A man may have no bad habits and have worse.-Mark Twain

Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy.-Henri De Lubac

Every grown-up man consists wholly of habits, although he is often unaware of it and even denies having any habits at all.-Georges Gurdjieff

You see what will happen if you keep biting your nails.-Noel Coward (on a postcard which had a statue of the Venus de Milo)


People who know me also know that I've been the unyielding advocate of the fleet manager since the formation of Automotive Fleet some 42 years ago.

Nothing today, even with all the changes, alters that dedication. While the function of fleet manager has changed dramatically with the advent of outsourcing, there remain some very critical areas where this staff member is "king" or "queen" (in my book).

The key arena where this is especially so is the company's relationship with the driver (every vehicle has one). Even with the outside fleet management company fielding all driver calls with an 800 number, it is still the fleet manager's compelling responsibility to intimately know the pulse of the drivers.

What do we know about drivers? They are human, often selfish, demanding, forgetful, sometimes lazy, and too many times very difficult to communicate with. It's especially true if the sales manager or HR person tells you they are an extremely valuable asset to the company and need to be coddled.

What else do we know about drivers? Bob Vailance, director of product marketing for Visteon suggests that companies creating devices for drivers should listen carefully to those customers. Visteon's market research shows that people don't consider themselves as "bad drivers" (more on this in a moment), and in no need for electronic assistance.

Apparently no one wants to turn over his or her vehicle control to some electronic devices. They also don't want warnings going off unless absolutely necessary.

There's another side of the picture. The "Drive for Life: The National Safe Driving Test & Initiative" recently commissioned a study and the results show a different light. (It was sponsored by big names like Volvo, National Assn. Of Police Organizations, the AAA. and the National Sheriff's Assn.). After polling more than 1,100 licensed drivers nationally and at random, here are some results.

A striking 91 percent reported that they engaged in at least one risk behavior in the last six months (92 percent men vs. 89 percent women). While speeding was by far the most often mentioned (risk behavior at 71 percent) others were: eating - 59 percent; using a cell phone - 37 percent; running yellow lights - 30 percent; and wearing no seatbelt - 28 percent.

Some of the more interesting ones were nearer the bottom: reading - 14 percent; aggressive driving - 13 percent; and driving while drowsy - 10 percent.

Only the fleet manager can interpret company policy and attempt to apply this to the drivers because no one knows both the policy and the individuals better. You should exploit this with your boss.

Knowing that 42,850 lives were lost in traffic fatalities last year and vehicle crashes accounted for an estimated $230.6 billion, you have a vital share of responsibility. Manage it well and be rewarded in many ways.