David Cook, CPC Logistics’ director of sales, was recently invited on FreightWaves’ Check Call podcast to discuss tips for recruiting truck drivers and CPC’s unique model of supporting private fleets.
Hosted by Mary O’Connell, a former pricing analyst, supply chain planner, broker and dispatcher, Check Call is a weekly podcast dedicated to providing news and analysis for 3PLs and freight brokers. Read the transcript of David’s interview below, or listen on FreightWaves’ website, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.
Mary: Welcome back to another edition of Check Call. Today we have David Cook, director of sales at CPC Logistics, to talk about driver retention and the unique world of supporting private fleets. Thanks for coming on the show.
David: Hey, Mary, how are you?
Mary: I’m good. So, for those who might not know, CPC specializes in getting drivers and doing private fleets for specific retail customers. That’s correct, right?
David: That is correct.
Mary: Fabulous. To me, private fleets have always seemed like something that is extremely difficult to get started in because when a retailer has a fleet, they typically manage it themselves. How have you guys been able to break in and be like, “We got this for you, and we’re the best choice? This is why you should go with us for a private fleet as opposed to trying to manage everything yourself?”
David: That’s a great question. On the driver side of the business, fleets will often turn to us because they’re focused on the retail piece. They’re focused on getting a product to shelves. The piece of business where they may struggle a little bit is driver onboarding, driver management and keeping seats filled. That tends to be an area where we can take over. We’ve had our largest client for 40 years, and we’ve been providing drivers for them across the U.S. It’s been a great relationship that’s led to two other relationships.
Mary: So basically, you guys go, “Hey, you know all those headaches and challenges you have with finding drivers and retaining drivers? Don’t worry about it. We got it.”
David: Exactly. And it allows them to focus on their core business.
Mary: That seems like kind of a game changer. I would just be like, “Oh, you’re going to manage all the headaches of dealing with drivers and recruiting them and verifying their backgrounds.” To me, I’d be like, “Go for it. I don’t want to that part. That’s not the fun part.”
David: Right. And as you know, from a regulatory standpoint, it’s become more difficult to hire drivers, keep them in the seats, maintain the files and work through disciplinary issues. It’s something the private fleets we do business with are certainly appreciative of.
Mary: When you guys start recruiting drivers for private fleets, are you always recruiting? How does that work compared to a driver staffing agency where a customer might just need one driver for one day?
David: That’s another great question. CPC has two business units. We have the traditional driver staffing model where a company might need five drivers on a temporary to permanent basis. We put the drivers on their teams with the intent to eventually convert them to the customer’s payroll. The other piece is what I alluded to in the first question, and that’s the permanent and temporary to permanent side where we are always recruiting for drivers. With temporary to permanent, we often reach capacity. With our permanent placement accounts, we might not be actively recruiting for drivers, but at the same time, we always have our eyes open for the right candidate.
Mary: Hitting driver capacity is a phrase I have not heard in quite a while, which is a good problem to have.
David: I wouldn’t say we’re always there, but from time to time we are in that position.
Mary: That’s fantastic. I think you guys are doing something right to have that problem. When you guys get a new customer—you mentioned you have had your longest customer for 40 years—what does that look like? Do you start right away from day one? Do you build them a fleet from the ground up? Do you take some drivers from another fleet? It’s such a unique issue and problem you guys solve, so how do you get a fleet started for a new customer?
David: Many of our customers have a fleet has been operating for years. We just might come in and take over that driver piece. For one of our newer customers, we did help them build a fleet since they’ve never had one. They used truckload carriers and load boards, and I think they got to a point where they were looking for a little bit more control over some of their deliveries, so they turned to us to not only help them with the driver piece, but also with building the fleet by bringing technology to the table. We brought the truck and trailer leasing companies and even put the graphics on the trailers. We did everything for them. And today—we manage all the driver positions in this case—we dispatch the drivers as well. We’re a little bit more hands on with that customer than we are with some of our others where the drivers are dispatched and managed by the customers.
Mary: That’s an interesting concept where you build the fleet, but you don’t necessarily manage the dispatching and the day-to-day operations. You leave that with the customer for the drivers to build that relationship and make it unique, giving it a more personal touch.
David: Absolutely. In most of those cases, we are likely viewed like the HR piece of the business where we’re just providing the drivers, maintaining the driver files and offering insurance and benefits for the drivers. But the day-to-day dispatching and the driver relationships are often left with our clients.
Mary: What are the most effective ways to retain those drivers when they work directly with the customers? What are some of the ways you keep those drivers engaged with a customer to make sure it’s good placement? At the same time, what happens when you have a driver and a customer get into it? Do you take that driver off that account put him somewhere else? Because if he’s a good driver, he’s a good driver, but if he’s just not a fit with that customer, then maybe you don’t put them there. What does that driver retention and reshuffling look like?
David: On the temporary and the temporary to permanent staffing side of the business, we do shuffle drivers around, and it’s often that you place a driver somewhere, and maybe they don’t fit in well, or maybe it’s not a good fit because the hours aren’t good. Maybe things start off good, but then something changes along the way. It also depends on the circumstances because if there’s a distribution center in a certain area, we might not have another customer there, so if a driver isn’t a good fit, sometimes they leave. Sometimes we can move them over to the temporary side, and we can place them with some of our other customers. To answer your question, in terms of retaining drivers, it’s really about the culture of not only CPC, but also the culture of our clients. We work hard to make sure the culture matches in terms of how we treat our drivers. We want to treat them well and take care of them. If you aren’t paying well, then you’re not competitive, and you’re going to lose drivers, but I think it goes beyond pay. I think it’s about the culture and celebrating successes. Right now, we have over 155 Million Mile Accident Free Drivers that work for us. We’re very active with the National Private Truck Council in in the U.S. and in the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada. We’ve got 98 All Star Drivers and 11 Hall of Fame Drivers within the NPTC. We have six Canadian Hall of Fame Drivers with the PMTC, so we love to celebrate those successes and the milestones those drivers reach.
We also are very focused on safety and compliance. In fact, I heard one of your podcasts the other day, and you were talking to a driver about relationships and trying to help get him to a certain location to see his kid’s baseball game or whatever. It’s the same thing with us. We have field safety managers who get out in front of our drivers on a regular basis. It’s about those conversations and about the driver knowing that we care about them. And we do genuinely care about them and want them to live their best life with us.
Mary: I think it’s absolutely insane—in a good way—that you guys have so many drivers who have hit so many big award milestones. A lot of times, you must hit those with the same company, so that means you guys are keeping those drivers happy. You’ve unlocked the secret sauce to keeping drivers happy, which is half the problem everybody has. You can only do so much, but sometimes you have, say, a shipper that’s, for lack of a better term, hot garbage, that doesn’t necessarily respect a driver or make it easy for the driver to come in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called because drivers are like, “They’re not letting me in.” Drivers may forgive it once, but if it keeps happening, they aren’t getting treated the way they should, they’re getting disrespected, or even if it’s difficult to pick up a load there, they might get fed up. I’ve been burned by that so many times, so I think it’s kind of amazing you have that buy-in from your customers that view their drivers as their partners as well.
David: One hundred percent. Their job is so difficult. I’m looking outside today at snowy conditions. There’s no one driving down the interstate except trucks. They’re still out there running because there’s product that must be delivered. I think it’s so important for them to know that they have us in their corner and they have their employer to back them up. I think that carries so much weight with respect to relationships and forging long-term bonds with a driver.
Mary: I 100 percent agree with that. When I was a dispatcher, I dispatched a little fleet up in North Dakota. The one thing North Dakota is known for is snow. One day, the snow was over the top of the driver’s cab. If he were in the cab and rolled down his window, snow would come in. Obviously, he was not in the truck and was at his house. He was planning to stay home, but the transportation manager I worked with was like, “Why isn’t this shipment getting picked up?” We were in St. Louis, which had no snow, but North Dakota had feet and feet of snow. And I’m like, “Well, it’s snowing,” and they’re like, “Tell them to go anyway because the warehouse is open.” The warehouse was in South Dakota, which didn’t get as much snow. And I’m like, “I’m not going to force my driver to go out in these risky conditions,” and he was like, “Why did you tell them no?” And I said, “Well, would you want to drive through snow that’s taller than your truck?” And he was like, “No, no one’s ever done that before,” and I was like, “Well, I’m sorry that nobody’s done that for you before.” It’s those little human moments where you’re like, “This is dangerous,” and yes, the product needs to get there, but at the same time, it was December, and it was seeds that weren’t going in the ground until March. I was like, “They can get there Monday. It’s fine. We can give it a couple days for the snow to melt.” I honestly don’t know how you plow or move snow that’s taller than a tractor trailer, but that’s also why I don’t live in North Dakota because that’s a lot of snow.
David: You made a great point about little human moments. And again, it goes back to the driver knowing that you have their back. The more I’ve talked to people about carrier retention and driver retention, and the more I talk to drivers about what they want and what they need from their broker or 3PL or their fleet owner and ask what they are looking for that they aren’t getting, everyone just says, “Be a person.” They want consistency. They want to know where their money’s coming from, how often they’re getting it, and want to be treated like a human. You recently had a woman on one of your podcasts who’s a driver?
Mary: Yes, Ingrid Brown.
David: You asked her what she looked for in a broker, and she talked about people caring for her. It’s the golden rule. You want to know that your back is covered, you’re not going to get messed up, you’re going to have money to pay your rent and eat food, and someone’s going to be there for you.
Mary: Absolutely. What are some of the negative traits your customers have had? Have you ever had a customer that you’ve started a private fleet for where drivers have said, “This is not a good customer? I don’t want to drive for them because of a problem?” Have you had instances like that, and how do address them with your customers?
David: Not so much on the permanent side of the business. We are very careful about who we do business with. They are careful with us as well. If they’re handing that much responsibility over to us, then they must trust us. Typically, when we lose business, it would be on the permanent side. It’s usually a private fleet that decides to go to an outside carrier or 3PL, or somebody will come in and take that business, but, but for the most part, that doesn’t happen often. Getting back to your question, on the temporary to permanent side, we do have to have conversations with the drivers and the customers. It might be about equipment or the facility. In the Midwest, we’re concerned in the wintertime about slips and trips and stuff like potholes in the parking lanes. So, sometimes it’s just a matter of having a conversation with the customer because we believe it’s important for us to take care of our drivers, and we want our customers to have that same mindset. It’s probably a call or conversation saying, “Hey, guys, just be better. Please do better. Are there different places where the driver can park his truck, or can we address some of these safety issues?”
Mary: You mostly work with individual customers. Do you guys ever have instances where you’ll do a temporary private fleet for a one-off project for a 3PL or freight brokerage?
David: We work directly with the customers themselves. On the temporary and temporary to permanent side, we do work with 3PLs, but we always work directly with the customer. We dabble in a little bit of everything.
Mary: Awesome. Well, we’re almost out of time. Thank you so much for coming on the show. Before you go, where can everybody find you?