Help Protect Your Municipality With a Fleet Safety Program

Firetruck and police car

For any municipality with vehicle operations, a formal written fleet program is one of the most valuable tools available to managers. Driver safety is paramount, and statistics from recent years highlight the importance of risk management. In 2023, commercial auto losses spiked to their highest level since 2017, with a net combined ratio of 110.2. In the third quarter alone, the incurred loss ratio was the highest in over 15 years. For commercial multi-peril lines, that number is forecast to be the highest since 2011. 

Why is a Fleet Safety Program important?

When implemented and maintained with care, a comprehensive fleet program can help reduce accidents and promote a culture of safety. It can ultimately enable everyone in the organization, especially first responders, to comfortably focus on maximizing performance. This applies to owned and leased fleets, commercial and non-commercial vehicles, and employees driving personal vehicles for daily operations. 

What are the Most Important Elements of a Fleet Safety Program? 

Whether developing a new program or looking to improve one that already exists, help enhance your program with tips in four key areas that should be included in any formidable program:


A fleet program is only as strong as the drivers behind the wheel. For law enforcement agencies and fire departments with many vehicles on the road, effective managers can position their programs for success before any road activity by selecting the right employees. To assist in making intelligent hiring decisions, all drivers should be required to complete a thorough documented pre-employment screening process. In addition to standard practices, like written applications with references, in-person interviews, and experience requirements, mandatory screening procedures should include the following:

  • Criminal background checks: A minimum state-level name check with a three-year history is required, but an FBI fingerprint check with a 10-year history is ideal.
  • Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) check: Obtain an individual’s driving record from the state DMV or registry of motor vehicles that contains details, such as traffic citations, vehicular crimes, accidents, DUI convictions, and points on the driver’s license.
  • Drug/Alcohol testing: In addition to sample testing with a verified negative result, obtain a minimum three-year violation history to view results from previous employer(s).
  • Medical/Physical check: Verify applicants have the physical ability to meet the demands of safely operating the specific vehicle/equipment, especially if loading/unloading is required.

All four of the measures listed above should be completed through reputable vendors. Ideally, MVR checks should also occur annually post-employment to reveal potential infractions obtained during employment when the driver is not in a company vehicle. Drug/Alcohol testing should also occur post-employment, especially under reasonable suspicion and after an accident. Managers and supervisors can also benefit from completing drug/alcohol awareness courses, which help prepare them to better identify, investigate, and navigate substance abuse issues in the workplace. 


After selecting the right people for the job, drivers can only perform as well as their abilities and preparation. Managers can strengthen both qualities with robust onboarding regiments for new drivers that include mandatory training, ideally both in the classroom and on the job. Proper onboarding can also reduce the time and costs associated with getting new hires on the road.  

For classroom training, many reputable driver safety companies offer extensive training options, both in-person and virtually. Topics may include defensive/distracted driving, speed and space management, backing and docking, night driving, bad weather practices, road rage, and loading/unloading. Consider more extensive training requirements for employees with minimal experience.

For on-the-job training, a road test is ideal, where a seasoned employee observes and documents a new hire’s performance behind the wheel as part of the approval process. This is the ultimate way to highlight what cannot be conveyed on paper about a potential employee’s driving behavior. Suggested areas of evaluation may include navigating intersections, passing, turning, reversing, parking, and pre/post-trip inspection. Establish specific metrics for each area of evaluation and an overall passing score.

Government agencies also benefit from mandatory “in-house” training courses that focus on safety information specific to their unique operations or their local geography and demographics. Since driver safety issues are constantly emerging and changing, both formal training and “in-house” training should occur at least annually post-employment to ensure drivers stay up to date with the latest trends and concerns.   

Collisions and On-The-Road Incidents

When accidents occur, they do not have to be viewed solely as a loss. Having the right procedures in place can allow accidents to become learning experiences, and to eventually yield best practices.

There are two main components to effective accident protocol: reaction and review.

Drivers and immediate supervisors need a set of steps to react quickly in the immediate aftermath of a collision. This can maximize safety and minimize liability during a stressful situation. Training requirements should include instructions for what to do in the event of a collision. Directors need a formal collision review program to adequately obtain accurate information from what can often be complicated scenarios. This can allow the organization to salvage pertinent information and use it to inform new best practices that can prevent or mitigate similar events from happening again. Managers and supervisors should meet routinely to review incidents, and policy reviews should occur at regular intervals.  


An increasing trend in fleet management is improving safety through new technology, specifically telematics, which is the use of GPS/OBD to monitor vehicles and equipment. A growing number of companies offer various forms of easy-to-install hardware that provides real-time tracking of location, ignition on/off, speed and acceleration, braking, stop time, and more. Additional newer technologies seeing a growth in usage include vehicle cameras (dashcams) and collision avoidance systems. Dashcams provide valuable evidence in the event of an accident or incident, and they also detect common driving distractions, like eating/drinking, mobile device usage, smoking, fatigue, lack of focus, and more. Collision avoidance systems come in various forms, including warnings for blind spots, cross traffic, forward collision, lane departure, and pedestrians.

With additional technologies emerging in areas, like the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and augmented reality, forward-thinking organizations will continue to experiment with new products to enhance fleet safety. 

Additional Notes

Fleet safety programs for public works can be challenging. It requires vigilance and dedication to maintain a program that will adequately service the public. The strength of yours will depend on those in charge of administering it. Designate competent and accountable employees who can be entrusted to craft it with the values of the agency in mind as it evolves and to react swiftly to a rapidly changing landscape of safety issues.

Consider procedures for formal review and discipline for applicants and drivers who commit an infraction, fail a drug/alcohol test, etc. Every municipality is different. Some may have a zero-tolerance policy, and others may have varying levels of openness to employees continuing in their employment. For the latter, organizations should develop a set matrix for how and when employees can return, likely involving a minimum of completing a driver improvement course. 

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