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Sometimes a good incentive program isn’t about money

I wrote last month’s column prior to participating in a panel discussion on the topic of driver incentive programs. This month’s column is the post-discussion installment.


I wrote last month’s column prior to participating in a panel discussion on the topic of driver incentive programs. This month’s column is the post-discussion installment.

The event took place at the June 2012 meeting of the Central Ontario Chapter of the Fleet Safety Council. Driver incentives were presented from the perspective of owner, general manager, safety manager, dispatcher, driver, fixed operations staff (dock, warehouse, shop, administration) and insurance.

The diversity of ideas that break out when you have a broad cross-section of people from across the industry coming together to discuss a topic common to all is fascinating.

But what is also apparent is that drivers are underrepresented in these discussions. I find that at these events I am often the only active driver in the room.

That is not a criticism or complaint but an observation that in our industry, the people in the best position to offer feedback leading to improved efficiency and productivity are most often not in the room to air their concerns and ideas.

We live in a time that has been coined as the ‘golden age of communication.’  

We definitely need to find a way to move the discussions that take place amongst drivers on the CB and in the truck stops to the offices and boardrooms of the trucking industry.

The second thing that was apparent to me was the age of the participants. Most of the meetings I attend are dominated by the ‘Boomer’ demographic. It’s not just the driver pool that is aging. Fresh faces bring fresh ideas.

The youth that carriers are attempting to attract to the industry have developed a different set of social skills from the Boomers that currently dominate the trucking industry.

Have you noticed how we (Boomers) tend to take new technologies like social media and twist it into a form we are comfortable with?

The youth of today live their lives openly on the Internet with few inhibitions or limits and adapt quickly to the rapid changes that are taking place around them both technically and socially.

We Boomers with our depth of experience usually feel we have much to offer but often forget we have much to learn.

The best drivers, the ones that have decades of incident-free driving, will often say that the day you think you have seen it all is the day that you should hang up the keys. We need to apply that principle to the industry as a whole.

Am I starting to sound a little negative? Just a bunch of non-driving old fogies sitting around making decisions for people doing a job that they are out of touch with? Sorry about that, but the fact is that as I cruise across the highways and byways listening to other drivers, that is not an uncommon complaint.

But it is a complaint that is unfounded in many ways and stems from the communication divide that has developed over the years between drivers and support staff. Owners and managers truly have the best interests of drivers as their prime concern.

Those who don’t will not remain in business for long, especially in our current economy.

That is the third thing that stood out for me in our panel discussion, the quality of incentive programs that are in place out there and the genuine concern for the wellbeing of drivers.

What do some of those incentive programs look like?

Programs are as diverse as the companies that make up the trucking industry.

Many still focus on safety and fuel bonuses as prime motivators. What some people may find surprising is that the most powerful programs we discussed were not monetary, but focused on wellness (driver health) and recognition.

Recognition was identified as the key in every successful incentive program.

We all want to be complimented and rewarded for a job well done, no matter what our position is. So there is definitely no rocket science behind incentive programs.

It’s simply about treating people well and recognizing them for their accomplishments – and those programs work far better when the primary players participate in the process from start to finish.

Some of the fastest growing programs right now are the health and wellness programs.

This is a reflection of our aging demographic. There have been weight-loss challenges between different companies to motivate healthier lifestyles.

Some companies have brought in third-party players to administer healthy living programs that will aid drivers in developing new habits for eating, exercising and addressing the psychological issues we face in dealing with these lifestyle issues.

All in all it was heartening to see the energy and time that is spent by owners and managers to care for their driver pool.


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