By Mike Antich
Many fleet managers deal with drivers remotely because they manage nationally dispersed fleets. Most never meet the majority of their drivers. My question is: Do you really know who is driving your company-provided vehicles? Often the "at-work" persona of an employee is not the true indicator of their behavior when no one is watching. Recently, someone forwarded me a link to a chat room for pharmaceutical reps. I did a search of posts that included the phrase "company car" and, in short order, I was shocked at some of the comments written about their use of company cars and how drivers play "the system" to their advantage.
Here is a suggestion from one pharma rep on how to avoid personal use charges while vacationing:
".... (Before you go on vacation), you need to take the company car into the dealership to repair a 'weird noise and vibration on the right front part of the car' the afternoon of the day before you leave. Since your car is in the dealership, you'll need a rental vehicle. You will have to go and get a rental from Enterprise. The Enterprise guys all want to be pharma reps, so take down all their personal info to pass on. Then, ask if you can get upgraded to a luxury or SUV. Free car for a week, no mileage reporting, and free gas. Have done it for years."
I don't know about you, but I was floored when I read this post. This scam never occurred to me, but I can see how it could easily slip through the cracks and not be detected by the fleet manager. This scam could be thwarted by working with HR to check whether car rentals coincide with the start of vacations.
But it doesn't stop there. Consider this gem.
Q. "I heard there are GPS tracking devices in our company cars and laptops. Is this true?"
A. "I doubt it. If they did, they would have fired me seven years ago!"
If there was ever an argument to be made supporting the use of GPS, this is it. You know the comment from this individual is just the tip of the iceberg. In fact, the most heated discussion topic among pharma reps revolved around the company's possible use of GPS.
The next post reinforces the truism to remain constantly vigilant about fuel management. It's hard to believe someone is posting queries such as this on a public site asking whether others have committed the same criminal act they are considering. Equally unbelievable is the advice given on a public site by another pharma rep.
Q. "Does anyone ever use their fleet card (I'm assuming this is your gas credit card) to fill up your significant other's/spouse's vehicle once in a while, or would that be too easy to catch and highly unethical for reps?"
A. "Yeah this would be unethical......but what I do is bring a five-gallon gas tank with me fill it up and use it for the toys! I have about five tanks at the house and when the wife's car needs some gas, I use them. It is great, been doing this since I got the new car so I am sure they think I get horrible gas mileage!"
Fuel pilfering isn't a new scam, but, as this interchange illustrates, it is ongoing. This is the best argument favoring a fuel management program, but these programs need to be continually monitored and assessed. They can't be just corporate "window dressing." Here is another post mocking corporate laxity in monitoring fuel expenditures.
"You don't really think anyone is keeping track of that stuff, do you? I don't even look at the odometer and haven't for years. I just push a bunch of numbers into the pump. No one gives a <<expletive deleted>>. No one looks."
Another revelation (perhaps I'm revealing my naivety) is how abusive some employees are to their company vehicles. Below are several posts from pharma reps on what they do before a car is taken away from them.
"I love putting the car into park prior to a full stop. This does wonders for the transmission. I especially love filling up my friend's gas tanks using my gas card. On those cold mornings around zero degrees, I love racing the engine into drive prior to it having any chance to warm up and beating the <<expletive deleted>> out of the engine. I especially love running it out of gas so the engine eats up all that grime that slips through the gas filter. Of course, I keep a little spare jug of gas to fill up! All these concepts do not leave immediate marks; it's similar to how cops take their frustration out on those in custody without leaving marks!"
Or how about this "recommendation" from a fun-loving rep:
"Here is a way to have some fun before you turn in your company car. Take an egg and place it under the spare tire in the trunk. It should be out of sight and tucked in pretty tightly. When the next rep gets the car, at some point the shell will break and then "shazam"- quite a stink! Have fun with it."
There needs to be accountability for these brazen acts of corporate vandalism. When vehicles are turned in, condition reports should be analyzed to identify these individuals. This message should be conveyed to all drivers to let them know the company is "looking," which will hopefully act as a deterent to future acts of vandalism.
Another point that came across loud and clear in these posts is many pharma reps base their job selection on the type of company-provided vehicle. I've known this for years, but it really hit home with repeated comments. Here's one such post:
"People need to consider the complete package. I drive a minivan for my company now. If I could do it over again, I would have gone with the competitor that gave a Camry. It is a deciding factor, free or not."
However, after reading these chat room posts, it is clear that there are many reps you would never (ever) want to drive your company vehicle. The challenge is to identify these individuals.
Let me know what you think.