LeasePlan USA’s Dan Shive: Confronting a National Driving Safety Epidemic

With respect to safe­ty, what are some of the the major issues fleets are con­fronting now?

There are two major safe­ty issues that I see fleets deal­ing with. One has to do with the vehi­cle itself; the opti­miza­tion of the vehi­cle and the opti­miza­tion of the dri­ver in that vehi­cle — how safe­ly the vehi­cle is being dri­ven. The sec­ond, clear­ly, has to do with the cell phone – prob­a­bly the biggest issue that all fleets and real­ly all of us as dri­vers and con­sumers are deal­ing with. I would say that the cell phone is a nation­al epi­dem­ic that is cre­at­ing a big prob­lem for all of us.

A num­ber of fleet man­agers have told us that they mere­ly advise their dri­vers to respect state law when it comes to using cell phones while dri­ving. What is your posi­tion on that?

It is a very loaded ques­tion in terms of state laws – whether they address hand-held or hands-free devices, or a com­plete ban. I think if you look at most of the infor­ma­tion and stud­ies out there, they indi­cate that the device is not the issue. It is the fact that you are on a phone call and that your cog­ni­tive dis­trac­tion is tak­ing over, ver­sus pay­ing atten­tion to dri­ving. That is real­ly the prob­lem; it is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the device. My gut feel­ing tells me that we are see­ing the pro­gres­sion of laws that first allowed hand-held, then hands-free, and even­tu­al­ly they will move to full cell phone bans.

Down the road, I think we will start to see even more tech­nol­o­gy that comes right out of the vehi­cle itself, as well as the cell phone, that real­ly does con­trol this. So, in oth­er words, I am say­ing that tech­nol­o­gy got us into this prob­lem; tech­nol­o­gy is like­ly to get us out of it.

Let’s talk about the tech­nol­o­gy that is going to get us out of this. Do you have a sense of what that is?

Right now there are a cou­ple of things. There is cell phone block­ing tech­nol­o­gy that will lit­er­al­ly stop your phone from being uti­lized while you are dri­ving. And there is such flex­i­bil­i­ty with these prod­ucts that they can lit­er­al­ly match it to your com­pa­ny pol­i­cy. If it is only for hands-free, they can set it so it is only usable dur­ing hands-free. They can block all calls, they can block text mes­sages, and block all emails. And then they can also white list these devices, as well, to allow only cer­tain phone calls that you want to get through. Some­times there is a need; I am not going to say there is not. What I would say is there is going to be a choice.

What is the cell phone pol­i­cy for the Lease­Plan dri­vers?

Our pol­i­cy at Lease­Plan is a com­plete cell phone ban. You are not allowed to use it for tex­ting, for email­ing, no inbound or out­bound calls what­so­ev­er while you are dri­ving a com­pa­ny vehi­cle.

Can you tell us how the pol­i­cy was received?

It was not an easy deci­sion. A lot of us became depen­dent on our devices while we are dri­ving. A lot of us saw it as an abil­i­ty to fill in down­time. Well, dri­ving is real­ly not down­time. Dri­ving requires you to pay atten­tion. It is impor­tant enough when you see the num­ber of fatal­i­ties and injuries and crash­es that occur every year to know that dri­ving real­ly isn’t down­time. We spent a lot of time try­ing to edu­cate our team on what that meant and how impor­tant their lives and safe­ty real­ly is. It is a slow adop­tion. What I would say to you is that our dri­vers make bet­ter deci­sions today.

Let’s talk about cor­po­rate safe­ty poli­cies. I have heard fleet man­agers say that they shy away from strict poli­cies because of enforce­ment issues.

It is an inter­est­ing issue – should I have a safe­ty pol­i­cy, and if I do and then if I don’t fol­low it, will I be found to be more neg­li­gent than if I didn’t have a pol­i­cy what­so­ev­er? Cer­tain­ly, it is a fine line. You can prob­a­bly speak to a thou­sand attor­neys and get a thou­sand dif­fer­ent answers. The real­i­ty is that as a com­pa­ny we have an oblig­a­tion to not only our employ­ees but our employ­ees’ fam­i­lies and to the gen­er­al cit­i­zens on the road. My opin­ion is that you are bet­ter off hav­ing a pol­i­cy and you should be doing every­thing you can to man­age that pol­i­cy. So, it is not just the writ­ten word, it is what you are doing then to adhere to it.

There are not enough safe­ty poli­cies out there still; there is not enough adher­ence, and I think there are a lot of peo­ple who have the pas­sion to do it but just may not have the courage to do it yet. What I would say to all of those folks is to go right to the top of your orga­ni­za­tion – your CEO, your pres­i­dent, your CFO, oth­er offi­cers of your com­pa­ny — and help them to become more aware of what is hap­pen­ing on our road­ways.

Dan.Shive@leaseplan.com

 

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