Fleet managers must continually deal with evolving issues related to fleet policy, ranging from personal use of company-provided vehicles, new technologies, and privacy issues to carrying firearms in vehicles, marijuana legalization, and the operation of EVs.
How often does your company review — and update — its fleet safety policy? What are you doing to ensure that drivers read, understand, and comply with the whole policy?
At the 2022 Fleet Safety Conference in November, a panel of experts shared their insights regarding the importance of reviewing and updating the fleet safety policy. The panelists were Jeff Jenkins, vice president of sales and marketing for RTA, a fleet maintenance software company; Sharon Etherington, fleet manager for Roche Diagnostics Operations; and Kristofer Bush, head of product development for LeasePlan USA.
Safety Policy Recommendations
Here are the key recommendations from the panel discussion regarding safety policy best practices:
- Collaborate on Policy Review: When it comes time for the annual review of the fleet policy, make sure it is a collaborative effort in which multiple departments of the company or organization are involved, particularly the safety and legal departments. Getting input from different facets of the company or organization produces a more comprehensive and robust policy.
- Enforce Policy Reviews with Drivers: Reading the whole policy should be compulsory for all drivers. Consider making it mandatory that drivers undergo an interactive exercise where they have to pass a test at the end. Also, consider having the drivers review the policy on an annual basis.
- Define Provisions for Firearms: If your company forbids drivers from carrying firearms in their vehicles, make sure to update your fleet policy that specifically states such a prohibition. However, if your company allows drivers to have a concealed carry permit, make sure that the drivers show proof of their concealed carry license and that they are abiding by the state, county, and city laws. For drivers who are hesitant to sign a policy that prohibits carrying firearms, remind them that when they signed HR’s ethics and compliance guidelines, they have already acknowledged that they would follow company policies.
- Include EV Use in Existing Policy: As EVs enter fleet, don’t create a separate policy for EVs, which could create confusion for drivers on remembering what is allowed and what is prohibited when they switch vehicle types. Consider creating a policy within a policy that deals specifically with the unique issues posed by EVs, such as the installation of chargers in garages. Clearly state in the policy the responsibilities of the drivers — as well as the company — for the EV charger in the drivers’ home, and make the drivers acknowledge these responsibilities by signing. In addition, since EVs have internal distractions (such as a dashboard that offers multiple features), include do’s and don’ts for drivers while the vehicle is on the road.
- Clearly Delineate Personal Use & Mileage Limits: Specify what drivers can and cannot do. For instance, put in the policy that they cannot use the vehicle for revenue purposes outside of their current job. Monitor the data on vehicle usage, such as hours logged and mileage. To firmly prohibit personal use of vehicles, include in the policy that any violation will lead to outright termination. However, if your company makes a specific exception to allow take-home vehicles for drivers who live a considerable distance away from the office or facility, provide precise parameters (for instance, the distance must be at least 25 miles). With this particular exception, adopt mileage limits and monitor the mileage. If the company allows the driver to drive for both personal and business, require the drivers to log their business and personal miles monthly. Having documentation is required by the IRS.
- Consider Driver Rating Scale as Part of Policy: Etherington at Roche’s scale ranges from excellent, good, warning, high risk, and severe risk. The ratings will be based on multiple factors such as number of speeding tickets, frequency of running red lights, and severity of violations. After identifying the high-risk drivers, involve supervisors by having them meet with the high-risk drivers to discuss the data, and consequently require the drivers to undergo safety training to help them develop better driving habits.
- Understand Marijuana Legalization, Update Policy: As laws for marijuana use vary state by state, policies must be written accordingly. A further complication — users can test positive for marijuana a day after use. Regardless of state laws, make sure the policy states that operating a company vehicle under the influence of alcohol, narcotics, any controlled substance, or any substance that impairs your ability is considered a violation to the fleet policy and to the organization’s code of conduct. Violations against the policy should be categorized as a severe offense and may include termination.
- Address Cameras and Telematics: Clearly state in the policy that the company has the right to know where the vehicle is, how often it is being used, and what the drivers are doing while they are in it. Once included in the policy, there are no ambiguities or discrepancies when holding drivers accountable for any infraction. Write into the policy that disabling cameras violates the policy.
Other Safety Recommendations
Independent of the recommendations for the safety policy itself, the panel provided general advice on ways to mitigate risk, increase fleet safety, and maintain good working relationships with drivers.
- Fleet Vehicle as Tool: Emphasize to drivers that their vehicles are a tool to perform a job function, no different than a company-provided cell phone or laptop. Giving drivers that tool does not mean that they necessarily have privacy (cameras, telematics) or Second Amendment protections (concealed carry of firearms) while using that tool.
- Tech that Works: The panel agreed that collision-avoidance systems help decrease the frequency of crashes such as rear-end collisions. The panel acknowledged the high initial costs for new safety technology but agreed that proactively putting preventive measures in place could curtail lost revenue due to costs stemming from accidents or protracted litigation. Emphasize to drivers that the use of new technology, such as telematics and outward- and driver-facing cameras, is not to shame, but rather to make them safer.
- Disciplinary Action: Drivers who are caught violating any provision of the safety policy must undergo some form of disciplinary action. Making exceptions on disciplining drivers will open the door to others taking advantage. Making exceptions will decrease fleet safety.
- Examine Police Reports: Police reports that are included with the accident reports will typically show if drivers were wearing their seat belt or if they were speeding, two violations of policy. Some telematics systems can also detect seat-belt use.
- Safety Training: If your company is located in a geographic area where the drivers have to drive in the snow, start safety training in the fall, so that they are well-prepared driving in the ice and snow. Interactive training is more effective than passive, such as watching a video. Also, consider behind-the-wheel training, which helps drivers learn various skill sets. If there is any update to the policy, require drivers to undergo some training.
- Awards Programs Are Effective: Drivers can be quite competitive when it comes to who is the safest driver. Instituting an awards program that recognizes the safest drivers provides an incentive for them to become — and continue to be — safe and better drivers.