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Recognition programs
  • Reward and recognition programs should be the centerpiece of an organization’s driver retention effort.
  • Personal and public recognition are both excellent ways to reward drivers for their achievements, milestones, and significant events in their life.
  • Recognition should be designed to achieve specific goals and objectives of the company, including driver retention, safety, customer service, and accurate paperwork.

Reward and recognition are vital and necessary elements of any driver retention effort. In fact, these should be a centerpiece of the entire safety and retention program. However, good reward and recognition programs are often overlooked, or conducted improperly, at many motor carriers. But if done correctly, rewarding and recognizing drivers can have a dramatic and lasting positive impact on both safety and retention.

Recognition and reward are two distinct and separate things. A recognition program may include tangible (monetary) or physical (plaques, certificates, etc.) rewards. But what is more important to drivers is the sincere and specific expression of appreciation from management of their efforts, performance, and accomplishments.

Most people want recognition for their accomplishments and desire appreciation for their work. Drivers are no different. Unfortunately, many carriers often try to meet the recognition needs of their drivers by increasing driver pay or enhancing their performance bonus program. But money may not always be the best form of recognition — it can become too impersonal which can then become expected.

A driver who feels unappreciated and unvalued will feel unwelcome and will leave — regardless of how much additional pay is attainable.


There are two basic forms of recognition:

  1. Personal recognition; and
  2. Public recognition.

Personal recognition

Personal recognition is generally spontaneous and given whenever the opportunity arises. This form of recognition is sometimes referred to as catching someone doing something right.

Organizations should also recognize individual acts of superior service or performance and individual accomplishment or milestones. Opportunities to personally recognize drivers are endless, but with the constant stress of daily operations, this simple task is often overlooked. Personal recognition, even though it may seem a little thing, can inspire loyalty and commitment.

The following are some guidelines and suggestions to help make an organization’s personal recognition of their drivers as effective as possible. Make sure the recognition is:

  • Specific — Recognize the behavior, event, or accomplishment. Describing in detail what the driver is being recognized for will carry more meaning in the driver’s mind.
  • Sincere — It’s important to express a certain level of sincerity and seriousness in praise.
  • Timely — The recognition must be timely, whether in person or over the phone or communication device.
  • Fair and consistent —Despite supervisors having many drivers, it is extremely important not to let personal feelings or bad chemistry play a part in personal recognition.
  • Unconditional — If the praise solicits, or even leaves room for concern or a response from the recipient, it may not be praise at all. Keep the praise specific, simple, and unconditional.

Public recognition

Drivers want to be recognized for their professional accomplishments, milestones, personal achievements, and significant events in their lives. For these situations, recognition from the company needs to become more significant. Fortunately, most tasks and activities that drivers perform are measurable and relate directly to safety.

Opportunities for public recognition of drivers are unlimited, but there are a few things to keep in mind, including:

  • Always ask permission to give public recognition to avoid any conflict that may develop with the driver and other employees.
  • Make sure the recognition is appropriate to the organization. The public recognition must fit into the culture of the company. The entire organization should be educated on what the recognitions are all about, what they mean, and why they were established.
  • Reward only the right behaviors. For example, a driver that goes above and beyond the call of duty, but also acts unsafely, would not be a good candidate for public recognition.
  • Align rewards with safety goals. The things an organization chooses to publicly recognize their drivers for should be in line with the safety values and goals of the organization. For instance, a company value is that it holds a zero-tolerance standard for log violations. The driver who then meets the standard should be publicly recognized for the achievement.
  • Do it in front of others. Public recognition is a powerful tool. The most valuable professional recognition is received from peers. Whenever possible, recognize a driver’s achievement or significant event in front of other drivers. Doing so will greatly enhance the self-esteem of the individual receiving recognition.
  • Use it to change behavior. Public recognition should be designed to achieve specific goals and objectives of the company, including longevity (driver retention), safety, customer service, accurate paperwork, etc. It’s important to understand that what an organization chooses to recognize will send a message to other drivers. Recognition will reinforce drivers’ behavior.

Public recognition of drivers can take many forms. These include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • A Driver-of-the-Month program;
  • A Driver-of-the-Year program;
  • Annual safety and awards banquets;
  • Articles in the company newsletter or local paper;
  • Press releases sent to industry trade or professional publications;
  • Letters of commendation (with copies to personnel files and sent to driver’s home);
  • Certificates of achievement;
  • Superior performance awards; and
  • Implementing driver’s suggestion.

The opportunities to publicly recognize and celebrate drivers are limited only to the commitment an organization makes to them. The way an organization chooses to recognize their drivers, both personally and publicly, is a strategic decision and will impact their safety results and driver retention rate.