Brian Taylor, CEO and owner, Liberty Linehaul

Located in Cambridge, Ontario, Liberty Linehaul, "Canada’s Elite Fleet", began operations in 1987 with four trucks and twelve employees. Today 165 employees and over 50 trucks deliver products throughout North America.Brian Taylor, CEO and owner, talks about his approach to challenges faced by a small business owner and his belief that the key to ongoing success lies in focusing on the needs of employees. Founded on their healthy workplace culture, Liberty Linehaul has seen employee turnover rates decrease by over 20% over two years. Employee morale has improved, and so have customer satisfaction levels.
Q: Was there a particular event that led you towards a healthy workplace strategy?
I don’t think it was a particular event, but I really believe that you have to try to help your employees. People today have many pressures both at work and in their families. It only makes sense that helping people become healthier and promoting a healthy workplace is good for your employees and good for business.
Q: You’ve strived to create a family-like environment. How do you do that when most of your employees work alone?
We help drivers stay connected to their families and to other employees. We have in-cab e-mail available through a satellite hook-up. We give drivers a reduced-cost, personal toll-free phone number to call home. Unlike some of our competitors, we provide a full-service Employee Assistance Plan. An HR manager has recently been hired, now a separate role from the safety function. Our company newsletter includes stories about our employees and their families. We recently increased our employee/family events to monthly in order to accommodate more people and offer a wider variety of activities. Participation is up between 30% and 100%.
Q: There is a well-publicized shortage of truck drivers. How do you attract and retain good drivers?
This is really a serious issue for our industry: the average age of a truck driver is 57. Keeping good people is crucial, and we have improved retention about 10% annually over the last two years. To support our employees in providing great service, we try to understand what motivates them. Respect is typically more important than money. Our employees want to have input and help the company improve customer service, employee relations, or whatever we are working on. They want to feel engaged, valued, and important…and they are all those things to us.
Q: Physical fitness isn’t usually part of the ‘mystique’ and professional culture of truck drivers. How do you try to change long-term lifestyle behaviours?
I try to set a good example. I am a former driver myself, and have stopped smoking, joined a gym and try to exercise regularly. We provide a fitness subsidy that has encouraged some to work out again. Beyond the gym, we do lots of little things to help people. Education plays a big role and we try to provide that through our employee communications. Some of our drivers now routinely park at the end of the parking lot and walk to the depot – just a small thing, but small incremental benefits are important.
Q: How do you measure the success of your healthy workplace program? Is it good for business?
In addition to monitoring the use of our group benefit plan, we track trends in our sick days. We encourage the use of our company doctor to have a more consistent approach to physical exams and disease management. We make sure that educational and health benefit information is sent home, usually by e-mail, so that spouses can benefit from this information. We think our approach is good for business – employee morale has improved, accidents and incidents are down, on time performance is improving, and customer satisfaction levels are also higher.
Q: What advice do you have for other small business owners for creating a healthy and engaged workforce?
If you don’t care about your people, you should sell your business. Find out what motivates your employees, and then work to meet their needs. Measurement is another key component – but not just financial results. Business owners must influence and train managers so that good management filters down to employees. This ensures credibility and buy-in across the company. Attitude/Attitude/Attitude – the soft stuff is important.

To guide your plan member communication and change process, follow the "scientific method":
  • Plan > Resist the temptation to act quickly without due consideration and good, objective advice.
  • Do > Test new strategies, programs or plan designs with a small, diverse group of plan members.
  • Study > Evaluate test results and assess what changes are needed before final roll-out.
  • Act > Implement the new approach and monitor financial results, outcomes, and member feedback


Categories: View from the Top