the soaring national truck driver retention average is the innovative premiums and services it provides that convey a deep appreciation for its drivers.
A lot of carriers say they do things to make drivers feel special, but Deep South Freight consistently delivers.
The Alabama-based dry van carrier’s latest offering is designed to reward drivers for the service they provide all year long.
Since the start of June, the carrier has enhanced its PTO/Vacation Day policy to reward all drivers of Deep South Freight and Commercial Hauling Company one week of paid vacation annually after one year of continuous service and two weeks after three years of continuous service.
“It really came down to how we could help provide a better work environment, home life balance for our drivers,” Deep South COO Matt Baxter explained. “We felt like, not that we’re just realizing this, they had given us a lot of great effort and work and we wanted to reward the team by recognizing that effort.
“We had a really positive 2021 and a really good start to 2022 and we wanted to reward them in a way we see fit. (The drivers) understand trucking can be a tough business on families so any time they can add more time to their family and be compensated for it that’s a positive, for sure.”
Deep South Freight is a regional dry van carrier based in Birmingham, Ala., moving a wide range of commodities from food grade products to industrial raw materials with 48-state and Canadian operating authority. Its primary service areas are the Southeast and Midwest, specifically Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Illinois and Kentucky.
Commercial Hauling Company operates aluminum and steel dump trailers throughout the service area, primarily hauling alloys, coal/coke, scrap metal and other industrial raw materials.
Combined, the companies have nearly 125 drivers and more than 500 trailers in their fleet, small enough to build personal relationships with their drivers and large enough to serve a growing client base.
Driver reaction to the upgraded vacation policy has been “overwhelmingly appreciative,” Baxter said.
“A lot drivers are coming from larger companies and when you come from a larger company there’s a feeling you’re just a number,” director of recruiting Joey Gann said. “At Deep South, we get to know the drivers, get to know their faces, they actually get to meet the recruiters meet you dispatcher. We get to know you and your family.”
The new driver vacation policy is just the latest enhancement the Deep South leadership team has introduced to show its appreciation to the workforce.
It recently brought online a live 24-hour help line, a matching 401k plan and a corporate chaplain. Baxter said chaplain Jason Handley has been “a great addition” to the team.
“We’re constantly talking about ways we can improve our package to not only recruit and retain drivers but just because it’s the right thing to do,” Baxter said. “Joey said it well earlier. We’re still at a size we can really have that relationship with our drivers and drivers feel comfortable calling me or the ops manager.
“We like to define it in our values as ‘mutually committed.’ We’re committed to the driver, to the vendor, to our customers. We’re in it not just for ourselves, but for the industry and team.”
Inset photo: Deep South Freight COO Matt Baxter