(L-R) Judith Jones, director of Administrative Services; Sherry Clay, fleet administrator 1; Chuck Kukal, supervisor, Fleet, Mail Center, and Administrative Services; and Beverly Williams, fleet administrator II, stand with a branded Jeep Patriot LTD.

(L-R) Judith Jones, director of Administrative Services; Sherry Clay, fleet administrator 1; Chuck Kukal, supervisor, Fleet, Mail Center, and Administrative Services; and Beverly Williams, fleet administrator II, stand with a branded Jeep Patriot LTD.

Like many companies operating today, Infinity Property & Casualty Corporation started small. The company began doing business in 1955 as Dixie Insurance Company and served one client in eastern Alabama. In the intervening years, the company grew significantly and currently serves clients in 43 states — now ranking among the top 50 property and casualty insurance companies within the United States, according to the Ward Group.

Today, Infinity operates as a nonstandard personal auto insurer and is the second-largest writer of nonstandard auto insurance in the U.S., according to the company. As a provider of nonstandard insurance, the company supplies coverage to drivers who represent higher-than-normal risks due to driving record, age, or vehicle type. Products are available to customers through a network of more than 12,900 independent agencies and brokers with approximately 16,200 locations.

Employing more than 1,900 people, Infinity’s financial strength is impressive. The company’s revenues for 2011 exceeded $1 billion, and it recently ranked fourth in the Top 15 Insurance Stocks within A.M. Best Indexes, and A.M. Best recently reaffirmed Infinity’s Financial Strength Rating and Issuer Credit Rating of “A” (Excellent).

Based in Birmingham, Ala., Infinity seeks to serve others by supporting the life choices of its customers and its people by developing and successfully marketing innovative products that meet the insurance needs of its customers, and by investing in and rewarding those who work for Infinity.

Vehicle Fleet Helps Meet Infinity’s Company Mission
A part of Infinity’s success falls squarely at the feet of its field adjusters, marketing reps, business development personnel, insurance fraud investigators, operational support staff, and tow truck drivers. These Infinity associates utilize 544 fleet vehicles to serve customers.
Infinity requirements for vehicle eligibility include:

■ At least 21 years old.
■ Pre-hire background check, including MVR if the position requires a fleet vehicle.
■ A monthly minimum of 1,000 miles driving on company business. (Personal use is also allowed.)
■ Review of spouse’s MVR prior to spousal use of vehicle.

Vehicles are mostly leased and include: Jeep Patriot LTD, Dodge Grand Caravan, Chrysler Town and Country, and Ram 5500 tow trucks, which are directly managed by Chuck Kukal, supervisor, Fleet, Mail Center, and Administrative Services; Sherry Clay, fleet administrator I, Administrative Services; and Beverly Williams, fleet administrator II, Administrative Services. Additional fleet staff includes Bo Cupps, assistant vice president of Administrative Services, and Judith Jones, director of Administrative Services.

The fleet department’s mission and philosophies include providing the means to do the business of claims adjusting and business development, present Infinity’s image in the community, and do its part to enhance its corporate goals and initiatives.

“Our two fleet administrators, Sherry and Beverly, take an active role in communicating with all levels of management concerning policy and budgetary issues,” Kukal said. “Fleet is an integral part of our corporate structure, providing support to our Claims and Business Development departments.”

Fifteen-year fleet veteran Kukal has varied responsibilities, including meeting with fleet administrators, the director of Administrative Services, and assistant vice president of Administrative Services on all things related to fleet. He also reviews fleet incidents/accidents, signs off on assignments of fleet vehicles, and reviews and signs off on driver and spouse MVRs.

“I also interact with OEM reps and leasing company personnel and supervise two mail centers and other Administrative Services personnel,” he added. “The fleet team also partners with our Claims and Business Development personnel and vehicle upfitters, as well as networking with our fellow industry associates by membership in the Automotive Fleet & Leasing Association (AFLA) and contacts with the publications and personnel of Bobit Business Media.”

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Fleet Financials Stay in Line
When assessing the company’s fleet financials, the fleet team always looks to increase its OEM incentives and fuel card rebates, and improve areas that would increase its return on investment when units cycle out. “By selecting a better vehicle model, i.e., an LTD instead of a base model, we are seeing a better return,” Kukal pointed out. “The ROI for our previous cycle brought a return of more than $1.8 million. We will pass the $1-million return on our current cycle.”

The fleet team works very closely with senior executives in Claims and Business Development to keep financials in line with the growing demands they are currently seeing, always taking into consideration and focusing on corporate goals.

Best Practices Produce ROI
The Infinity fleet also stays in line with financials, thanks to the implementation of best practice policies and procedures, including vehicle cycling, better vehicle sustainability, and driver training.

The fleet has cut maintenance costs by cycling out units every two years. It also operates vehicles that get better MPGs and produce a higher return on investment. “We select a fleet unit that meets the EPA’s SmartWay criteria for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions and is climate neutral because we have purchased equal renewable energy off-set credits for our total fleet emissions,” Cupps said.

According to Cupps, who manages real estate, purchasing, and fleet for Infinity and has been in the fleet industry for more than 25 years, since implementing changing driver behavior into the fleet’s safety and risk management program, the company has seen an overall reduction in at-fault accidents over the past several years, which are less than 10 percent of the total fleet units.

Included in the company’s Fleet Safety and Risk Management Program is an online driver training program. Also, annual MVRs are run on all drivers of company-provided fleet vehicles and reviewed by the fleet supervisor, as well as HR and the company’s fleet insurance carrier.

Industry standards have shown these elements to be best practices, according to Clay, whose daily responsibilities include partnering with Infinity’s fleet management company, Donlen, and its driver safety vendor, AlertDriving.

With more than six years in the fleet industry, Clay ensures each driver completes the online safety driving program each year. She also maintains records of personal and business miles for each fleet driver.

“The driver training modules from AlertDriving Sonic E-Learning are required of all fleet drivers, as well as approved spouses, allowing drivers to be safer, thereby reducing fuel spend and maintenance costs,” Clay said.

Each driver must complete two training modules to receive a Certificate of Completion. This past year, the fleet team had 100-percent completion by all drivers. The team has the same goal for 2012 as well.

“We assign an additional training module relating to the cause of an accident to any driver that has an at-fault accident,” Clay added.

Safe-Driving Policies and Technology a Priority
Other key policies and procedures include a ban on handheld cell phone use, a no-texting policy while operating a company-provided vehicle, and a bimonthly personal-use deduction from driver paychecks to help offset the cost of maintenance and fuel generated by personal use.

“All driver complaints are documented and sent to the driver’s manager and HR,” Williams said. “Managers must then follow up with the driver and report back to fleet administration and HR. Follow-up contact with the complainant is also made.”

With more than 12 years of experience in the fleet industry, Williams’ role on the team includes assigning fleet vehicles, maintaining records of all unassigned fleet vehicles per state, maintaining files for each fleet vehicle, assisting with accidents involving fleet drivers, ordering fleet vehicles as needed, e-billing of fleet invoices, and keeping files on driver complaints and citations/violations.

The fleet team also conducts regular conference calls with field offices and managers to go over fleet policies and procedures and participates in new-hire training classes for claims adjusters and business development personnel.

“We focus on what they need to know about fleet and their responsibilities as a fleet driver,” Williams stated. “All of these initiatives have been well received. By having these personal contacts with our fleet drivers, we have seen a greater willingness on the part of our drivers to keep up with fleet policies and procedures.”

Another key component within the Infinity fleet is in-vehicle technology that aids fleet drivers with their work on the road. All fleet vehicles come equipped with hands-free Uconnect navigation and Bluetooth technology, which allows drivers to be more productive and efficient in handling claims. Adjusters are more productive in their appointments by obtaining the most direct and cost-effective routes.

Vehicles are also equipped with an 800-watt power inverter, which enables drivers to power laptops and other mobile services. The fleet team has also provided an ergonomically correct laptop desk to those fleet drivers who request one.

Green Initiatives Lead to Lower Fuel Costs and Higher MPG
In 2006, Infinity began a sustainability initiative by moving from a V-6 SUV to a four-cylinder unit. The result: an immediate reduction in fuel costs and an increase in miles per gallon.

Switching from a six-cylinder Jeep Liberty to a four-cylinder Jeep Compass allowed Infinity’s fleet mpg to increase from 16 in the Liberty to an average of 22.9 with the Compass, and now with the new 2012 Jeep Patriot, which has a combined mpg of 25.5.

The AlertDriving training modules further allowed the company to increase its average mpg and reduce GHG emissions, as the training focused on changing driver habits concerning speeding, fast starts, idling, and hard braking. And, from 2006 to 2011, GHG emissions declined from 5,223 metric tons to 2,223 due to lower mpg. Fuel consumption also dropped by 115,033 gallons, saving $225,000 during that same time period.

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The company also began the purchase of renewable energy offsets, which equaled the calculated GHG emissions of the total fleet, and since that time, the fleet has been designated as “climate neutral.” Stickers showing this designation are displayed on each Patriot rear hatch door.
In fact, according to Kukal, who has represented and presented Infinity’s green fleet initiatives at the Power of Green Fleet Symposium, as well as served on panel presentations at several Green Fleet Conferences produced by Bobit Business Media (publisher of Fleet Financials), Infinity fleet was the first fleet in the insurance industry to be designated as climate neutral by investing in renewable energy projects to offset its GHG emissions.

“As a company, we recognize our global responsibility to seek better ways of conserving our natural resources and reducing our environmental footprint,” he said.

When the fleet team originally implemented its green initiatives, it took a very detailed and comprehensive approach that included:
Creating a green fleet mission statement, a part of which states: “Fleet Administration wants to encourage all our employees, fleet drivers, and their families to recognize and do their part in our efforts to reduce the production of GHG emissions by obeying the speed limit when driving, turning their vehicle off when not in use, and driving in a safe, courteous manner, thus setting an example for ourselves, our clients, and our industry.”

Goals include:
■ Developing a broad array of goals and methods to achieve those goals.
■ Quantifying its goals by calculating fleet GHG emissions.
■ Communicating by publicizing, both internally and externally, the green fleet policy, its goals, and implementation.
■ Recording ongoing progress and evaluating that progress.

Kukal said it is important to be transparent to all involved, including investors, vendors, and stakeholders.

Infinity Emphasizes Better, Safer & Greener Driving
Twenty-five-year fleet veteran Jones, assists Cupps with real estate projects and manages and coordinates the activities of personnel in purchasing, fleet administration, production mail, mail centers, facilities, and the receptionist area.

Jones had the following to say about Infinity’s fleet: “We believe that by emphasizing better, safer, and greener driving habits in our fleet drivers, we have seen a big reduction in at-fault accidents, as well as lower fuel and maintenance costs,” she said. “We have been fortunate in that we have had buy-in and support from our CEO, CFO, and management executives at all levels within the company.”

Jones pointed out that the company’s corporate sustainability vision goes beyond fleet.

“We recycle paper, cardboard, aluminum cans, plastic bottles, cell phones, and toner cartridges within our office locations,” she said. “We deal with vendors who offer recycled products and partner with the federally funded program CommuteSmart, where employees are encouraged to walk, bike, carpool, and vanpool to work.”

Infinity also has built LEED certified facilities and implemented many energy-efficient and cost-saving measures throughout its facilities, as well as recently instituted a program where employees who don’t have a home recycling program are able to bring recyclables from home and put them in a collection bin at work.

The company’s original climate-neutral efforts included reducing annual fleet operating costs by 10 percent, improving fuel economy by 25 percent, and reducing GHG emissions by 16 percent. Only two years after implementing its carbon offsets and in-house green practices, Infinity met all of these goals.

“We have seen maintenance and fuel costs reduced, and we have also seen a change in our attitudes toward reclaiming and recycling on personal and individual levels,” Kukal stated.

Fleet to Continue Seeking Greener, More Efficient Operations
Infinity plans to continually seek better ways of increasing its opportunities to be greener and more efficient in its fleet operations by maintaining a positive balance between corporate needs and providing a vehicle that gets higher gasoline mileage.

“It is always exciting and challenging to be ‘in the mix’ with regards to staying on top of what transpires in the fleet industry,” Cupps said. “We never rule out incorporating new technologies and vehicles into our fleet, but only after we have done due diligence by earnest study and research of the pros and cons of that technology or vehicle.” FF

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