Article

Million Dollar Baby

Swift's innovative driver reward program raises the retention stakes.

September 2006, TruckingInfo.com - Editorial

by Deborah Whistler, Editor

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Sign-on bonuses? Safety awards? You ain't seen nothin' yet. Swift Transportation has instituted a new "Thanks A Million" driver program that takes driver rewards, recruiting and retention to a whole new level.

Back in the '80s, top safety consultant Connie Garcin bemoaned the state of driver safety and reward programs. "They drive a million safe miles and we give them a toaster," she quipped.

Well, we've come a long way, baby.

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On Sept. 12, one lucky Swift driver will be rewarded with $1 million for his or her on-the-job efforts and another nine drivers will receive $10,000 each in an innovative program to increase productivity and safety, make drivers feel important and recognized and thus, encouraging them to stick with Swift.

And they don't even have to drive a million miles to be eligible. The Swift program is open to all company drivers and owner-operators, and the company says the drivers don't have to do anything special to win – just do what it is they do every single day. Truckers only have to drive a minimum number of miles, turn in all their logs and have no preventable accidents over a three-month period in order to get a chance to become a millionaire.

Here's how it works. The program was broken down into three four-week periods. A driver has to have driven at least 7,500 miles in one of those periods. They receive one voucher for every 500 miles they drive. For example, a driver who completes 8,000 miles in four weeks receives 16 vouchers. At the end of the 12-week period, if the driver has no preventable accidents, all his or her vouchers are included in a drawing.

And the chances are pretty darn good. Swift points out that the odds of winning the PowerBall are about one in 146 million. The chances of a Swift driver winning a million are 10,000 times better.

Swift is promoting the program through a series of "Fantasy" posters hung throughout company headquarters and on billboards across the country.

Here are a few of the more clever taglines used on the billboards:

"Fantasy #49: Goodbye fuel islands, hello Hawaiian Islands."

And: "You're a hard-working man, you'll need a hard-working butler."

"New CB handle: Lord Money Bags."

Or, "See if your country club valet can handle air brakes."

A huge billboard just outside of Swift headquarters shows a Swift truck driving through the desert on one side and a yacht cruising the ocean on the other. "Fantasy #3: Go from the open road to the open seas."

Swift plans a huge company event to announce the winners. The 10 finalists and their wives will be flown to Phoenix, picked up at the airport in a limo and put up in the Phoenix Biltmore to attend the awards ceremony. "We're going to treat them like rock stars," says Swift Vice President Dave Berry.

At the event, one lucky driver will be made a millionaire. The runner up will not only receive $10,000, but will also be given a brand-new, tricked-out Volvo tractor to drive for a year. The eight other finalists will each receive 10 grand.

Drivers are critical to the success of any trucking company and proving that to them is crucial, especially in the face of an increasingly dismal driver shortage.

According to company President Bob Cunningham, Swift has two categories of employees: "Drivers and driver support.

"We are committed to making Swift a company where our drivers feel appreciated, enjoy their work and have the opportunity to build successful careers."

In a promotional CD handed out to all drivers, Cunningham tells them: "We know driving is difficult. It's hard work and you're often away from your families for long periods of time. You deserve our support, respect and appreciation."

Obviously, it's a bold experiment. But the response to the program has been so positive, Swift plans to repeat the process. Another drawing will be held on Jan. 3.

Hopefully, handing out a million bucks won't send a good driver out of the cab onto the open seas in a yacht.

"But if it does," laughs Berry, "that'll be one good driver we'll be happy to see leave."

E-mail Deb Whistler at dwhistler@truckinginfo.com

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