10 Ways to Increase Fleet Policy Compliance
A formal fleet policy document is the foundation on which any successful fleet management process is built. Writing it is one thing, getting drivers and others to follow it is very much another. Here are 10 ways to ensure they do.
There have been many changes in the fleet management industry over the past 50 or so years. Many are technological, many more are legal and regulatory, and certainly more are changes in vehicles managed. However, there is one item that hasn't changed; indeed, it is every bit as important today as it was when fleet management was in its infancy, if not more so - fleet policy.
It is simply impossible, and always has been, to properly manage a fleet without a well thought out, formal fleet policy document. Without it, drivers don't know what they can and can't do with a vehicle, managers don't know who qualifies for vehicle assignment and who doesn't, drivers don't know how to handle situations (accidents, breakdowns, registration renewals, etc.), and most importantly, the fleet manager doesn't have a basis for his or her authority.
Merely having a policy is one thing; enforcing driver and supervisor compliance is another. Here are 10 ways a fleet manager can ensure better compliance with fleet policy.
1. Keep It Simple
Simplicity is a cornerstone of any governing document; one only needs to compare the U.S. Constitution to that of the European Union.
First, it is important for the fleet manager to differentiate between policy and procedure. The former is what is to be done, the latter is how to do it. For example, fleet policy defines what will qualify an employee for company vehicle assignment. Procedure lays out how that vehicle will be acquired for assignment. Thus, a description of the vehicle ordering or replacement process, replete with forms, has no place in a written fleet policy. Here are the key components to include in a fleet policy:
■ Vehicle assignment, or which employees qualify for company vehicle assignment. This can be by job function, mileage, or compensation.
■ Replacement policy. How long are vehicles to be kept in service?
■ Personal use. Are drivers permitted to use vehicles for personal business, and if so, where can they drive, what expense (if any) will the company pay, and how is personal use charged to the employee? Also, are any non-employees permitted to drive the vehicle (e.g., family)?
■ Maintenance/repair. How are drivers to obtain preventive maintenance, repairs, and tires?
■ Safety. Include MVRs, safety training, accident review (chargeability), and consequences for chargeable accidents and violations.
■ Authority. What level of authority does the fleet manager have, i.e., to approve exceptions to policy?
A simple fleet policy document will in and of itself encourage a high level of compliance.
2. Get Senior Management Endorsement
If drivers, supervisors, and driver-function senior management believe the fleet manager (a department head) is the sole authority behind the policy, when exceptions are sought, they'll "pull rank" to get them approved. The classic, "She's our best salesperson," as a defense against consequences of safety policy violations is a good example.
Before fleet policy is even written, fleet managers are well advised to get an endorsement from as high up in the corporate hierarchy as possible. If, for example, the fleet manager reports ultimately up to the senior VP of operations, his or her endorsement should be the lowest level provided. Clearly, such an endorsement from the CEO or president is best. It can take the form of an introductory letter or statement from the supervisor.
It would be naïve to think that this endorsement might eliminate such exception requests or other non-compliance; however, you can be sure that it will cause managers and senior executives to think twice before trying to exert their own authority over a fleet manager.
3. Make It Available
In years past, fleet managers placed a hard copy of the corporate fleet policy in the glove compartment of each vehicle, either on paper or bound into a booklet. Today, technology enables the fleet manager to provide drivers with access to fleet policy 24/7/365, whether they're in the car or not.
Most companies have an Intranet site, a company website for employees. These sites provide information on a myriad of company benefits, policies, and procedures, not to mention company and employee news. If you can't get a specific page of that site dedicated to "all things fleet," at least get the policy document linked. Drivers can then access the policy via a laptop, desktop, or mobile device (e.g., BlackBerry, smart phone application, etc.). One can't comply with policy unless one knows what that policy is.
Include an "FAQ" section with answers. "When is my car replaced?" or "Can I drive to Canada on vacation?" are the types of policy questions that come up regularly, and drivers can see answers with the click of a mouse or tap of a touch screen.
A "How Do I...?" section is a good idea, too, with answers and links to procedural forms (e.g.,. "How do I order my new car?" with a link to the lessor's online ordering system). The more information you can make available to drivers, the greater their compliance will be, and you won't be inundated with questions that drivers can get answered online.
4. Keep It Updated
A fleet policy document is a "living" document; that is, many policy provisions are subject to change. A 36-month/75,000-mile replacement policy can become a 48-month/100,000-mile policy from one year to the next.
Unless drivers know of such changes, compliance will suffer. With the previously mentioned online policy site, updates are easy to make, and an e-mail blast to drivers and their supervisors can notify everyone of the change.
As soon as any policy changes are approved, drivers should be notified and any policy documents updated. Once again, technology makes this process simple and certainly drivers can only comply with a policy if they know what it is.
It has been said drivers know how to drive safely; they just forget when the time comes. The same can be applied to policy. Keeping policy compliance in front of drivers on a regular basis will help keep compliance with that policy at a high level.
Whenever possible, fleet managers should participate in driver communication. Sales and service organizations often hold weekly or monthly conference calls, where they go over their activities, are introduced to new products and services, and receive training. Fleet managers should request some time on these calls, time that can be used to remind drivers of items such as safety, but also to focus on fleet policy. Updates on policy changes can be reiterated on such calls, and a particular policy can be highlighted. For example, "Don't forget that your vehicle is to be replaced when it reaches 36 months in service, or 75,000 miles, whichever comes first."
Driver functions often have an annual meeting, where they go over the prior year's activity, present awards, and receive face-to-face training. Here again, a fleet manager should ask for time on the agenda to discuss the same items that they would on a conference call, but in greater depth, and answer questions.
Regular communication with drivers and their supervisors can keep policy compliance fresh on their minds and help reduce violations.