By Mike Antich
It is these procedures and regulations that determine thetypes of fleet each of us operates and its characteristics. Think about it. Bycreating policy such as to who is eligible for a company vehicle, you are, in effect,determining the size of your fleet. In my discussions with fleet managementcompanies over the years, they tell me that the best managed fleets tend to bethose that adhere to a written fleet policy.
Fleet policy is crucial and it should be part of eachcompany’s business strategy. Every affected department should be involved inthe process of creating fleet policy. However, it is the fleet manager whoshould manage the policy creation process.
Once a policy is established, it is your responsibility tocommunicate these policies to your drivers. Each of your drivers should knowthe rules governing the use of a company vehicle and what actions will be takenfor non-compliance. A common problem is that the fleet manager communicatespolicy to the drivers’ managers, but the word doesn’t gets down to theindividual drivers. To avoid this problem, many companies teach policies andprocedures regarding company vehicles as part of the new employee orientationand provide printed fleet policy manuals with each fleet vehicle.
The Danger of Policy Exceptions
When dealing with driver-related problems, the last thing you want to do iscreate a new problem in the course of resolving one. The surest way to do so isto make an exception to your company’s vehicle usage policy. It is extremelyimportant that the rules governing the withdrawal of a company vehicleprivilege be uniformly enforced for all employees.
You should not set precedent by allowing exceptions. If yourcompany becomes embroiled in litigation involving a company vehicle because ofa problem driver, these exceptions and prior policy precedents can be usedagainst you. The most carefully developed policy can be torn to shreds by aprecedent-setting exception, which could be used to accuse you and your companyof negligent entrustment and/or negligent retention.
No policy can anticipate all possibilities, but consistencyin dealing with all the drivers assigned company vehicles at differentlocations is essential. To accomplish this, it is crucial for senior managementto give the fleet manager the appropriate authority to address non-complianceby drivers and those departments’ assigned vehicles. This will go a long waytoward reducing and sometimes eliminating driver compliance issues.
The fleet manager must have the authority and backing ofupper management to address a driver’s inability to operate and maintain anassigned vehicle. This authority allows the fleet manager to address violationsof fleet policy without approval or direction from upper management. Iflitigation occurs, the first thing an attorney is going to ask is to reviewyour company vehicle policy.
With this in mind, it is critical that a fleet manager makessure all drivers uniformly adhere to company fleet policy. There should be noexceptions to your company vehicle policies. This simple rule will make yourjob a lot easier and may save you from a lot of potential grief.
Let me know what you think.