Creating a Community
March 4, 2011
By Gary Bricken
How Crete Carrier Corporation Uses Social Media To Inform, Educate And Attract Drivers
For many years truckers have had a legitimate complaint that our industry has been slow to accept new ideas. But consider the fact that “trucking” is an enormously complex industry whose job it is to move everything from raw materials to finished goods. What starts out looking like a load of gravel in Bolivia may well after processing or refining become a element vital to the production of a chemical that eventually, after many more journeys by truck, becomes an important part of the family car. And that too was moved by a trucker from the factory to the showroom. In the past each trucker in this great enterprise only knew a handful of the others involved in this worldwide enterprise. But now with the advent of Social Media our interaction with others in our industry is increasing at a dynamic pace.
Social Media can be defined as the use of all the tools of our modern electronic age to keep in touch with family, friends, our co-workers and the management. The tools change constantly but are basically updated via more and more powerful internet-based systems.
Introducing new ideas has always carried risk in any complex industry. In trucking it has been doubly so because the task of transporting goods is among the oldest professions on earth. Traditions and expectations that overlay the transportation industry were long established before anyone today was even born. The result has been what some truckers have seen as slow progress in embracing new ideas is in reality a careful process in finding a way to integrate new ideas successfully in long established routines. Social Media sites like MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube among others are the new pathways to driver communication that can greatly enhance the trucking experience for everyone.
The quick rise of these platforms has made the world a smaller place. Many within the trucking industry have used this to their advantage, from companies recruiting on Twitter to drivers bringing attention to industry hot topics through Facebook groups. Crete Carrier Corp., based in Lincoln, NE, is a great example of a fleet who changed their way of thinking to create an online community for their drivers.
Comprised of three distinct groups: Crete Carrier for dry vans; Shaffer Trucking for temperature controlled vans and Hunt Transportation for specialized flatbed hauling. Together, they bring to the table more than two hundred years of experience, so it comes as no surprise that management gave careful consideration to the incredibly fast changing nature of the internet and it potential ability to assist their drivers with real time news and information and make their work easier and more rewarding. About a year ago, they made a full commitment to change by creating a series of new Social Media sites. Crete’s work has transformed the trucking website industry from a recruiting tool to a true driver driven communications website where the men and women behind the wheel could finally take their rightful place in telling the company’s story.
The first site to be developed was on Facebook According to Andy Brabec, the Communications and Marketing Specialist who heads up Crete’s effort to get the best use from Social Media, “To be honest we had just 60 people at first on the site. Now just a year, later more then 2,200 members are contributing to this site. Recruiting is not the focus of this site at all. It’s an information exchange with the drivers providing the answers to questions that come in from fellow drivers and other visitors. It has turned out to be a great place to allow facts to replace rumors and make drivers aware that they are not alone in the challenges they face driving cross-country rigs. Our drivers, not the management hold this community together.” The Crete YouTube website is more aimed a recruiting and training effort with the drivers themselves talking about the work they do, how they are treated and what they have personally experienced with the company. They don’t pull any punches on this website either (www.youtube.com/cretecarriercorp). The Twitter site tends to be more of an internal information site that allows drivers, who again run much of dialog, to give voice to industry news and company events. Some of the comments are very serious, some quite funny but all very honest opinions from the people who do the heavy lifting in this industry. The Blog site (blog.cretecarrier.com) serves as sort of the gateway all the other sites and is described by Andy Brabec as “The key to running an effective Social Media campaign.”
Crete is also among the progressive fleets that are using YouTube and Facebook as education tools for their drivers. For example, Crete Carrier Corporation has posted a series of videos on trailer/trailer skirting. These videos, which are narrated by Brent Falgione, tractor manager for Crete (and Shaffer Trucking), are informative and short enough to keep your attention – usually no more than 2:30 minutes long.
Crete also has recruiting videos, and short features on the CARB rule, optimization software, and their home time program. Feel free to check out the sites at http://www.youtube.com/CreteCarrierCorp or http://www.facebook.com/CreteCarrierCorporation
Crete’s social media efforts have more of a “customer service” approach in that they give their current drivers the information they need from the company, but also introduce information about the company that potential drivers would be interested in. For example, a recent video podcast was about company benefits, and the fact that they have gotten better during the recession. “I think a message like that speaks to our current drivers as a way of driver retention and it speaks to potential drivers as a way of wanting to learn more about Crete/Shaffer/Hunt,” Brabec said.
A measure of success in this industry is the turnover rate. At Crete Carriers, they have managed to maintain a good enough score to be in the lower one-third of over 12,000 trucking companies in the US. As Social Media sites, like the ones being developed and improved almost daily at Crete, become a mainstream process for this industry it’s likely that all turnover rates will begin to decline and those companies that provided the leadership for this trend will be see greatest benefit from this work. While the younger drivers may adapt more easily to some of these new tools and concepts, the older drivers can be proud of the fact that they were the earliest users of the Social Media concept with the introduction of the CB radio almost a half century ago. It was a huge leap over the days when drivers used hand and headlight signals to warn others of problems down the road. And everybody had a “handle” – sort of like an email address today. The world of trucking never really changes at heart, it just gets better thanks to guys like Andy Brabec and innovative companies like Crete Carriers.
For more information on potential career opportunities, see the contact information in Crete inserts throughout the magazine.