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Reward and performance incentive programs
  • Customized, conditional rewards to recognize achievements and behavior often act as positive reinforcement.
  • It is important to evaluate the current driver reward programs to ensure the maximum effectiveness.
  • Reward programs should be designed or revised according to what matters most to the drivers and will therefore influence positive behavior.

Rewards need to be challenging yet attainable for everyone. There needs to be a variety of incentives in several areas because as a rule, driver rewards do not have to be expensive or elaborate in order to be effective. To make rewards as effective as possible, keep the following five-step plan in mind:

  1. Customize rewards — Some drivers enjoy auto racing, others may like fishing and hunting, or going to a sporting event.
  2. Make them conditional, not automatic — A reward is a positive reinforcer only if drivers receive the reward based on achievements or behavior.
  3. Make rewards timely — Effective rewards recognize performance and achievement immediately.
  4. Remember the frequency factor — A one-time reinforcer won’t change or maintain anyone’s behavior. Rewards that effectively change drivers’ behavior are given often.
  5. Be careful of competition — Although competition is usually a good thing, keep in mind it can also negatively impact safety performance. Be aware of the possible negative side effects such as perceptions of favoritism and feelings of inadequacy.

Instead, consider establishing a set of common standards so that all drivers are performing on a level playing field. Everyone who can meet or exceed the standards wins.

Evaluate whether the current driver reward and recognition system motivates drivers to be as successful as they can be. Is it attaining the safety results and goals that were established after its development and implementation? Has it positively affected driver retention results?

At a minimum, there are six basic questions that organizations should be able to answer about their current driver safety reward system:

Evaluating driver reward programs

  • Is the existing reward and recognition system timely?

This is a key question when quantifying a reward program. Carriers that reward their drivers once a year, in the form of an annual safety banquet, tend to experience higher turnover than those with programs that continually reward and recognize drivers. There should be an immediacy to any reward program, and this is an area that should be fairly easy to measure.

  • What individual achievements and milestones are being rewarded? Are these the right ones?

Most job functions of a driver can be measured. Solicit drivers’ input. Then design or revise a reward program according to what matters most to them. Do drivers want to be recognized for accident-free miles, customer service, miles per gallon (mpg) performance, length of service? It’s the carrier’s job to find out.

  • What type of team achievements should be rewarded?

Individual safety awards are certainly important to any safety program. However, because drivers lead a fairly independent lifestyle, all the more reason to make sure there are at least a few group rewards in the safety program. Doing so will help create a sense of teamwork and build stronger ties between the drivers and the company.

  • Are the rewards diverse enough as to motivate a wide variety of drivers?

If only the hard chargers or top drivers are earning all the rewards, there may be a problem. Rewards need to be challenging yet attainable for everyone. There needs to be a variety of incentives in several areas because drivers, like most people, have both strengths and weaknesses.

  • What parts of the existing reward program should be continued?

Behavior that is reinforced will continue. Analyze what aspects of the reward program are working. For instance, if a company rewards accident-free miles and then realizes improvement in their accident frequency or rate, consider increasing that incentive.

  • What parts of the existing reward program should be eliminated?

Likewise, a reward system may also create not-so-desirable behaviors. If this is the case, consider dropping that component. For example, if a business recognizes on-time customer service and their drivers start to “move heaven and earth” in order to deliver on time, it may also result in an increase in log falsification incidents and vehicle accidents.