By Al Muskewitz
It was just about lunch time on the West Coast. The news had been out for just about six hours and Scott Manthey admitted it still hadn’t sunk in yet.
Manthey, the vice president of safety and training for Wilson Logistics, had been waiting anxiously, like trucking industry leaders across the country, for the announcement of the annual Best Fleets to Drive For finalists.
Finally, after months of filling out surveys and conducting interviews, the results came across social media. After several years trying to break through – and coming oh-so-close last year – Wilson Logistics had broken into the Top 20.
“We learned of it this morning with everybody else and since it’s the first time in the history of the organization, you kind of sit back and take pause almost because you think not too many years where were we as a company and how far this organization has come,” Manthey told Wright Media from his office in Seattle. “In a very short period of time everybody working together we’re now in a pretty elite group of carriers that are recognized as Top 20 in North America.
“I’m not necessarily sure it’s sunk in yet. It’s a good feeling. I know our folks here are pretty excited. With COVID taking the front stage in 2020 the team here is appreciating everything every person at Wilson does for them to make things better and it was proven today when the announcement came out. It was kind of like you got that cool Christmas present and never thought you’d get it.”
Wilson, based in Springfield, Mo., had been participating in the Best Fleets program for several years and had been doing things right for its more than 1,000 drivers and contractors, but only recently started a concerted effort to move to the next level. It got on the Best Fleets radar last year as a Fleets to Watch, one of five carriers just outside the Top 20, before breaking through this year.
It is one of four newcomers on a list that includes many multi-year finalists. Two overall winners – in small and large classes – will be announced in April during the Truckload Carriers Association’s annual convention in Las Vegas.
“We are honored to receive this award and proud of the recognition,” Wilson President/CFO Ryan Farrell told Wright Media. “To us, this reflects our mentality and belief that our drivers are not just part of the organization, but they are the backbone to everything we do. They are not just associates, but family.”
To be considered for the award companies operating 10 or more trucks have to be nominated by one of their drivers or owner-operators. Then they are evaluated on a scoring system that rates elements such as compensation, health benefits, performance management, professional development and advancement opportunities. Savvy operators apply the lessons from the winners and the conclusions of their own survey results to make their own operations stronger.
“When the drivers are the ones speaking for you what that tells us is whatever we’re doing – and we know we’re not perfect – we’re on the right path,” Manthey said. “Truth be told, we didn’t think we could get Top 20, there are a lot of great owners out there, but we certainly believed it would at least be good to be considered. 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 so we knew one way or another it was a win.”
Wilson is the fourth-largest carrier among this year’s finalists with 1,051 drivers/contractors, one of four with 1,000 or more, but you don’t have to be a giant carrier to be recognized for doing the right thing. The smallest carrier among the finalists has 25 drivers/contractors.
There wasn’t one specific area that carried Wilson over the top this year. The management team simply looked at the overall operation and tried to identify areas it could change to create a better work environment for its drivers.
The carrier made changes to routes and lanes to promote more home time. It offered an option to not work weekends. It brought drivers into the decision-making process. It even opened safety meetings to personnel throughout the company for a broader perspective; that transparency Manthey said, “has made us a better company.”
On the safety front, Wilson recently finished second in Division V (50-99.99 million miles) in the TCA’s Fleet Safety Awards, effectively the safest carrier in the Lower 48 in that division. It was No. 3 in the division the year before.
“In my opinion, and Darrel (Wilson, owner/CEO) would echo these sentiments, we work hard on making sure we hire the right people to do the right thing,” Manthey said. “We do have the right people. We do have the dedicated people. But we have people who care about each other. There could be even more adversity and Wilson, based on the people on staff and our drivers, they’re pretty tough bunch. They’re resilient, and, frankly, they care about one another. COVID or no COVID, this group I think is just proud to be part of the Wilson team.”
Now that it has broken through, what’s Wilson do for an encore?
“We’re just going to keep doing what we do,” Manthey said. “We’re going to keep caring about our people. We’re going to keep listening and if we hear and see things that we need to make adjustments on, we’ll do it.
“We’re trying to build an organization that you’d be proud to have your children work for. In doing that, you have to adjust, you have to listen, you have to empower. We’re going to continue doing what we’re doing and taking care of folks and we’ll see what the future holds.”
Al Muskewitz is the Editor of Wright Media. He can be reached at email@example.com
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