A situation where an exiting employee is unable to return his or her company vehicle is rare but can occur. Companies should be prepared to implement processes to avoid these scenarios from happening.
Erik Rasmussen, director of strategic operations for PARS Inc., a fleet driveway company, said that this type of situation is rare since companies are usually anxious to get their vehicles back from exiting employees.
To avoid finding itself in this situation, a company should spell out close-out processes with each exiting employee before retrieving the vehicle. If a former employer is not responding or is taking too long to recover a fleet vehicle, the separating employee should discuss the urgency with his or her human resources department, Rasmussen said. Proper communication with the various stakeholders involved in employee separation, he added, is vital.
Ensuring a Smooth Exiting Process
If a separating employee contacts the human resources department to pick up a fleet vehicle and gets no response, calling the company’s fleet support phone number would be a second option. The call might route to an internal fleet department or fleet management company.
“Either way, [the fleet department or fleet management company] will be concerned about the safe and speedy recovery of the vehicle asset and will often be able to work with the transporter to expedite the pickup of the fleet vehicle,” Rasmussen said.
In some instances, Rasmussen said separating employees work out deals with human resources to leave a vehicle at an agreed-upon location. “Maybe they have negotiated with human resources that they’re going to leave the vehicle at a hotel or with the hotel manager. Those [situations] are a little rarer.”
Rasmussen noted an instance in which PARS received an order to pick up a car from a separating employee who decided to abandon the fleet vehicle in an airport parking lot.
He’s also witnessed a separating employee leave a fleet vehicle with a former coworker or manager.
But in a situation in which the employee wants the vehicle taken away and can’t get a response: “I think the key is communication, and again, where we see a lot of success is when the companies that are separating with this employee communicate well upfront. The ones that are effective provide our contact information, for example, to the separating employee,” Rasmussen said.
If the employee does not get an adequate response from human resources, he or she should contact the fleet manager or fleet management company, both of which will usually be very concerned about getting that vehicle asset back. They will usually be able to contact a transporter to get the vehicle out of the ex-employee’s driveway, Rasmussen added.
Kathy Massey, corporate vice president, client relations, for AmeriFleet, a vehicle logistics services provider, also noted that this sort of situation — an exiting employee being unable to return a vehicle — would be a strange situation to find oneself in. The fleet management company, she added, should know where all vehicles are at all times. “If it happened, it would seem to me to be an isolated case,” she said.
Massey agreed with Rasmussen that communication among the various stakeholders is vital. The fleet manager, fleet management company, and vehicle logistics company should verify with each other how many vehicles should be picked up in a given time period, noting any trouble spots.
“Let’s say the logistics company went back to the [fleet manager] or fleet management company and said ‘We picked up 99 of the vehicles, but one wouldn’t release it.’ There is a follow – through to find out how that happened,” Massey said. “There must be some resolution for each one where there is not a solid termination pickup. It had to be between the client and the logistics company that there is a disconnect there. But [the logistics company and fleet management] have to be confirming their sheets to make sure they’re both on the same page and not missing any.”
All stakeholders at AmeriFleet work on the same master spreadsheet to track progress. During the project, meetings take place once a week over the phone or on Skype.
Wrap-up meetings after the project are just as important as meetings that take place before the vehicle pickups take place, Massey said. If all the vehicles were not picked up, fleets need to address the reasons why for each vehicle.
“Some of them are valid reasons, like the driver is purchasing it, or maybe an auction picked it up instead because it was not in good condition,” Massey said. “There are lots of reasons but at least confirm every order and where that asset went to make sure there were no holes in the process. Preparation is key, but also wrapping up the project to make sure you are reviewing it at that time too, to tie up all the loose ends and make sure that everything that was supposed to be deployed and picked up was completed as such, because there are a lot of changes and moving parts.”
One pharmaceutical company fleet manager who asked for anonymity agreed with Massey on the need for coordination among the various stakeholders involved in a fleet downsizing. The fleet manager said the human resources department at her company leads the collaboration between stakeholders during downsizing projects. This involves the return of company vehicles to the fleet department; the IT department working to return laptops from exiting employees; and the travel and expense department overseeing the return of corporate cards. The human resources department or a third-party close-out company oversees the return of pharmaceutical samples and sales literature from the drivers.
The anonymous fleet manager noted the importance of her fleet partners in the process, including the driveaway company and the vehicle remarketing company, which manages the pharmaceutical company’s employee vehicle purchase program with a website that employees can use to see if they are interested in purchasing any fleet vehicles due for replacement. If no one purchases a specific vehicle, the driveaway company goes through the entire pickup process with the driver.
Tips to Streamline the Vehicle-Return Process
Active reporting is a process Rasmussen recommends that companies employ as a way to streamline exiting employees’ vehicle return processes. Through active reporting, the parties involved report the status of a project at least once a week, and at times multiple times per week.
Rasmussen also recommends the use of close-out documents. He noted that close-out documents are more common in larger acquisitions, but fleets of all sizes could use some form of close-out document when a fleet driver leaves the company.
The document maps out the company’s expectations of the separating employee, such as how to handle drug samples in the case of a pharmaceutical employee. It might also specify how to handle return of IT equipment, remind an employee to make sure all of his or her personal belongings are out of the vehicle, or to leave the toll tag in the company vehicle. The document might also tell the employee whether the driveaway company will be picking up the vehicle.
“Again, communication is key, setting the expectations upfront and then proactively communicating to that separating employee. And as part of that communication, also providing them with the right contact information if they have questions,” Rasmussen said. “For questions around their company vehicle, and surrendering their vehicle, call the transporter. Have all that contact information there so they’re reaching directly out to the right person versus fishing around through human resources. Human resources is not always going to be the fastest path to the answer they’re seeking.”