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The Time Has Come For Topgrading in Trucking


Struggling to attract, hire, and retain quality drivers? You’re not alone.

If you run a trucking company, it probably feels like you’re constantly picking drivers from the bottom of the barrel. The people who you’d actually want driving for you are nowhere to be found.

It’s time for that to change.

Stop Hiring Your Last-Choice Driver

Trucking companies have been plagued with extreme driver turnover since the industry was deregulated in 1982.

Voluntary turnover has hovered around 100% per year. That means if you have 200 drivers, you would begin and end the year with 200 drivers.

However, you would have hired an additional 200 between January 1 and December 31 just to replace those who left. That is an extremely expensive way to do business. For this reason, the industry mindset has been that any driver is a good driver.

Now, for the first time in three decades, this painful merry-go-round ride seems to be slowing down. This provides you with a tremendous opportunity to improve your competitive position. It’s time to up your game.

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What Is Topgrading?

Topgrading is a process of cutting loose the people who are pulling you down and finding people who will help you thrive.

Topgrading was popularized by Jack Welch in the 1990s when he was CEO of General Electric. Although some business writers criticized Jack’s methods as draconian, the basic premise is sound.

It's known as the vitality model: 20 : 70 : 10. The top 20% of the workforce is the most productive, and 70% work adequately. The remaining 10% are nonproducers and should be immediately fired. You can see why this never caught on in trucking. Until now, you needed to cling to the losers just to keep your trucks rolling.

Jack initiated a performance review system with forced ranking. Once a year, every employee had to be categorized as an A, B, or C.

Managers were allowed to select their top 20% as A, and the next 70% as B. But the remaining 10% were considered C players and managers had to let them go.

Imagine getting rid of your bottom 10% and replacing them with superstar candidates. Eventually, the overall quality of your fleet will go up.

How do you identify the bottom 10%? Here are six characteristics of drivers you should Topgrade while you have this opportunity:

  1. They put forth the minimum amount of effort.
  2. They’re uncooperative.
  3. They’re hostile to fleet managers, technicians, and customers.
  4. They make excuses for everything.
  5. They constantly complain.
  6. They don’t seek training and development opportunities.

Hire Your Fleet of All-Star Drivers

For the first time in several years, your trucks might be full, but it’s no time to turn off your recruiting machine. You need to ramp up your hiring efforts in order to out-compete the other carriers.

Find more A players and make your C players (the bottom 10%) available to your competitors.  Just imagine the positive impact on productivity, customer service, safety, regulatory compliance, and most importantly, your culture.

You’ve been waiting for 33 years! It’s time to start Topgrading.

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