Driving scores: fleets using new tech to engage driver performance

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Updated Jan 2, 2018

Four years ago, Paper Transport created a plan to engage drivers using a scorecard and tying it to cash incentives and recognition.

Paper Transport developed a mobile app to deploy its driver scorecard on tablets in the cab.Paper Transport developed a mobile app to deploy its driver scorecard on tablets in the cab.

The first version of the scorecard was printed out and handed to drivers periodically. In 2016, Paper Transport shifted gears by rolling out a mobile version of the scorecard for Samsung Galaxy tablets it had installed in trucks.

Over time, the scorecard and rewards program have “become embedded in who we are,” says Ben Schill, vice president of the De Pere, Wis.-based fleet.

The company’s Red Rewards incentive program and app are introduced to drivers in orientation meetings. New drivers are then assigned mentors to help get them up to speed during the on-boarding process.

Currently, the fleet has 650 drivers in the program. With the app they can review daily performance to see where they rank and track progress towards the monthly reward; the top 10 percent receive a cash payout.

To further increase engagement, Schill sees an opportunity to reward more than the top 10 percent, and also to implement a performance-based pay program.

“We all become addicted to collecting rewards and points,” he says. “We will still recognize the top performers but we want to try to get more drivers to engage.”

Fleets have many opportunities to create gamification programs that foster competition and recognize and reward drivers for professional skills. To build and sustain the momentum of these programs, consider the following strategies:

Stay objective

To create a successful incentive program, Schill emphasizes the importance of using metrics that are completely objective.

Paper Transport’s program uses 20 metrics that are divided into four categories: safety, production, equipment and administrative. The safety category is weighted the heaviest in its overall score for drivers.

True Fuel gives real-time fuel coaching to drivers and delivers a unique set of metrics to fleet managers.True Fuel gives real-time fuel coaching to drivers and delivers a unique set of metrics to fleet managers.

In addition to using data that is purely objective, drivers respond best to information that is current.

Paper Transport’s mobile app is refreshed daily to show drivers results from the day before. When using the mobile app, drivers can touch one of the four categories on the screen to drill down into the details of their scores.

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Within safety, for example, drivers see eight metrics. One of the metrics shows drivers a speed score that shows their compliance with posted speed limits. The metric comes from the SpeedGauge application that Paper Transport uses.

Because SpeedGauge is a cloud-based application, a fleet manager and driver are viewing the same information when coaching sessions take place. The driver app is linked to the SpeedGauge application to show the driver where speeding events occurred on a map.

“When you have a driver manager and driver looking at the same time, it’s a different discussion versus ‘you have to watch your speed from last month,’” Schill says.

Other safety metrics in the scorecard include hard braking, complaints and accidents. The production category scores drivers for mileage, route compliance and on-time service. The equipment category is focused on fuel efficiency. The administrative category scores drivers for scanning trip documents in a timely manner.

The company also rewards drivers for tenure. This ends up being a “tie breaker” in a lot of situations for drivers to qualify for the cash incentive, he says.

Instant driver feedback

Mobile fleet management systems typically come with driver scorecard features that make it easy to score and rank drivers using the data these systems automatically collect from the vehicle. Some systems have the option for drivers to deploy a mobile app on their personal devices to have the same, real-time access to scores as their managers to evaluate their own performance.

MiX Telematics offers a gamification app, myMiX, as an option for its mobile fleet management system, says Pete Allen, chief client officer.

MiX Telematics recently developed a driver app that gives drivers the same, real-time access to performance information as fleet managers.MiX Telematics recently developed a driver app that gives drivers the same, real-time access to performance information as fleet managers.

Fleet managers can create a driver scorecard using a standard report in the web-based MiX system called Red, Amber, Green. This “RAG” report makes it easy to separate drivers into the three different areas based on how they decide to weight different behaviors. Fleets that use the MiX system with the optional event recorder, MiX Vision, can incorporate scores for visual evidence such as distracted driving, he says.

The report ranks the events in each category — speeding, hard braking, logbook compliance and more — on a scale of 1 to 5. With the myMix app, drivers can see the same information, updated in real time. Besides seeing the score, drivers can see where they rank within their peer groups and have a detailed breakdown of their fuel economy behaviors and safety metrics.

Normalizing fuel metrics

Incentive programs for fuel performance are difficult to sustain unless drivers feel empowered to reach attainable targets, says Ed McCarthy, vice president of operations and customer success at Vnomics. To feel empowered, drivers have to know that what they are being measured on is completely within their control.

Incentive plans that rely on mpg may cause drivers to lose motivation, as some variables like topography, traffic conditions and loaded weights are beyond their control.

Vnomics has an automated system for scoring driver fuel efficiency called True Fuel. The system uses machine learning algorithms to determine the fuel potential — the optimal amount of fuel the vehicle requires to do the work at any given time — and the actual fuel used.

The difference is the total fuel loss. A driver’s True Fuel score shows how the driver performed relative to the vehicle’s potential and “takes things that the driver can’t control out of the equation,” he says.

McCarthy says that programs that require administrative support to can lose momentum, as trucking companies run lean and have a lot of things competing for management’s time.

Vnomics measures the amount of fuel loss due to the driving behaviors of speeding, idling and engine control (RPMs). The system has hardware in the vehicle to give drivers scores and automated feedback using audible tones the instant they exceed thresholds for fuel-efficient behaviors.

Terpening Trucking, an 89-truck petroleum and fuel hauler, implemented the Vnomics system in 2012. Every month, drivers who score at 98 percent or higher receive a $25 gas card for personal use. About 10 percent of its drivers qualify each month to receive the gas cards, says Brian Brundige, operations and safety manager at the Syracuse, N.Y.-based fleet.

Terpening Trucking gives monthly gas cards to top-performing drivers for fuel efficiency.Terpening Trucking gives monthly gas cards to top-performing drivers for fuel efficiency.

He refers to the True Fuel score as a “shift score” as it encourages drivers to shift progressively in the optimal RPMs range. The company’s drivers get a visual readout of their True Fuel score at every stop (ignition off) through an in-cab display.

Since Terpening Trucking began using Vnomics in 2012, the fleet has increased its average mpg from 5.1 overall to 5.8 in the summer and 5.3 in the winter.

Automating rewards

While fleets may already have the data needed to measure and evaluate driver performance, they may lack the resources to administer a full-blown gamification program with points and rewards.

Liquid Trucking recently used its Stay Metrics platform to reward points to drivers whose children submitted entries for its safety branding contest. Shown here is the winning entry.Liquid Trucking recently used its Stay Metrics platform to reward points to drivers whose children submitted entries for its safety branding contest. Shown here is the winning entry.

Stay Metrics administers a rewards and recognition program for carriers. The company says that carriers can use metrics from virtually any type of telematics or driver management system. Once carriers set up a custom rewards program, Stay Metrics clients are able to automatically award points to drivers for achievements.

Carriers typically send a file of comma-delimited data, organized by driver code and reward categories. Most database systems can quickly produce such reports and send them using file transfer protocol (FTP), but carriers can also send over information to Stay Metrics using email or through direct integration with APIs.

The rewards platform sends email notifications to drivers when points are awarded, prompting them to login regularly and monitor their progress. Drivers can redeem their points towards a selection of thousands of items in an online catalog.

Liquid Trucking has been using a privately branded version of the online Stay Metrics rewards platform since 2013. It also uses Stay Metrics’ driver surveys to gain feedback from drivers on areas that impact job satisfaction and engagement.

The company pays drivers by the hour for all on-duty and driving time. Since using the online rewards program, one of the most visible impacts is having drivers “begging me for safety training” to earn points, says Jason Eisenman, HR manager of Liquid Trucking, which has terminals in Plattsmouth, Neb., and south Sioux City, Iowa.

“I used to have to literally beg them,” he says. “The whole role is reversed. They want to do it faster than I can provide it to them.”

Besides earning points for completing safety training online, drivers earn points from other reward categories such as having violation-free logbooks (weekly) and having no accidents (quarterly).

Drivers can redeem their points for cash in payroll or buy items online. About 50 percent of the points are redeemed for cash. Drivers who are married with kids tend to redeem the points on non-cash items from the catalog, as their families often become involved in the rewards program, he says.

In the past four years, Liquid Trucking’s turnover rate has dropped from 68 percent to 24 percent. Eisenman credits this to the rewards program and the driver surveys that give management information to make changes. This year, data from surveys indicated that increasing home time for drivers would further improve its retention rate.

“That’s a tough one to fulfill as a trucking company, but we will see what we can do,” he says.

With the volume of information available on driver performance, and the endless opportunities to use gamification strategies to engage drivers with information, rewards and recognition, the process never stops.

Four years after starting the Red Rewards program at Paper Transport, Ben Schill is not finished yet.

“We are just getting started,” he says.

A game for driver health

A new technology platform for fleets aims to improve driver health by gamifying the experience.

Rolling Strong is a subscription-based service that includes a management portal and smartphone app for drivers. Using the app, drivers can earn points for “virtually everything” they do that is conducive to health, says Steve Kane, president of Rolling Strong.

Fleets can use the Rolling Strong platform, with driver app shown here, to reward drivers for making healthy lifestyle choices.Fleets can use the Rolling Strong platform, with driver app shown here, to reward drivers for making healthy lifestyle choices.

Drivers can earn points for logging their caloric intake and exercise events, using the guided fitness routines in the app. One of the unique features in the app gives drivers recommendations for menu items in nearby restaurants by using the driver’s current location, profile information and caloric needs.

The app has a rewards store that drivers can redeem points on rewards provided by their motor carrier such as a cash bonus or free vacation day, as well as from vendors of Rolling Strong that include truck stops.

Drivers can send competition requests to other drivers to compete for points and monitor their ranking on the leader board. Overall, the app was designed to be fast and easy for drivers to use, Kane says.

“Drivers live a busy lifestyle,” he says. “The time they spend in the app should be minimal.”

Rolling Strong was acquired by Velociti in March, 2017. Velocity specializes in managing technology deployment projects for carriers, from the installation of hardware to ongoing maintenance. With its expertise in project management, Velociti saw Rolling Strong as an extension for its business by helping carriers maintain the health of their drivers, Kane says.

Rolling Strong is finalizing beta test with carriers and will soon be available for commercial release.