At a Glance

Some steps to creating a interdepartmental safety competition include:

  • Determine participating departments.
  • Define the safety metrics used for scoring.
  • Launch the contest companywide.
  • Communicate “standings” regularly.
  • Announce winners publicly.

There are a number of key elements in any fleet safety program: clearly defined goals, a comprehensive policy document, senior management endorsement, rewards for exemplary performance, and consequences for non-compliance, among many others. All these elements contribute to a program’s success.

How, then, can a fleet manager add a little zest to the goals of a program that can be dry and are often taken for granted? One way to capture the interest of everyone concerned is to introduce some competition among the various departments covered by the policy, tracking performance and rewarding the “winners.”

Leverage Departmental Pride

Safe driving reward programs are usually targeted at individuals; driving reports are tracked from pre-hire on, violations noted, consequences applied, and performance rewarded where applicable. While there is certainly merit in this approach, it pits one employee against others, and does little to encourage the sense of teamwork and common purpose that should be part of any companywide program.

For some companies, the fleet is homogenous — meaning all drivers, at one level or another, are part of the same function. Whether it be sales, service, production, or delivery, there is a certain departmental pride — a common purpose within those for whom driving is part and parcel of the job.

Sometimes, however, the fleet encompasses several different missions performed by several different departmental functions (some or all of those mentioned above, for example). Where this is the case, fleet managers can take advantage of these natural rivalries by introducing a competitive safe driving reward contest, which pits these departments against each other in friendly but important competition — with the overall goal of driving safely.

Define Safety Metrics to Use

The first step in introducing this type of competition is to carefully define the metrics used to measure performance. Most existing safety metrics can be used, but in the interest of simplicity it is best to cull the number down to two or three (remember — someone has to keep score!). Here are two of the simpler metrics that can be used:

Violations: Traffic infractions, ranging from equipment violations right on up to the more serious violations, such as DUI or reckless driving.

Chargeable accidents: This assumes the safety policy defines what is and is not chargeable to the driver. While overall accidents can be used, chargeable accidents are a better measure of safe driving, as they’ll reveal a lack of defensive driving techniques as well as out-and-out fault.

It is likely truly different departments will have different vehicle counts; one might have several hundred, or thousands, while another may have far fewer. Thus, it isn’t quite fair to use absolute numbers, but rather a ratio of the metric to miles driven. The most common is millions of miles driven, i.e., violations per million miles, or accidents per million miles. This will take into account the relative sizes of the various departments’ fleets when “keeping score” and awarding prizes.

It is best to keep things as simple as possible, but it is true that some violations are more serious than others. A ticket for an expired registration isn’t necessarily an indication of unsafe driving; a speeding or tailgating citation certainly is. Taking this into consideration will also help make the contest fairer and more representative of actual performance. Scoring the violation metric can be done by assigning additional weight to more serious violations and less weight to others. A speeding violation, for example, can be counted as 1.5 and a ticket for an expired registration 0.5, or something of that nature. This will help to better reflect what the violations actually represent vis-a-vis safety.


Launch the Program

Once it is determined that there are sufficient departmental fleets to participate, and the metrics used have been defined and chosen, the contest can be launched.

Begin with a splashy announcement containing a safety statement, e.g., “ABC Corporation believes the safety of our drivers, their families, and the public at large is the single most important responsibility we have.” Then, the contest can be described. It should consist of:

  • Time frame; how long the contest will run (a full year is the best option).
  • Metrics used and how they’re defined and weighted.
  • Scoring, and how often the “standings” will be posted (this will depend on fleet size; a very large fleet will have more violations and accidents, so monthly postings are doable. For a smaller fleet, perhaps bi-­monthly or quarterly would work better).
  • Prizes; how many places will be rewarded and what the prizes will be.

Again, depending on the size of the fleet, a regular posting or communication of the “standings” can be provided. Contest results can be discussed at regular departmental meetings and/or conference calls.

What works here is peer pressure. Provided the prizes are generous enough, departmental competition can drive the safety message home more quickly and keep it ongoing rather than simply repeating policy, and will also generally be good natured and fun.

Announce the Final Results

When the contest has been completed, the final standings should be communicated to all and the winner announced. This can be done any number of ways:

  • Electronically, via e-mail or company intranet posting.
  • Webcast/conference call.
  • In person, at a company meeting.

While it is true that the opportunity to receive a prize is a great motivator, so too is the recognition that comes with winning. A live meeting is the best venue to provide peer recognition, but posting the contest results on the company website will provide the widest possible recognition within the company.

It will be, of course, impossible to provide individual recognition when dealing with departmental fleets that number in the hundreds or thousands. The department head or other manager responsible for the function can receive a departmental award (certificate, plaque, etc.) with accompanying photos, and provide thanks to all participants. If the fleet is small enough, individual recognition is possible. 

Competition Works

Many employees are competitive to begin with. Business in general is brutally competitive, and the most successful employees thrive on competition. It works in business success, and it will work for safety as well. Competition and peer pressure will help to emphasize the safety culture within the company, and a formal contest can be both fun and rewarding. Remember the basics:

  • Determine which departments will be able to participate (i.e., they have enough vehicles assigned).
  • Define the safety metrics that will be used to score the contest; keep it simple, and make certain to measure for both fleet size and violation severity.
  • Announce the contest companywide, and be certain that everyone understands how it will be conducted and scored.
  • Communicate the “standings” regularly so departments know how they are doing.
  • Announce the winners as publicly as possible. Both awards and recognition are important motivators.

Safety is of paramount importance to a company and to drivers. A departmental contest can help get that message out, and be fun as well.