The Oklahoma flatbed carrier that won CCJ’s 2023 Innovator of the Year has proven you don’t need a lot of money to implement great change. Melton Truck Lines was recognized for its driver influencer program that incentivizes drivers to post videos to social platforms like TikTok and YouTube.
The trucking company has experienced some impressive benefits with the implementation of this program, including better recruitment, especially of younger generations. Since the launch of the program in April 2022, Melton has seen a steady increase in online referrals. From April to July this year, Melton saw a 56% increase in driver applications from referrals and a 45% increase in driver referral hires compared to the same timeframe last year, said Melton’s Digital Marketing Manager Kennedy Alvarez. She said those benefits have trickled down to other departments. Because recruiters have been able to work fewer leads to get to a hire, their time has been freed up to focus more on strategic hiring practices, which has in turn positively impacted safety and productivity.
While helping grow the company’s driver roster, the program has grown itself. In February this year, when Melton received CCJ‘s Innovator of the Year honor, the program consisted of 12 driver influencers; it has since grown to nearly 20.
One of those influencers is Terrance Small.
When Small set out on his journey to become a trucker, he said it was tough to find positive content about the trucking industry that offered helpful information to those who were just starting out. So he launched his own YouTube channel called 50 Plus Trucker Journey when he began studying for his CDL. Also a driver trainer, his content consists of training-style and informational videos aimed at people who are interested in becoming a flatbed driver.
Other driver influencers’ content focuses on the trucking lifestyle, health and fitness and more. Alvarez said Melton has always had drivers who post content, but the company had never formalized it or incentivized until launching this program.
“I would say this is probably one of the most cost-effective programs that you can implement because this content costs nothing. It costs you very little in the scheme of things as far as incentivizing the driver. It’s a great career path for them – helps retain them. I think every level of company – small, midsize, large – can implement something like this,” she said. “It’s scalable, it’s flexible, it’s beneficial, and it’s just a huge branding opportunity. And it could change the way you recruit. It takes a lot of weight off of any internal marketing teams that have been creating content, and it’s more effective content. So I would say the No. 1 thing is I think any level of company can implement this regardless of budget.”
The content directly from the drivers is more effective, she said, because it comes off as more genuine than a marketing campaign from the company. She said driver content often performs better than Melton’s organic content.
And the numbers prove it.
Melton, which posts driver content to its own TikTok account with the driver’s permission and backed by Melton advertising dollars, has more than doubled its following from 5,000 followers to 11,000 since February, Alvarez said. And year to date, the company’s channel has gotten over five million views.
“Their content has really cultivated our growth,” she said.
Small uses five GoPro cameras mounted inside his truck as well as his iPhone and a drone camera to record his content, which includes interviews with his student drivers. He also records some content outside of the truck – like when he uses his drone to film a student backing, which he said also aids in their training.
Small said he has been approached by companies offering sponsorships of his content, but he steers clear because he wants his content to be authentic.
“I keep it 100% positive and 100% true,” he said.
While Melton’s policy on sponsorships hasn’t changed – allowing for that as long as the sponsor company’s values align with those of the fleet – its content requirements for driver influencers have taken a turn.
Previously, drivers were incentivized with gift cards based on their minimum video production requirement, and they could earn additional money if they met certain engagement goals. The carrier has now shifted to a tiered model that incentivizes them if they achieve additional engagement and views on their channels, giving driver influencers an opportunity to expand their platform.
The tiers include gold, silver and bronze.
For the bronze level, drivers must obtain 150 views on average on YouTube or 500 views on average on TikTok; for silver, it goes up to 300 views on average on YouTube and 750 on average on TikTok; and for gold it goes up to 500 views on average for YouTube and 1,000 views on average on TikTok. This is on a monthly basis, which is the frequency in which the drivers are paid their incentives. Driver influencers still must post at least four videos per month to their chosen platform and must mention Melton in their video, though they aren’t required to use Melton as a hashtag, tagline or in their profile name.
“It’s based mostly on the level of engagement that the platform gets. We don’t really focus too much on subscribers or followers over engagement or views,” Alvarez said. “We would much rather incentivize engagement just knowing how effective micro influencers can be, especially within this industry.”
The program has undergone other changes as well.
Alvarez said Melton has branded it a lot better, even creating its own logo, and the carrier is working to get driver influencers specific polo shirts or hats to match the branding.
The company has also created a website page specific to the program that gives drivers more resources, including ideas for content based on analytics of what performs best as well as video examples from veteran driver influencers. Alvarez said Melton highlights videos from all categories from training and tips and tricks to health and fitness and lifestyle.
She said not only is the program benefitting Melton, it’s benefitting the industry as a whole.
“It has helped with identifying some of the characteristics of this lifestyle. Melton is an over the road company … so adjusting to that lifestyle, especially from a student’s perspective is very difficult,” she said. “So setting that expectation and being open and honest about what their lifestyle will look like when they get here, I think has helped a lot in that area. Then not only from a recruiting perspective, but from a retention perspective: they’re not caught off guard; they know directly from a driver what they can expect.”
The CCJ Innovators program is brought to you by Bendix, Comdata, Freightliner Trucks, SkyBitz and Valvoline.