Managing the Financial Side of Commercial Fleets

Reducing Risk with Driver Assessment Program

November 2008, by Staff

PHOTO CREDIT: ISTOCKPHOTO.COM/DAMIR CUDIC

Sometimes, amid the day-to-day activities all fleet managers must face, it seems much of what is done is entirely reactive. "Closing the barn door after the horse gets out" can be frustrating and counter-productive; however, experienced fleet managers know actions can be taken to keep that door closed in the first place.

Giving an employee the keys to a company vehicle entails risk — the risk that he or she won’t operate the vehicle in a safe manner, take proper care of it, or follow company policy and procedure. Managing these risks begins before the driver is hired and is an ongoing process that can provide substantial savings and cost avoidance.

What Are the Risks?

The risks associated with the provision of company vehicles to employees go beyond legal issues. Before discussing what assessments can be performed, it is first necessary to define the risks. There are several categories under which they can be placed:

■ Financial. The most obvious risk (though not necessarily the most serious) is financial. Placing employees in a company asset costing tens of thousands of dollars, which generates thousands of dollars of expense during its time in service, carries with it substantial financial risk.

■ Safety. Not only the safety of the driver, but the safety of passengers and the general public is at stake every time a fleet driver gets behind the wheel.

■ Liability. Placing an employee in a company vehicle also places the company in a position of responsibility for all the driver’s actions. A company’s reputation in the community and industry is one of its most important assets.

Failure to properly assess these risks carries the potential for serious costs. The fleet manager is responsible for taking the necessary steps to mitigate them.

Managing risk begins before drivers are even hired and continues until the employee not only is no longer a driver (for whatever reason), but also until actions he or she may have taken have played themselves out to a conclusion. Everything an employee does while on the job (and sometimes when not) reflects upon the company. Many activities incur costs that can be controlled and, in some cases, eliminated if the fleet manager understands these risks and how to manage them.

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