Recently, Nussbaum Transportation was named Best Overall Fleet in the small carrier category in this year’s 2019 Best Fleets to Drive For. Nussbaum has been named a Best Fleet to Drive For numerous times, but this year they were named Best Overall Fleet. SmartDrive sat down with Jeremy Stickling, Vice President of Human Resources and Safety, to learn what they’re doing right and to help other fleets achieve the same recognition.
SmartDrive: Thanks for joining us, Jeremy. Congratulations on your award! You’ve been named a Best Fleet to Drive For multiple times, but this year you were named Best Overall Fleet. Why do you think Nussbaum won this prestigious award?
Jeremy: It didn’t happen overnight. Our team has worked very hard to service our drivers. A couple programs we seeded a year or two ago came to fruition in this last year. Take for example our Certified RED program, which provides a career path for drivers. An outgrowth of our Nussbaum Academy, Certified RED is a voluntary learning and development program that drivers enroll in and work toward certification. It consists of phone-based coaching sessions, extra online learning and hands-on sessions, divided into four development rounds. Enrolled drivers work through each round to hit a specified result level before moving on. In addition to completing all four rounds, drivers must remain ticket free, accident free and demonstrate conservative safe driving behaviors, as shown by scores achieved from the SmartDrive program. Once a driver is certified, he/she receives an extra $.02 per mile and a valuable ring. But, the program doesn’t stop there! Drivers continue to achieve additional bonuses every 100,000 miles as long as they continue development and remain ticket free, accident free and show conservative driving behaviors.
Among drivers who have earned their certification,
turnover is less than 10% annually.
In addition to Certified Red, we started using our drivers in a more strategic role as “Road Captains.” Our driver managers have 30-35 drivers and three road captains. Receiving two-day training, these drivers mentor new hires, are peer advisors, help with equipment nuances, customer-specific instructions, etc.
We also have Performance Coaches. These are drivers who still drive, but rotate off the road and work in the office coaching drivers. We’ve found using peers, who have been successful with their own driving, coupled with a patient approach, are respected and can coach successfully.
SmartDrive: Best Fleets to Drive For mentions that you combine both high- and low-tech solutions to create a balance across your programs. Can you tell me about those programs and the impact they’ve had on your fleet?
Jeremy: Examples of low tech are the programs mentioned above. In addition, our CEO and CFO make multiple calls each week thanking our drivers for taking care of their equipment, asking for feedback, passing along customer comments, etc. Other managers are assigned a driver a week to contact. All of these notes are collected, summarized and reviewed to determine how to improve our operating environment.
On the high-tech side, we have a very developed mobile app that gets high marks for communicating with our drivers. In addition, we created a driver score card program and, of course, we have the SmartDrive program. Our equipment is maxed out with technology, including new sideguards to help with squeeze plays and merging.
In operations, we track our hometime misses using programming data. This is very important as it helps us to better manage our drivers’ time. For instance, if a driver doesn’t get home on time or is home for less than 42 hours, we can flag those drivers and take care of them. It takes impressive programming but has made a world of difference!
SmartDrive: What are the three most important things a fleet can do to set themselves on the right path to become a Best Fleet to Drive For?
- If you’re in the business of moving freight, you’re in the business of caring for your drivers and making them successful.
First, and foremost, our drivers are our number one customer.
- Second, you have to have a leading pay package. To justify the ROI for this type of compensation, you need to measure results. We need to ensure our drivers are productive, while also being safe. The data enables us to pay top dollar.
- Last, but certainly not least, is give your drivers a voice and set up a process to listen to them. Make your drivers part of the decision process. For instance, we do an annual engagement survey (70 questions, phone-based with 90% participation), a rolling quarterly survey, a rolling weekly survey and a rolling weekly management survey (mentioned earlier), along with new hire surveys (7, 45, 130 days) and exit interviews through a third party. After any service in the shop, drivers have an opportunity to rate the service they received. They can also rate the loads they touch.
In addition to written and phone surveys, we also have focus and feedback groups, which give us an opportunity to integrate our drivers into a direct feedback role. This helps ensure they have an effective voice in what we do and how we do it.
I know it sounds like a lot, but not everything has to be implemented at the same time. To ensure we get the most out of each of our programs, we use the Flywheel approach.
The premise of the flywheel is simple. A flywheel is an incredibly heavy wheel that takes a huge effort to push. Keep pushing and the flywheel builds momentum. Keep pushing and eventually it starts to help turn itself and generate its own momentum.
With any new driver program or initiative you introduce, it is unrealistic to expect incredible results in the first months. In some cases, we’ve seeded a driver program for YEARS until it caught on. It takes tenacity, one push of the flywheel at a time. It is easy to make one push, see the program not take off, and then give up on it. But don’t stop pushing, keep building. Soon it will turn on its own, momentum builds, and it takes on a life of its own that you won’t be able to slow down!”
Just remember, there are no quick fixes. It takes effort. But, it’s worth it.
As director of human resources and safety at Nussbaum Transportation, Jeremy Stickling ensures Nussbaum is a company people will want to work for. Honoring the corporate values of honesty, integrity, and character, his team’s innovative ideas have put Nussbaum on top of the industry when it comes to hiring the best drivers and offering competitive pay and benefits.
Although Jeremy was exposed to commercial trucks while working at a gravel pit during college, his first role at Nussbaum was with the accounting department. As his responsibilities at the company expanded to include human resources functions, he was involved in instituting processes for more effective internal driver communications and insurance administration. Jeremy was promoted to the HR director role in 2013.
As the first point of contact for new driver recruits at Nussbaum, the human resources department serves a critical role. Jeremy believes in the “No Surprises” recruiting philosophy, a manifestation of Nussbaum’s values of honesty, integrity, and respect for its employees. Jeremy also has helped develop a comprehensive driver orientation program and overseen the restructuring of the company’s compensation plans. Combined, the efforts and leadership of Jeremy and his team have contributed to Nussbaum’s industry-leading driver retention rates.
Jeremy graduated from Western Governor’s University with a double-major in accounting and finance in 2010 and received his Professional in Human Resources (PHR) certification in 2011. He is also a member of the Society of Human Resources Managers (SHRM).
A native of Peoria, Illinois, Jeremy enjoys music, especially playing guitar, and is a history buff (ask him what book he’s currently reading!). He is active in his church and likes to spend his free time with his wife and children.