The operation of motor vehicles remains among the highest impact risks of public agencies. Collectively, the public sector operates nearly 3 million licensed vehicles; more than any other segment of the US economy. From patrol vehicles to fire trucks and specialized utility vehicles, these fleets are diverse, with unique uses and operational requirements. The risks associated with the use of vehicles continue to expand, particularly the increasing number of distractions present within vehicles. It is crucial to have a well-crafted fleet safety program to establish and reinforce best practices for the use of vehicles. A comprehensive fleet safety program should address the following areas:
The policy statement should address your unique operations and environment, as well as reinforce the commitment of management to the safety of drivers and the safe operation of motor vehicles.
Personal Use of Company Vehicles
Many organizations permit certain types of vehicles to be taken home to facilitate greater efficiency or as a benefit of employment. Rules should be outlined to clarify the personal use of vehicles for these employees, including permitted operators and passengers, deviations while commuting or any other territorial or mileage limitations. These rules should also specify when prior authorization is required to deviate from the rules, and how that might be obtained. In addition, company vehicles should not be used for the towing of personal trailers or for off-road or recreational use.
Use of Personal Vehicles on Company Business
When employees drive their personal vehicle on official business, their employer may be enjoined in any claims arising their negligent acts. Accordingly, they should be held to the same standards as those employees operating company vehicles. Employers should specify the minimum acceptable personal insurance requirements for these employees, and obtain evidence of the personal insurance limits purchased. Employers should also specify that when the employee is driving their personal vehicle on company business that they must still comply with the organizations fleet policy, including the use of electronic devices.
Use of Electronic Devices within Vehicles
While many public safety positions require the use of technology while driving, rules should specify when the use of these systems are permitted. For all other drivers, strong emphasis should be placed on minimizing distractions – pulling over to take urgent phone calls and waiting until the driver arrives at their destination of non-urgent matters. The use of laptops, tablets, radios, etc. should be limited to when the vehicle is stopped and safely out of the roadway.
Seat Belt Use
Reinforcing the importance of seat belt use is crucial. Annually, 47% of people killed in motor vehicle crashes were not wearing a seat belt. Your policy should clearly state this is a requirement to operate a motor vehicle.
Driver Selection and Qualification
Operators of company owned vehicles must have a current driver’s license for the class of vehicle being driven. A commercial driver’s (CDL) license must be required for all operators of commercial vehicles. Employees with suspended or revoked licenses should not operate vehicles at any time.
Motor Vehicle Reports (MVR’s) can be a valuable tool to ensure drivers have an acceptable driving history, however the timing of data being available on these reports can be problematic, often taking several weeks to be updated for the most severe violations (e.g. DUI, reckless driving), where mandatory court appearances are required. In most states, public agencies have free access to MVR reports, which can be continuously accessed and monitored. In Utah these reports are available through Utah Interactive. It is recommended to require that employees self-report any moving violations immediately to their supervisor, regardless of severity.
Scoring criteria should be included to designate drivers as acceptable or unacceptable based on the number and severity of moving violations. Examples of critera that would disqualify an employee from driving are as follows:
Driver fatigue is responsible for nearly 800 fatalities annually. Your policy should affirm that drivers should be alert, attentive and rested before driving. Drivers who may be fatigued or ill should not operate vehicles.
Use of Commercial Vehicles
Rules specific to the types of commercial vehicles that you operate should be included, including securing of equipment, covering of loads, towing of trailers, and use of specialized vehicles (e.g. Streetsweepers, garbage trucks, vacuum trucks).
The use of telematics to monitor fleet movements has increased significantly in recent years. The data collected through these systems may be a useful tool to identify areas for improvement and reinforce safe driving behaviors. Many telematic systems can provide alerts based on vehicle speed as well as acceleration, braking and cornering velocities. Alerts may be triggered when a vehicle leaves a designed geographic area, or moves during a specified time (e.g. a take home vehicle moving after work hours). Some systems also include forward facing and cab facing cameras, which can prove invaluable in the event of accident.
Training requirements should be established for new employees, including training for the specific vehicle(s) that will be operated, including a road test. Special emphasis should be placed on unique driving exposures, including driving at night, use of 15 passenger vans, or other extreme driving conditions. At least annually, all drivers should be required to complete refresher training as outlined by management.
Vehicle Maintenance and Inspections
Vehicle maintenance should be monitored, scheduled and documented by a designated employee within the organization. Employees should not be responsible for or directly perform vehicle maintenance. Pre-trip and post-trip inspections should also be completed and retained by management for all vehicles.
If an accident should occur, all vehicles should have a copy of the organization’s post-accident procedures. At minimum, the following steps should be included:
A formal process should be established to review the facts of the accident, determine if the accident was avoidable or unavoidable, and outline the corrective steps if an accident was avoidable. This review may be completed by a supervisor, manager, director of accident review board.