A fleet driver charged with driving under the influence poses a number of management challenges, not the least is determining what to do with the driver until his or her case is decided.
This situation isn’t always spelled out in a specific policy, some fleet managers said. However, motor vehicle record checks (MVRs) and a step as simple as regularly asking to see an employee’s driver’s license can be effective in helping limit risk.
There are many variables — does the driver have a regular or commercial license, what are the applicable state laws, etc. — that affect how the situation can be handled, fleet managers said.
A University of Colorado at Boulder employee who carries a regular driver’s license rather than a commercial license isn’t required to report a DUI citation, said Bryan Flansburg, CAFM, director of transportation services for the university. If a driver with a commercial driver’s license receives a DUI citation, Flansburg said, that person is put on administrative leave or prohibited from driving and given other duties.
Employees have lost their jobs because they lost their CDL, he said. "Those are people who are required to drive for their jobs."
The university also follows strict rules to ensure that employees don’t drive motor pool vehicles when their driving privileges have been restricted, suspended, or revoked.
"When they come to the motor pool, they must present a driver’s license each time," Flansburg said. "Many times people tell us, ‘Well, you saw it yesterday.’ "
They get the same response every time: "We don’t know if something happened last night and an officer took it from you."
"That’s what we tell them," Flansburg said. "They get upset with us, too, but they don’t get a car."
State Penalties Differ for DUI Citations
A company that operates in many states must take into account the state in which the citation was issued.
"If a tech comes in and says, ‘I got busted for DUI this weekend,’ typically, we’ll immediately revoke driving privileges while we investigate it," said Nathan Zautcke, fleet, purchasing and asset manager for Advanced Communications, Inc., a cable installation company in Canton, Mich. Advanced Communications often has crews working in many states at once.
When a driver is charged with DUI or DWI, the company investigates to determine the exact infraction and whether the employee’s license is still active.
In some states, Zautcke said, if a driver refuses a breathalyzer test, his or her license is revoked immediately.
"It varies state to state," he explained. "That’s why it’s hard for us to have a flat policy." If the employee’s license is still active, there might be restrictions, he said.
A ticket for DUI or operating a vehicle "under the influence of liquor" is recorded as an infraction on the person’s driving record, Zautcke said. "That would disqualify them from driving for us."
An employee convicted of DUI cannot drive for the company for three years. That includes driving a personal vehicle on company time, Zautcke said. However, the employee may not be fired from the job.
"If a manager has a position for them that doesn’t require driving, fine," Zautcke said. A warehouse position might be open, which that person could fill. Installation crews usually number four or five people, he added, and not all of them must be able to drive. If a non-driving opening is unavailable, the person would be dismissed, Zautcke said.[PAGEBREAK]
Program Provides Automatic MVR Reviews
In California, the motor vehicle department’s Employer Pull Notice (EPN) program provides employers with the means for ongoing review of driver records. Employers can enroll in the program, which maintains updated electronic records on employee licenses. If an action such as a DUI charge is recorded, the program automatically generates a printed record for mailing to the employer.
In the case of some fleet operators, that notification combines with a second point of leverage: written job classifications.
For example, the work force at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo is unionized, and written job classifications specify whether the ability to drive is necessary to perform a particular job. Technicians are required to drive commercial vehicles, said James Cullins, Cal Poly’s fleet supervisor. "They sign a waiver saying they recognize the fact that they’re in the [EPN program]," and that waiver is filed with Cal Poly’s risk management department.
Mechanics and drivers are required to keep a clean driving record, Cullins added. If they’re pulled over while operating any vehicle and their license is revoked, they cannot return to work.
Beverage Company Policy Strict, but Proactive
Diageo North America, Norwalk, Conn., is in an especially sensitive position when managing such cases, said Patricia Smith, specialist, national accounts/fleet administration. Diageo is one of the world’s leading beer, wine, and spirits companies, and owner and marketer of such brands as Guinness, Johnnie Walker, and Smirnoff.
An employee convicted of one DWI or DUI offense "may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination," Smith said, quoting the company’s policy.
The policy also addresses the interim period between the time a driver is charged and when a case is decided. Smith noted the policy states, "If your license is lost, revoked, suspended, or in any way affected, including by issuance of a temporary license pending further proceedings due to a drinking and driving arrest or other serious violation, you must notify your manager immediately. Failure to report any of the above will result in immediate termination."
Diageo puts a premium on responsible drinking, Smith emphasized, and spends millions of dollars annually on public service announcements to discourage consumers from drinking before driving. "We take that very seriously," Smith said.
The company’s policy on DUI and DWI convictions extends to those seeking employment. "If someone has one on their driving record, they will not get hired," Smith said. "We are extremely diligent about it."
There are alternatives, she noted. "And we encourage all our employees to designate a driver or take a taxi" when they drink.