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Fleet Guidelines and Safe Driving Revisited

Posted 4/1/2019

By R. Bruce Wright, CPCU

Fleet guidelines and safe driving have been discussed in past issues of this newsletter many times.

However, a couple of recent comments during loss prevention consultation visits got me thinking again about fleet use guidelines and how they can help to avoid unnecessary losses for utilities.

In one case, my contact mentioned that they had rules, but that the GM didn’t seem to think the rules applied to him. In the other, I was following up on a formal recommendation offered at a previous visit to a client, one that suggested that they look at beefing up what was a rather brief and limited fleet policy, spelling out the rules and expectations for the use of company vehicles. My contact there said his management wanted to keep the vague policy so that they could be flexible.  

Our usual suggestion is that everyone who may drive a company vehicle should be provided with a written copy of the policies on vehicle use for their review and reference. Such a policy should cover at least the following areas:

  • Requirements on daily safety inspections prior to the vehicles leaving the base.
  • A requirement for the employee to obey all driver safety laws and traffic regulations. 
  • Backing safety requirements such as using spotters in large units during backing maneuvers.  
  • The rules for use of company vehicles, at work & elsewhere, especially if permitted at home, 
  • Your policy regarding use of vehicles for vacation or extra curricular work. (We recommend banning such use.)
  • A list of items you wish to prohibit from vehicles: firearms, alcohol, drugs, or radar detectors.
  • Your policy on cell phone use, both company and personal phones, while driving. (We recommend an outright ban on all texting and on all personal cell phone use while driving company vehicles. Company phone use is more difficult to ban, although it is the best practice to do so. You may require the use of hands free devices, as is frequently required now in many jurisdictions, and/or require that the driver find a safe place to pull off the road if cell phone use is necessary.)
  • Your policy on transporting non-work passengers, including family members.
  • Any requirements you have for protection of the vehicle while it is in control of the driver. For example, you may want to require that the vehicle be parked under cover (not usually practical for buckets) or you may want a vehicle to be locked when parked.
  • Who may drive company vehicles: employees, family members, other permittees? (Best practices are to allow only employees to drive except in unusual situations.) 

By providing written policies you eliminate any misunderstandings that may arise when oral instructions are used, and provide employees with a clear description of your expectations. If, as was mentioned above, management objects to rules limiting the ability to be flexible, it is worth remembering that exceptions to the policy may be made when they make good business sense, and are approved by those you choose to designate, and a statement to that effect can even be included within the policy statement itself. 

Finally, as I have said to many folks I have visited over the years, you can talk about rules until you are blue in the face, but it can all be undone in an instant if a top manager is seen violating the rules. Also known as the “Do as I say, not as I do,” effect, this is just one more example of how company culture starts at the top. 

Ed. Note- Prior articles related to this topic can be found at  Vehicle Use Policies & Learning From  Experience and at Distracted Drivers are Dangerous Drivers - Hurtado & Associates