Weeding out the bad drivers, before hiring them on, is a must for today’s fleet managers.
While we often think of driver safety as something that happens when an employee gets behind the wheel, fleets managers who are serious about limiting accidents and preventing injuries need to think of the bigger safety picture long before one of their drivers puts the key into a company car’s ignition.
“It starts with having a rigorous screening policy and process in place that you can consistently apply to every person who is considered for a position in your organization,” explains Rich Radi, Director, Product Management, ARI. “You need to have a clear understanding of what you’re looking for in an employee or driver, and the skills and abilities they’ll need for that specific job.”
Besides the basics, like making sure the applicant has a valid driver’s licence and the proper class of licence for the vehicle they’ll be driving, ARI also recommends a drug test, medical information, and pulling a driver record to look for infractions, a revoked licence, drunk driving, etc.
“Depending on the situation,” Radi adds, “you might also want to conduct a driving assessment, especially if they’re going to be driving a larger vehicle. If they don’t have experience with a specific vehicle it’s critical that you have a solid onboarding program for that driver. You want to have a driver training program that will show them how they can drive that vehicle safely.”
Once the driver has been assessed and their weaknesses have been defined, Radi recommends a training program that is personalized to address their specific needs. “With generic training, especially about driver safety, people can check out and stop paying attention rather easily,” he explains. “Everyone thinks they know how to drive, so assessing their skills, determining where they need to improve, and then customizing the training to deal with those areas will help to keep them engaged.”
After assessing their driving skills, you want them to realize where they fall short, as well as how the training you’re providing will help them improve in those specific areas.
“If you can assess their skills before hiring them, that’s great,” Radi adds, “but if not, then that’s definitely an area you need to address after bringing them on board.
Radi warns fleets of the risks they take on when hiring someone with serious infractions on their driving record. “It takes a lot of discipline to stick to your company’s policy sometimes when dealing with red flags like drunk driving or a suspended licence on someone’s record,” he says. “You may have someone who would be a great asset to your company, but three years ago they had a DUI (driving under the influence). You might want to bring them on – and they might end up being a great driver – but the reality is that if they get into a crash, and someone is injured, you’re going to get sued and the attorney will say, “Why did you hire that person? You knew they had a DUI three years ago?” So is that the kind of risk you want to take on?
DIY driver research
While pulling a potential new employee’s driving record may seem line a no-brainer, David Thornton, Vice President Sales & Client Services, LeasePlan Canada says that some fleets don’t take that very basic step when screening their new hires.
“Too many fleets don’t even bother doing it,” Thornton says. “Or they go through the whole interview process, hire the person, and say, ‘Oh… now I need your motor vehicle record (MVR).’”
At a bare minimum, Thornton recommends pulling the driving record for your top candidates. “The reason why I specify you pull it, or you have your FMC (fleet management company) pull it, is because I actually ran into an incident where the driver presented his driving record, they hired him, and then when they went to go pull his real one a year later, it turned out he had faked it. He had doctored his MVR. Today’s technology makes it easy for anybody to provide fraudulent information, so you definitely pull it yourself.”
Grounds for dismissal
While driving infractions may in theory be grounds for dismissal, in the real world firing a person for a less than stellar driving record may be more difficult than it sounds. “I know of instances where an organization had their top performing person with something as bad as a [driving under the influence charge] on their record, and the manager didn’t want to get rid of that person because they were a real asset,” Thornton explains. “And so you might not terminate right away, but you would definitely get that person the help they need.”
Thornton warns fleet managers not to try to handle these situations on their own, however. “If something pops up, you go straight to Human Resources,” he adds.
Affordable telematics solutions
One of the tools fleet managers can use to monitor and change their drivers’ behaviours is telematics. “Once you know you’re being monitored, you change your behaviour,” he says. “But it can be costly, so that’s why a lot of fleets don’t necessarily jump straight into telematics.”
The affordable telematics alternative, Thornton explains, is a smartphone app, like Mentor, which gives you a driving score every time you start and stop your car. It tracks whether you touched your phone, how many times you used your phone while in the vehicle, whether you were speeding, if you were cornering hard, etc. “It can do a lot of the things telematics can do, but for a lot cheaper,” he adds.
Apps like Mentor will send a report to management to let them know how well drivers are performing. While not a full-blown telematics solution, these smartphone apps can provide fleet managers with the insight and data they need to monitor driver behaviour.
Screening drivers, training them, and monitoring their behaviour doesn’t need to be a labour-intensive and expensive undertaking. It does, however, require fleet managers to plan ahead, follow best practices, and stay on top of things before questionable behaviour gets out of hand.