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Implementing a successful incentive program

KING CITY, Ont. -- Using technology to monitor driver behaviour can result in immediate improvements, but unless there’s a benefit to drivers, those improvements may be short-lived.

KING CITY, Ont. — Using technology to monitor driver behaviour can result in immediate improvements, but unless there’s a benefit to drivers, those improvements may be short-lived.

That was what Mike Millian, fleet manager for Hensall District Co-op in southwestern Ontario, discovered when deploying electronic on-board recorders across its fleet of 74 highway trucks.

Speaking at the Private Motor Truck Council of Canada’s annual convention, Millian said the company began installing the recording devices in October 2011 to measure idle-time, speed and harsh braking incidents. While the plan at the outset was to offer some meaningful incentives to the best-performing drivers, Millian said some fleet-wide benchmarking was first required.

“Our plan from the start was to provide a driver bonus program to those meeting or exceeding the standard,” Millian said. “We wanted to share the savings with drivers.”

Hensall District Co-op noticed an immediate improvement in driver behaviour upon installing the devices, but soon after the improvements “flatlined,” according to Millian, and shortly thereafter, incidents began to creep upwards. Millian attributed this to the fact drivers didn’t see what was in it for them.

However, Millian said it was important to build an incentive program around a realistic baseline and to deliver achievable – but not too easy – targets. It spent nine months analyzing the fleet’s data before establishing a baseline.

“If you are going to do a bonus program, you have to make sure of two things,” Millian said. “One, that the bar is not set so high that no one can achieve it; and don’t set it so low that everybody can achieve it without putting any effort into it whatsoever.”

The incentive program was rolled out in December 2012. To qualify, drivers had to average at least 800 kilometres per week for the quarter. The maximum bonus that could be achieved was $25 per week, paid quarterly. Driver stats were tracked and shared regularly, so drivers could monitor their performance.

Any at-fault accident or CVOR infraction wiped out a driver’s bonus for that quarter. Harsh-braking incidents resulted in a 20% reduction of that week’s bonus, though Millian said drivers had the opportunity to call in right away of there were extenuating circumstances, and have that incident wiped from the record.

“If you tell me you had a harsh brake because a car cut you off or a kid ran out onto the road, obviously I want you to hit the brakes,” Millian said. “Call me and explain it to me and we’ll remove it. But if the same driver has 10 harsh brakes every week, we’re going to start not to believe your stories.”

Hensall also set a pre-determined idle-time limit for each division, based on routes, loads, etc. Exceeding that target cost a driver 40% of their weekly bonus.

When measuring speed, Millian said the company provided a 10 km/h grace window, meaning a driver wouldn’t trigger an alert unless they hit 91 km/h in an 80.

Drivers are given weekly, monthly and quarterly scorecards showing them how they perform against the fleet baselines. With the incentive program in place, the results Hensall saw from its drivers were more pronounced and sustained than when the devices were first installed, sans bonuses.

Prior to the bonus program being put in place, Hensall’s idle-time was 13.9% and its kilometres travelled per speed notice was 329. From Jan. 5 to March 29, idle time decreased to 11.5% and the kilometres per speed notice climbed to 601 kms. From March to May, idle time once again declined to 9.6% (warmer weather helped, Millian acknowledged) and the kilometres per speed notice climbed further to 676 kms.

Improvements have continued since then, with idle time dropping to 8.6% since May and kilometres per speed notice up at more than 900 kms.

“It has had a good effect on our drivers,” Millian said of the incentive program. “It targets those who wish to improve, where those who do not improve do not receive any, or as large a bonus.”

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