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Should you pay people to attend driver meetings?

Mark Murrell

In a previous post I wrote about the cost of driver meetings and shared a model for figuring out what it actually costs to run one. At the end of it, I invited people to share their own experiences and compare numbers. While no one refuted my findings, some people did point out that my scenario in which a 50 truck company gets 90% or more of their drivers showing up (without paying them) is unrealistic. The consensus seemed to be that if you don't pay drivers to attend a driver meeting, attendance will be much lower in most cases.

That's probably correct, but just makes my point in that column even stronger - if you're investing all that effort to pull off a meeting, and only half the drivers show up, then it's REALLY not a good use of resources!

It also reminded me of another discussion I was part of, a few years ago, with two fleets talking about their own driver meetings. One fleet was struggling to get people to attend and the other regularly got almost everyone to show up. Their different situations, and the discussion around their plans for improvement, provide an interesting illustration of what kinds of investment make sense for a fleet.

Here are the details:

Fleet A wanted to get the kind of attendance Fleet B had, and was thinking about starting to pay its drivers for attendance as well.

Should they do that?

Let's dig into it and find out.

Assuming that Fleet A could get 98% attendance by paying the same $50, that means it would get 196 drivers to attend each semi-annual meeting. It was already getting 50% attendance, but it couldn't just pay the additional 48% - it would have to pay everyone or the plan would backfire pretty quickly. If it paid 196 drivers $50 each, it would spend $9,800 for each meeting. For two meetings a year, it would spend an additional $19,600 (on top of what it was already spending to run the meetings).

So, for a roughly $20,000 investment they would get almost all of their 200 drivers in a room (or an auditorium, more accurately). Not bad, but how much would those people really learn, with so many of them all together and trying to get through everything in the allotted time? Probably not much. That kind of setup is great for covering policy updates and a business briefing, but it's not going to be a good environment for learning.

In other words, the attendance might improve, but the central issue of having people learn something probably wouldn't be solved.

On the other hand, let's look at what would happen if they went the online route instead. For that size fleet, they'd spend around $10,000 per year, getting access to a bunch of content for the entire year. What does the picture look like then?

Instead of paying drivers to attend the meetings, they could move all the training and regulatory content online (taking it out of the meeting altogether) and use the meetings as a social, fun, teambuilding experience. For minimal extra cost they could increase the attractiveness of the meetings (increasing attendance organically as a result) and rely on online tools to get the safety content delivered to everyone.

A different approach, but cheaper and potentially more effective.

They ended up doing exactly that, and the results were pretty good - regular training (that previously only reached 50% through driver meetings) started reaching 90% or more on a regular basis, and driver meetings got converted into social events that drivers looked forward to (often bringing their spouses) so attendance went up as well.

In comparison, Fleet B continued paying drivers the $50 each to attend the meetings. Their 98% attendance rate meant that they were paying $19,600 FOR EACH DRIVER MEETING, or more than $76,000 annually just in meeting-related driver compensation. Yikes!

Do you pay drivers to attend driver meetings? If so, what does it cost and how well is it working for you?