Frank Merlock, associate director, EHS & Sustainability for AbbVie, was the recipient of the annual Fleet Safety Award, presented during the virtual 2021 Fleet Safety Experience on Thursday, September 23.
Presenting the award was Mike Joyce, executive director, American Automotive Leasing Association (AALA), and Tom Callahan, CEO of Donlen and vice president of AALA’s safety & technology committee.
“This award annually recognizes an individual and organization that has gone above and beyond in demonstrating excellence in fleet safety,” Joyce said. “They’ve proven their leadership, innovation and measurable results toward enhancing the safety of their employees and all who share the road with them.”
A Comprehensive Safety Strategy
Callahan, a 2020 inductee into the Fleet Hall of Fame, opened with a sobering statistic: “When I look at 2020, we lost 42,000 lives. Unfortunately, the trend for 2021 is actually going to exceed that. But despite this, there’s great work being done in the fleet industry to reduce these incidences through policy and technology, including telematics, ADAS and MVRs.”
Joyce followed with details on AbbVie’s safety initiatives for its fleet of 4,000 vehicles that were considered in judging the award: Merlock’s comprehensive safety strategy is a holistic approach across the entire organization, and has helped AbbVie steadily decrease its fleet costs over the past five years, Joyce said.
Measures include new-hire safe driver operator training, online safety training, behind-the-wheel training, ongoing classroom training, baseline motor vehicle record and training compliance, safety policy enforcement, and enhanced technology, which includes in-vehicle Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). The implementation of Environmental Social Governance (ESG) responsibilities also have helped improve driver behavior in the communities where the company operates.
“I am honored to see AbbVie included with this impressive list of finalists and the amazing individuals leading their fleet safety programs, some who are familiar and who we have networked with and learned from,” Merlock said upon receiving the award. “At AbbVie, we believe that every incident is preventable. Our philosophy — Zero, Believe It, Achieve It (ZBA) — is a call to action across our company, but especially in fleet safety where we know we are at a heightened risk of critical events, even more so statistically than other areas in our business, such as manufacturing, distribution or our labs. Our ZBA approach is part of our AbbVie culture.”
AbbVie’s safety philosophy has led to a decrease in preventable losses by 47% year-over-year and reduced total claims by 40.8% with 99% training compliance. The company experienced a 7.3% reduction in its accident rate per million miles and a 9.1% reduction in total loss claims in 2020 vs. 2019.
Acquisition Doubles AbbVie’s Fleet
AbbVie recently acquired Allergan, which has resulted in a doubling of the company’s fleet and, with it, new approaches to fleet management and safety, according to Merlock.
“An integration of this magnitude has highlighted for me the key fundamental must-haves for a successful fleet safety program, which include leadership support and direct engagement,” Merlock said. “Our commercial and R&D leadership continues to impress me with their willingness to engage their teams regarding fleet safety, and EHS is currently working with our global fleet alliance to look at new ways to incentivize safe driving, reduce our environmental impact with advancing a green EV fleet, and utilize new technology to help not only promote safe driving but also help improve field employee effectiveness and time management.”
Having executive leaders and front-line managers regularly promote driver safety with AbbVie’s field representatives keeps driver safety a priority for the company’s driving professionals and helps them make safe decisions when they get behind the wheel, according to Merlock.
The Fleet Safety Award, first presented in 2012, is co-sponsored by AALA and Bobit Business Media. Previous winners include Sharon Etherington and Katie Franssen of Roche Diagnostics; Dina Kushaliyeva, senior HSE manager, North America, for Direct Energy; Blair Schober, U.S. Fleet, EH&S, and telecom manager for Red Hawk Fire & Security; Joe Rader, vice president of risk services for Fisher Auto Parts; Nikith Rajendran, director of fleet operations for SolarCity; Chad Fay, vice president of fleet and supply chain at Centuri Construction Group; Sandra Lee, director of worldwide fleet for Johnson & Johnson; and Kristin O’Driscoll, fleet manager for Baxter Healthcare.