School bus driving is one of the most challenging driving jobs, with relatively lower pay scales. No wonder then, a shortage of good drivers is more or less a global phenomenon.
In the US, a survey in 2015 reported 94% of school districts having a driver shortage, and 30% of them having a severe crisis situation.
Latest trends show that leading school transportation providers are turning towards data driven incentive programs to engage, motivate and get the best out of their drivers. Given below is a step by step approach towards building an effective driver incentive program:
1.Goal Selection: Establish clear objectives and goals that align with what your school district stands for. Do it for the right end goals – aim to boost motivation and efficiency in performance, rather than to maximize revenue. E.g., If you reward your drivers for maximum miles or trips driven, you may be encouraging risky driving.
2.Organization Buy-In: Make sure you get a buy-in from school authorities as well as the drivers themselves. You could even do a survey among drivers to understand what they would value most in an incentive program.
3.KPI Selection: Key Performance Indicators will be the back bone of your incentive program, and they need to be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound.
If you have invested in a good school bus tracking system, then you can be sure that all important performance metrics are already being measured and recorded as data streams over the cloud:
a.Safety Metrics: incidences of speeding, wrong lane selection, seat belt violations, harsh braking etc.
b.Efficiency Metrics: fuel economy, idling, frequency of maintenance etc.
c.Coaching Metrics: No. of training’s, corrective instructions, coaching events etc.
4.Eligibility: Be sure to clarify who are eligible to participate, and be especially clear about disqualifications. You can set up disqualifying criteria as well as their threshold limits in the tracking system, e.g., two or more incidences in a quarter of seat belt violations/ speeding violations / use of mobile while driving etc. could automatically disqualify a driver from participating in the incentive program for the subsequent quarter.
5.Simplifying Participation: Make sure the metrics are simple, easy to understand and maintained. Explain what changes drivers needs to incorporate in their driving behavior, and how that will help them qualify for an incentive. Don’t aim too high, so as to deflate their motivation, or too low so as to make them complacent.
6.Understanding Driver Motivation: What will really motivate your drivers? Cash rewards, recognition or both? Chances are a combination of various tangible and ‘feel good’ rewards would work best, and it is up to you to devise a good mix:
7.Cash Rewards: You could offer a safety bonus every quarter to all drivers that fulfills your safety criteria, and a grand bonus at the end of the year. Offering a referral bonus is also a good idea, as it will help you get more recruits.
8.Recognition: Everyone wants to be recognized for achievements among their peers as well as families, so organizing team and family events would be a good idea.
You could offer them preferential parking or even extra time off. Also, sometimes a word of praise, a pat on the back or an informal lunch goes a long way in keeping your drivers motivated.
9.Support: You could provide them with free or subsidized branded work uniforms to make them feel part of the school organization. You could support your drivers by helping them find additional work in or around the school to cover their non driving hours.
This would stop them looking out for better driving jobs. Also, ensure that you stand by your drivers – let them know they are valued by giving them the benefit of the doubt in case of a dispute with students or parents.
10.Recreation: Encourage informal meet ups and sporting events among the drivers, and provide a bulletin board to help form groups around sports, shared interests and hobbies.
11.Tiered Approach: Instead of setting up grand incentives at the end of the evaluation period, opt for at least three levels of achievement of a particular metric and give out small rewards at each intermediate level apart from the grand prize. This will keep them motivated to perform consistently and help to create a habit of good driving behavior.
12.Layered Recognition: Devise a recognition plan for each level of achievement. E.g., a letter of appreciation at the first level, a mention in the school newsletter/ magazine at the next level, exclusive invites to a sporting event and finally recognizing them at a school or community event.
13.Broad Scope: School bus drivers have different styles of driving, and having a wide range of incentives keeps everyone engaged in the program, because everyone gets something to work on and achieve.
You could offer incentives for Highest Fuel Efficiency, Lowest Speeding Violations, Fewest Braking incidents, Fewest Parent Complaints, Lowest Maintenance, Most On-schedule trips etc.
14.Two-way Communication: While you continue to review and reward their efforts at every level, also ensure that there is an official line of communication open for them so that they feel free to provide feedback or air their grievances.
Keep in mind that a school bus GPS tracking system is one of the most important prerequisites for an objective and unbiased driver incentive program, because it provides the all-important link between driver behavior and the various streams of telematics data sourced from a multitude of sensors and vehicle components.
It measures, stores and analyzes all relevant data, and provides a framework for the creation of your driver score cards and incentive pay outs.
Ultimately, the incentive program should result in savings on account of better fuel efficiency, reduced accidents and compensation pay outs, lower maintenance expenses and lower insurance premiums. After all, the best incentive programs are the ones that pay for themselves. Don’t you think so?
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