Best Fleets to Drive For

4 HireMaster client carriers among the Top 20 and Fleets to Watch

By Al Muskewitz and Reagan Payne
Wright Media staff writers

The Truckload Carriers Association and CarriersEdge have announced the 2021 Best Fleets to Drive For. These 20 for-hire trucking companies from across North America are being recognized for providing exemplary work environments for their professional truck drivers and employees.

HireMaster clients American Central Transport, Nussbaum Transportation and Wilson Logistics are among the Top 20. Boyd Bros. Transportation is among five identified as Fleets to Watch (honorable mention).

This year’s recognition comes after a record number of nominations and gaining it reflects the carriers’ response through the difficult year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s the fourth year in a row the Kansas City-based American Central Transport has made the Top 20. For Nussbaum, it’s the seventh straight year, and it has been the Best Overall Fleet each of the last two years (Large Fleet 2020, Small Fleet 2019). This is Wilson’s debut in the Top 20; it was on last year’s Fleets to Watch list.

“We’re more excited than ever,” ACT director of recruiting Josh Mecca told Wright Media. “Competition for this award every single year just gets harder and harder. To stay in this list requires a full-out effort and this year with the whole challenges presented by COVID and basically a tale of two halves in the calendar year … it was an all-out fight this year to stay on this list and we’re absolutely thrilled to be on it.

“Every conversation we have when we’re looking at our policies and procedures we always ask ourselves how does this make us better. It’s kind of become part of our culture, right up there with our core values, and the Best Fleets program is a driving force behind a lot of our decisions because we don’t want to do anything to go backwards. We want to make sure by staying true to the merits of the program we are going to make this a better company for our drivers.”

Here is the Top 20

  • American Central Transport – Kansas City, Missouri (300 drivers/contractors)
  • Bison Transport – Winnipeg, Manitoba (2,030)
  • Boyle Transportation – Billerica, Massachusetts (145)
  • Central Oregon Truck Company, Inc. – Redmond, Oregon (280)
  • Challenger – Cambridge, Ontario (1,106)
  • Chief Carriers, Inc. – Grand Island, Nebraska (60)
  • Erb Transport – New Hamburg, Ontario (856)
  • Fortigo Freight Services Inc. – Etobicoke, Ontario (415)
  • Fremont Contract Carriers, Inc. – Fremont, Nebraska (433)
  • FTC Transportation, Inc. – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (25)
  • Garner Trucking, Inc. – Findlay, Ohio (92)
  • Grand Island Express – Grand Island, Nebraska (143)
  • Halvor Lines, Inc. – Superior, Wisconsin (578)
  • Jetco Delivery LLC – Houston, Texas (115)
  • Nussbaum Transportation Services, Inc. – Hudson, Illinois (417)
  • Prime Inc. – Springfield, Missouri (8,186)
  • Thomas E. Keller Trucking Inc. – Defiance, Ohio (236)
  • Transpro Freight Systems Limited – Milton, Ontario (99)
  • Wellington Motor Freight – Aberfoyle, Ontario (59)
  • Wilson Logistics, Inc. – Springfield, Missouri (1,051)

In addition to the Top 20, TCA and CarriersEdge identified five Fleets to Watch (honorable mentions):

  • AirTime Express – Mississauga, Ontario 
  • Boyd Bros. Transportation – Clayton, Alabama 
  • Carbon Express, Inc. – Wharton, New Jersey
  • K & J Trucking – Sioux Falls, North Dakota
  • Western Dairy Transport – Cabool, Missouri

Grand Island Express has achieved the milestone of 10 consecutive years on the list. Additionally, Garner Trucking has reached a milestone of five consecutive years on the list.

“We are proud to recognize the winners of the 2021 Best Fleets to Drive For contest,” TCA President John Lyboldt said. “In a year where the essential services provided by our industry have come into public focus, it is especially important to acknowledge those carriers who are going above and beyond in setting the standards for workplace satisfaction. Each of the Top 20 winners should take pride in the dedication they have shown to our essential workforce.”

“2020 was a year like no other, and the 2021 Best Fleets showed that they were stepping up to address those challenges,” said CarriersEdge Chief Executive Officer Jane Jazrawy. “Even in the midst of a pandemic these fleets are focused on creating a great workplace experience for all their drivers, and with an average satisfaction rate over 90% their drivers clearly appreciate those efforts.”

A carrier doesn’t have to be giant to do the right thing. Among this year’s finalists, five carriers have fewer than 100 drivers/contractors. One is as small as 25.

Nussbaum Transportation has a strong track record in the program. The underlying theme throughout its seven-year run has been a demonstrated respect for drivers and support staff.

“We’re honored to have received this award; it’s a really outstanding group of carriers in this list,” Nussbaum Director of Marketing Phillip Adams said. “We’re never satisfied with where we are. Our drivers are a huge part of that; taking care of them and giving them the resources and tools necessary to do their job well is paramount for us.

“We really put emphasis on creating relationships with our drivers. They are an integral part of this team. It’s not an us-versus-them. They really mean a lot to us, so we do everything that we can to make them feel like they’re valued.”

Most everyone would agree 2020 was a difficult year, not just in the trucking industry, but for the entire nation. ACT’s response organically was to redouble its efforts to focus on the needs of its drivers. 

A few of its customers shut down temporarily during the pandemic, which impacted the drivers’ miles and income. The carrier responded by rotating its drivers over an eight-week period, changing some layover rules and sent everyone home with a week’s paid vacation. It changed some of its bonus structure to make it easier to reach goals when miles were harder to find. And everyone in the fleet received an additional hazardous duty bonus as a thank you for staying out on the road.

“Our dedication to just taking care of our drivers really came through this year,” Mecca said. “It was a big focus for us in 2020 and it will continue to be even moreso in 2021. In those early days (of the pandemic) everything was so rumor-mill driven. The response we gave to our fleet was we really wanted to make sure in all the uncertainty that one thing our drivers didn’t have to worry about was the paycheck.”

Two overall winners, in large and small fleet categories, will be named during TCA’s Annual Convention – Truckload2021: Las Vegas – being held April 17-20 at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort.

To be considered for the Best Fleets program, companies operating 10 or more trucks had to receive a nomination from one of their company drivers or owner operators. The fleets were then evaluated using a scoring matrix covering a variety of categories, including total compensation, health benefits, performance management, professional development, and career path/advancement opportunities, among other criteria. Driver surveys were also conducted to collect input from drivers and independent contractors working with the fleets.

“For anybody who hasn’t really dug into the program they should because of the amount of effort that goes into the scoring and it’s pretty objective,” said Scott Manthey, Wilson Logistics’ vice president of safety and training. “This is a great honor for us and we’re excited about it. To be honest, I’m not sure it’s really sunk in yet. There was a little bit of anticipation, but if we didn’t get named we knew we were going to be able to have the report and we knew one way or another it was a win.”

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