For the past several years, I have read with fascination about the human genome project, which seeks to decipher the DNA instructions that, along with environment, help to determine who we are as individuals. In the same vein, I believe that each fleet also has a DNA of sorts, which is comprised of the procedures and regulations that are codified in its corporate fleet policy. It is these procedures and regulations that determine the types of fleet each of us operates and its characteristics. Think about it. By creating policy such as to who is eligible for a company vehicle, you are, in effect, determining the size of your fleet. In my discussions with fleet management companies over the years, they tell me that the best-managed fleets tend to be those that adhere to a written fleet policy. Fleet policy is crucial and it should be part of each company’s overall business strategy. Every affected department should be involved in the process of creating fleet policy. However, it is important to stress that it is the fleet manager who should manage the policy creation process. Once a policy is established, it is your responsibility to communicate it to your 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 word doesn’t get down to the individual drivers. To avoid this problem, many companies teach policies and procedures regarding company vehicles as part of the new employee orientation and provide printed fleet policy manuals with each vehicle.
The Danger of Policy Exceptions
When dealing with driver-related problems, the last thing you want to do is create a new problem in the course of resolving one. The surest way to do so is to make an exception to your company’s vehicle usage policy. It is extremely important that the rules governing the withdrawal of a company vehicle privilege be uniformly enforced for all employees. You should not set precedent by allowing exceptions. If your company becomes embroiled in litigation involving a company vehicle because of a problem driver, these exceptions and prior policy precedents can be used against you. The most carefully developed policy can be torn to shreds by a precedent-setting exception, which could be used to accuse you and your company of negligent entrustment and/or negligent retention. No policy can anticipate all possibilities, but consistency in dealing with all the drivers assigned company vehicles at different locations is essential. To accomplish this, it is crucial for senior management to give the fleet manager the appropriate authority to address noncompliance by drivers and those departments’ assigned vehicles. This will go a long way toward reducing and sometimes eliminating driver compliance issues. The fleet manager must have the authority and backing of upper management to address a driver’s inability to properly operate and maintain an assigned vehicle. This authority allows the fleet manager to address violations of fleet policy without approval or direction from upper management. If litigation occurs, the first thing an attorney is going to ask is to review your company vehicle policy. With this in mind, it is critical that a fleet manager makes sure all drivers uniformly adhere to company fleet policy. There should be no exceptions to your company vehicle policies. This simple rule will make your job a lot easier and may save you from a lot of potential grief. Let me know what you think.