It’s hard to soar with eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys”

It seems that scoring a driver is the theme for the year with most of the leading GPS suppliers coming out with a way to measure a driver out of 10. This leads to two questions:

  1. Can you trust the score? And if so,
  2. What do you do about it?

A recently publicised driver performance bonus has been scrapped because the drivers felt it wasn’t a fair way of deciding their bonuses. Whilst there are a number of reasons for measuring the performance of your staff, with drivers, it is not unusual for this to be linked to a bonus, or an “at risk” portion of their pay. If you are going to mess with people’s money, you need to make sure that the measure is fair. In this respect, objective (data) is much better than subjective (opinion).

For example if you are going to make speeding a criteria for your driver “scoring system”

– Using the GPS to tell you either the maximum speed reached, or the number of speed events counted is “objective”.

– A manager driving past one truck on one day and seeing it speeding is “subjective.”

How accurate was the manager’s speedo, was he going exactly the same speed as the truck? Did he drive behind every truck, or do the trucks that he didn’t see get the bonus, but the driver that he “caught” loses out?

I was told of a plan recently to include “driver presentation” in the bonus system for a fleet. Apparently the dispatchers would rate the drivers from 1-10 on how well scrubbed they were each morning. Personally I thought dispatchers had better things to do, so I’m concerned that the scoring could go a bit adrift. What if the driver and the dispatcher don’t get on? Not uncommon – and is that really fair to the driver? Then there is the question of what is 10 out of 10 for appearance? Is my perception different to yours? Is it OK that the drivers’ pay is affected by a difference in standards?? Try to stick with “objective” measures that anyone can calculate and come to the same answer for any driver.

Of course the GPS doesn’t tell you the whole story about your drivers. Most don’t tell you about rev ranges, mechanical sympathy or maintenance bills, but high speed, GForce and idling can be a dead giveaway as indicators. However, we have numerous examples of a driver who is “in the green” because he is overly cautious, some have been able to point to drivers that drive at 70 – 80km/h on the open road to get maximum overtime. I’ve written enough about the tiny difference that top speeds make to travel time, but the sentiment is valid – how much “work” does each driver get done? So you may need to add a reality check in to your performance score. It is unfair to pay him overtime AND top bonus, if he is not actually earning money for the company.

And finally, what example have you given your drivers to follow?  

Are you being fair to your drivers? Have you ever told them what you expect from them? Is it written in 10 foot tall letters on the smoko room wall? Making the assumption that a driver knows what you want is a bit of an unfair position from which to start awarding bonuses. Asking him to be polite, well presented, compliant, safe, professional and courteous both on the road and with the customers can be a bit rich if you give him a dirty smoko room with overflowing ashtrays and nowhere to wash his truck. There is an indisputable link between the culture of your company and the performance of your fleet on the road. Make sure it is obvious that you care for your company, its facilities and people, as much as you are asking the driver to care for your reputation outside of the gate.

Put your personal prejudices aside and before you rush into a bonus scheme, sense check the first few months of scoring (BEFORE you publish) – who is scoring high and who isn’t. Does it “feel” right if you are honest about each driver’s contribution?

Sometimes you have to stop and check who is the eagle and who is the turkey.

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