Truck driver safety incentive program: 5 key practices

truck driver seat view

When you’re in charge of a truck fleet, driver safety should be paramount. As demands on truck drivers increase and the availability of drivers decrease, the construction industry is seeing more and more road incidents and accidents occur. 

For hauling companies, safety incentive programs should be at the core of their loss control system, not only to protect drivers, but to protect the company’s profits and bottom line. To that end, we’ve outlined the benefits of implementing a driver safety incentive program as well as how to create a winning program that sticks.

What is a truck driver safety incentive program?

Truck driver safety incentive programs offer rewards to drivers to formally recognize safe driving practices.

While many hauling companies have safety programs and driver training in place, a formal safety incentive program eliminates ambiguities around the term “safe driving.” It tells drivers exactly what they will be evaluated on, uses hard data and metrics for performance reviews and helps make sure recognition is fair.

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Why should your company offer safe driving incentives?

Offering driver incentives for good behaviour is a simple way to increase motivation, compliance, and safety, while decreasing collisions and associated costs, and driver turnover. 

The average vehicle crash can cost an employer $16,500. If there is an injury involved, costs could increase up to $74,000. And if a fatality is involved, costs could drive up to more than $500,000. Not only is this a huge preventable cost to companies, it’s also an unquantifiable loss of a loved one to family and friends.  

Incentive programs also help increase safety culture within an organization without making drivers feel like they’re in the hot seat or constantly under scrutiny. They are a way of tracking driver performance with positive reinforcement to keep drivers happy and safe. 

What makes a good incentive program?

In order to have a winning incentive program that lasts, these necessary steps must be followed:

  1. Define the driver incentive program objective 
  2. Build a solid foundation
  3. Select the right safety incentives
  4. Determine the frequency of incentives
  5. Use telematics data to keep track of metrics

Incentive programs are an innovative way to reduce accidents for fleets, but offering rewards is just the tip of the iceberg. 

1. Define the driver incentive program objective 

Defining the safety incentive program’s goals and objective will help build a solid foundation, allowing managers and employees to focus on what matters. Objectives should be clear, realistic and attainable, yet challenging enough to build interest and keep truck drivers engaged. 

The objectives could include:

  • Increasing driver retention
  • Decreasing collision costs
  • Identify gaps in driver safety training
  • Improve driver productivity and safety
  • Improve safety culture within the organization
  • Increase standards of safety

2. Build a solid foundation

Strong safety incentive programs are not just about handing out rewards and bonuses to truck drivers. In fact, without proper planning, companies may find that the incentive program simply fizzles out with no participation. When planned and executed correctly, however, companies can maintain employee motivation, participation, and compliance for years to come. 

When building an incentive program, it’s a good idea to work with all levels of employees from drivers to senior management to create an incentive program that works for everyone and keeps the whole team engaged. 

It’s important to get buy-in from the group that the program is serving. Identify driver representatives to include in decision making about the program so that the driver’s interests and concerns are heard and considered. 

Upper management should also be involved in developing a driver safety program. Strong management commitment trickles down to the rest of the employees, setting a good example for others to follow suit. 

Next, establish a budget. Incentive budgets must be weighed against the benefits of the program; however, there should also be a budget set aside for development and implementation.

Establish a program coordinator—someone who is a dependable and responsible member of the management team, such as a fleet manager or safety supervisor. This person should be the champion of the incentive program and their role should be clearly defined. 

3. Select the right safety incentives

Choosing the right rewards will be key to keeping truck drivers motivated, and should be valuable enough to inspire them. 

While cash incentives are usually the biggest motivator for employees, companies do not need to shell out large amounts of cash every quarter. Offering a combination of cash rewards and recognition awards are usually enough to be a strong motivator, leading to safer driving practices and money saved by avoiding the costs associated with a collision. 

Some popular types of rewards include:

  • Cash incentives and bonuses (be mindful that these bonuses to do not start becoming salary expectations)
  • Gift certificates to popular restaurants or stores
  • Company apparel such as pins, hats, or jackets
  • Commemorative coins or pins
  • Public recognition by management at company events
  • Personalized trophies or plaques 
  • Points that can be redeemed for prizes like watches, or electronic equipment
  • Signage for the driver’s vehicle announcing accident-free miles
  • Special assignments like drivers’ favorite routes

You don’t need to guess at what will motivate drivers to adopt a new safety program, talk to your drivers or driver reps to hear first-hand what will inspire them to practice safe driving. 

Whatever you choose as incentives, remember that they must be perceived as valuable to drivers, and the value of the incentive should grow as more success is accumulated. For example, the value of an incentive for 100,000 accident-free miles should be 20 times higher than that for 5,000 accident-free miles.

4. Determine the frequency of incentives

How often will incentives be calculated and paid out? Usually, it is best to keep the safety program frequency short, to maintain motivation. Offer incentives every quarter rather than yearly, so that drivers can see the positive results of their efforts frequently. Shorter frequencies also help with administration and budgeting. 

Be sure to communicate this with drivers and to stick to the plan to increase trust. 

5. Use telematics data to keep track of metrics

For fleet and safety managers, tracking driver performance to determine rewards and incentives could be difficult without the right tracking measures in place. Using proper driver management software is the easiest way to track driving behavior, identify areas of improvement, provide coaching where necessary, and maintain safety standards. 

Fleet management software like Tread records vehicle location data automatically through the drivers’ mobile device, making information easily shareable. Fleet managers have visibility into fleet vehicle locations and get notified of delays, can track speeding or idling, and can review vehicle routes to determine the more productive drivers. Incorporating telematics data into your safety incentive program will remove biases and make implementation simpler for the program coordinator. 

How do you implement incentive programs for safety and productivity?

Successfully implementing a driver safety incentive program starts with having the components of a solid program—as we reviewed above—then relies on clear communication, maintaining motivation, and proper evaluation.

Communicate clearly

It’s important to clearly communicate this new safety incentive program with drivers and employees and be as transparent as possible. Communicate what drivers will be evaluated on, what incentives they are eligible for, and how often they will be rewarded. Be sure to provide drivers with their metrics so they can benchmark their performance and understand why they did or didn’t achieve a reward.

Some ways to clearly communicate safety incentive programs include:

  • Creating a safety incentive manual or handbook for employees
  • Posting details on physical or digital bulletin boards
  • Broadcasting details in company newsletters and speeches by management
  • Organizing one-on-one or group safety meetings to communicate programs in person

Maintain motivation

In the beginning, drivers will likely be more excited and motivated to achieve rewards; however, motivation may dwindle as the novelty wears off. It’s important to continue evaluating safety incentives, awards, and employee satisfaction to be sure the program is still effective. 

Ask drivers for regular feedback and create a suggestion box (or email to receive suggestions) so everyone can provide their ideas. Encourage open and honest discussion, and be open to adjustments, according to participant feedback.

Evaluate your program regularly

Don’t expect to get your driver safety incentive program 100% perfect on the first try. Instead, be prepared to consistently evaluate the success and opportunities for improvement by keeping detailed records. Consider the objectives of the incentive program and evaluate whether those objectives are being met. 

When doing a cost-benefit analysis, be sure to take into account the direct and indirect costs associated with the program’s objective and bear in mind that safety programs may take some time to show their true return. Is the business growing year over year? Is the organization losing fewer drivers? Is it getting more recognition in the press and among peers? These are all ways to weigh the benefits of a safety program and determine its value.

Fleet management software to increase safety, productivity, and profitability

Using cloud-based fleet management software will help your business implement a lasting and effective driver incentive program. Request a demo today to learn more about how Tread can help your company increase safety and productivity.