Hand the keys to a safe driver

Businesses are expected to put safe drivers behind the wheel. Most business owners are aware of this expectation and strive to meet it. This article provides tips and best practices for fleet safety, which always starts with the driver.

Have a formalized hiring process

Best practices for fleet safety start with doing the homework up front. Institute a formal, written hiring process in order to screen out unsafe drivers before they become unsafe employees.

Start by checking driving records before hire

An individual’s driving record – aka Motor Vehicle Record or MVR – can tell a lot about driving habits. Consider checking MVRs:

  • Before hiring new drivers
  • Before re-hiring a past employee
  • Before using any temporary drivers or any owner-operators;
  • And on an ongoing basis for all drivers (ex: semi-annually, annually etc.)

MVRs are available at low costs to employers, either as a standalone purchase or as part of a more comprehensive background check. Note that laws may require certain authorizations, disclosures and other notifications as part of the background check/pre-hire screening process.

MVRs, insurability and corporate policy

Many auto insurance companies, in an effort to avoid insuring high-risk drivers, have MVR standards. Drivers with unacceptable MVRs can cause insurers to surcharge premiums, exclude a driver from coverage, or even cancel the insurance policy.

Most standard commercial auto insurers follow a similar set of MVR guidelines. For example, most will look back at the past three years of driving history, and most follow similar standards. A DUI will often disqualify a driver, whereas most insurers will look past a single, minor speeding ticket.

Many businesses incorporate their insurer’s MVR standards into their own policy and procedures manual, so as to maintain consistency with their insurance program.

Once a policy is in place, employees should be made aware of any MVR standards – a written acknowledgement from the employee is advised. Some employers include a provision that requires employees to immediately inform management of any material changes in the status of their driver license or in the event of any incident that would violate corporate MVR standards.

More tips for evaluating driver safety

Some employers include pre-hire driving tests as part of the interview process. Others include a probationary period that includes ride-alongs, where a seasoned driver accompanies the new hire as a passenger for a period of time in order to evaluate the new employee’s performance.

Many businesses have taken advantage of emerging technologies in the Vehicle Telematics industry. Through GPS technology, telematics allow vehicles to be monitored for location, speed and even driver behavior. Telematics systems can be used to evaluate/monitor unauthorized vehicle usage, mileage, fuel costs and more.

Other useful technologies include mounted camera systems that can simultaneously record both inside and outside a vehicle. Recordings can be accessed following accidents or even after sharp movements of the vehicle.

Next steps

Remember to do your homework before you hire. Whether your business has formalized fleet safety policies in place or not, consider a review with a safety consultant, HR professional and/or insurance agent.

This article was also published in the Elburn Chamber of Commerce December 2014 newsletter.