Lancer Insurance
Friday, May 24, 2024

BY BOB CRESCENZO

Editor’s note: In this article, we use driver interchangeably with chauffeur. These incentive programs can apply to any classification of driver on your team.

Bob Crescenzo With the ongoing commercial driver shortage, the pressure is on luxury ground transportation operators to retain drivers. Sure, good pay and benefits are necessary to keep top talent, but drivers also want to feel valued and appreciated for the tough job they do.

One way this can be accomplished is by implementing driver incentive programs. Essentially, these programs use various measurements to reward safe driving. Not only do incentive programs help boost morale and decrease driver turnover, they also positively reinforce safe driving behaviors. Furthermore, incentives that can help retain good drivers may attract new ones.

Track the Right Metrics
While it may seem easy to just offer a monetary reward for accident-free driving, only a comprehensive, well-designed program will inspire behavior modification. Therefore, selecting the right metrics to track is critical. Organizations that target specific driver behaviors negatively affecting their operation—such as tailgating, speeding, or harsh braking—and design their incentive programs to encourage improvements in those areas will get the best results.

Bob Crescenzo If you are like many of today’s operators, you’re already collecting data from onboard camera and/or telematics systems and using it to coach your drivers. These tools provide accurate and reliable information regarding nearly every aspect of a vehicle’s operation, including speed, harsh acceleration or braking, crashes, and more. Importantly, tracking metrics through these tools helps ensure incentive programs remain unbiased.

Establish the Program Criteria
Once you’ve selected the behavior metrics to track, define what criteria will qualify a driver for a reward. Or, you may wish to set up different criteria for different reward levels. Nonetheless, the criteria must be clear, measurable, and fair to everyone. Ensure that criteria are not so unattainable that drivers take shortcuts to achieve them. Also, keep it simple. If programs are too complicated, drivers will lose motivation quickly. The goal is to encourage good behavior through reward.

Determine the Timeframe
When creating driver incentive programs, you must specify the timeframe over which metrics will be calculated and rewards paid out. Keep in mind that programs that only pay off annually or longer rarely do much to excite drivers and inspire a change in behavior. Instead, shoot for shorter-term incentives—monthly or quarterly—so drivers can frequently see the positive results of their efforts. Shorter-term programs also provide drivers who initially fail to reach the objectives with an opportunity to do better the next time around.

Example: Points-Reward Program
While the details may vary depending upon your operation, here’s an incentive program framework example that recognizes positive driving behaviors and draws attention to negative ones: Use a point system where drivers begin the incentive program period with a specific number of points. Drivers keep those points as long as they follow the established criteria or lose a designated amount of points whenever they don’t. Telematics system summaries provide a quick way to verify each participant’s driving behavior. Rewards are based on the number of points drivers have at the end of the program period.

Choose the Right Rewards
Drivers are motivated in different ways. Some seek recognition, while others desire a more tangible item. Incentive programs with a mixture of both recognition and tangible awards help motivate the largest number of drivers.

You don’t necessarily need to shell out a large amount of money on rewards, but they should be meaningful to recipients. On the other hand, don’t skimp; an incentive is only an incentive if it’s attractive enough to motivate.

A reward can come in many forms. Items that can be displayed such as certificates, plaques, or trophies are a terrific way to acknowledge drivers’ achievements. Company apparel (e.g., pins, hats, jackets) is also popular. Allowing drivers to select prizes from a gift catalog is another option, as are special privileges such as desirable hours or routes, upgraded or larger vehicles, or additional equipment. Cash awards or gift cards can also be big motivators. A survey of drivers can help pinpoint the rewards they value most. Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Undoubtedly, communication is one of the key components of a successful incentive program. Use company newsletters, flyers, meetings, emails, and/or bulletin board postings to announce programs, and be sure to explain what metrics will be tracked and how drivers will be monitored and evaluated. Include what rewards are being offered and how often they will be presented. Be as transparent as possible. After all, drivers must perceive programs as fair if you’re going to successfully motivate them to change or maintain.  Also, regularly remind drivers about programs throughout their duration to sustain momentum and provide employees with their performance metrics to keep them engaged.

Give Timely Recognition
Besides tangible rewards, recognition can be a highly important motivator for drivers. So, make sure your incentive programs include a public acknowledgement of their performance. Celebrate drivers through:

  • A feature and photo in the company newsletter or on your website or office bulletin board
  • A press release to local newspapers or trade publications (like Chauffeur Driven)
  • A written commendation from the company president/owner
  • Special ceremonies or events ... and invite family members
Be sure to present rewards to the drivers who have earned them and give recognition in a timely fashion. When behaviors are rewarded and reinforced promptly, it sends the message to your team that driving safety is paramount and their improvement efforts are truly appreciated.

Other Tips for Success
Here are a few more tips to help you create incentive programs that are successful from the start:
  • Driver incentive programs should not be used as a “quick fix” in a crisis situation. Effective programs are proactive activities, not reactive ones.
  • Care should be taken to ensure that drivers aren’t cutting corners, breaking rules, or undermining their co-workers in order to achieve rewards. Those that do should face a clearly defined disciplinary process, and the program should be amended to avoid similar future attempts.
  • Programs should be evaluated regularly and adjusted as needed to keep drivers motivated and provide your company with a good return on the investment.
  • Encourage feedback about the program from all participants. There’s a lot of valuable information to be learned from your drivers.
Creating effective driver incentive programs is not an easy task. It takes time and patience, a financial investment, and management support. However, when part of a comprehensive fleet safety culture, these programs can help you meet today’s driver recruitment and retention challenges and positively impact your company’s bottom line for the long term.   [CD0623]
Bob Crescenzo is a Loss control consultant for Lancer Insurance Company. He can be reached at bcrescenzo@lancerinsurance.com.