By Mike Antich
Fleet managers have countless stories of drivers blatantly violating fleet policy with the refrain, “I didn’t know we weren’t supposed to do that.” Whether it is using a cell phone while driving or buying premium fuel instead of regular unleaded, fleet managers refer to this phenomenon as “driver amnesia.” In my discussions with fleet management companies over the years, they tell me the best managed fleets tend to be those whose drivers adhere to a written fleet policy. Does your corporate culture encourage compliance with fleet policy?
Adherence to fleet policy is crucial and it should be part of each company’s overall business strategy. Once a policy is established, it is the fleet manager’s responsibility to communicate it to drivers. Each of your drivers should know the rules governing the use of a company vehicle and what actions will be taken for noncompliance. An all too common problem is that the fleet manager communicates policy to the drivers’ managers, but the policy doesn’t get communicated to individual drivers. To avoid this problem, many companies teach policies and procedures regarding company vehicles as part of new-employee orientations and provide printed fleet policy manuals with each vehicle.
A Culture that Encourages Compliance
The fleet manager must have the authority and backing of senior management to address a driver’s inability to operate and maintain an assigned vehicle in conformance with fleet policy. This authority allows the fleet manager to address violations of fleet policy without approval or direction from upper management. With this in mind, it is critical a fleet manager makes sure all drivers uniformly adhere to company fleet policy. There should be no exceptions to your company vehicle policies.
To ensure drivers observe fleet policy it needs senior management backing. It is only when senior management communicates this message to the rank-and-file and begins to hold drivers accountable can you expect to see the emergence of a corporate culture conducive to policy compliance.
Are Your Drivers Following Fleet Policy?
Just because your company has a written fleet policy and procedures manual doesn’t mean your drivers are following it. As fleet manager, one of your responsibilities is to promote driver compliance with fleet policy. This not only controls expenditures, but also protects your company from potential liability exposure. To ensure fleet policy remains uppermost in the minds of drivers, many companies stress the need to regularly re-communicate it to them. When policy is constantly re-communicated, you will find you spend less time disciplining drivers for policy infractions. Companies use a variety of methods to reinforce fleet policy such as e-mail reminders, the corporate Intranet, paycheck stuffers, teleconferences with regional office employees, or setting aside time at annual company meetings for fleet policy presentations. It makes no difference how you do it, the important point is to understand the need to consistently remind drivers about these corporate policies.
How do you increase driver compliance with fleet policy? Here are 10 suggestions:
1. When developing or reevaluating fleet policy, solicit the participation of all affected departments, such as sales, administration, purchasing, HR, and accounting, along with all vehicle user groups. By involving them in the decision-making process, you increase the likelihood of their buy-in and support of fleet policies.
2. Make fleet policy easily accessible to drivers and managers by posting it on the company Intranet.
3. Your fleet policy manual should be a living document updated annually. As changes occur within your company, revise your procedures to reflect these changes. Likewise, eliminate those policies that have become outdated. What was right yesterday may not be right today. Also, as part of your annual fleet policy review, you should survey your drivers to give them an opportunity to express their opinions or dissatisfaction about fleet policies that govern them.
4. Set aside time at company meetings to make fleet policy presentations to the drivers and managers. Also, conduct teleconferences with drivers who work at regional offices. Use these meetings to reemphasize the importance of policy and cost control.
5. Develop a summarized fleet policy pocket manual that drivers can keep in the glove compartment of their vehicle. However, if you do this, it is critically important to keep it updated.
6. Send periodic e-mails or voicemail messages to drivers on specific fleet policy reminders, in particular, on those issues that have higher-than-normal incidents. Also, cc the driver’s supervisor on important items or those supervisors of drivers who were not within policy.
7. Issue a fleet policy summary sheet when distributing gas cards to drivers. This helps reinforce fleet policy with drivers.
8. Create a newsletter that is mailed or e-mailed to company drivers to promote awareness of fleet policies by providing helpful suggestions on driver safety, vehicle care, and other topics. Likewise, use the company Intranet for similar effect. Also, post information on cost savings on the driver Web site, such as maintenance and fuel savings programs and how drivers can take advantage of them.
9. Leave a weekly or monthly message on your voicemail greeting advising drivers of new policies and reminders. Another way to communicate fleet policy changes is to use paycheck stuffers.
10. How you organize your fleet policy Web site can also help increase readership and awareness. For instance, if your company offers a safe driving award, place the application on the last page of the fleet policy manual (as well as on its Intranet site) to force drivers to look through the sections to find the award requirements. The rationale is to get drivers to read the fleet policy manual after they receive it.
If you want to increase the likelihood that your drivers follow fleet policy, you need not only to communicate it to them, but, more importantly, re-communicate it on a regular basis. When it comes to fleet policy, there is no such thing as being redundant. In fact, the secret to increasing driver compliance with fleet policy is just that — redundant communication.
Cost Control Starts With the Company Driver
Another important aspect of policy compliance is that it helps reduce unnecessary costs. It is very expensive to operate a company-provided fleet. Typically, fleet operations is one of the top five categories of nonproduct-related spending at most corporations. All too often, however, managers attempt to control fleet costs on the backend. The best time to control cost is before it occurs and the way to do this is by establishing policies and procedures that inhibit unnecessary spending and protect corporate assets.
Let me know what you think.