To meet the increased demand for product deliveries and transportation logistics driven by COVID-19, businesses have ramped up delivery driver hiring. Major enterprises that employ hundreds of thousands of drivers have a legal and ethical obligation to ensure the safety of these employees, contractors and the customers with which they may interact. Negligent enterprises expose themselves to significant financial, legal, safety and compliance risk, but when it comes to properly vetting these fleets, companies are struggling to keep up.
Responsibility for managing driver fleets often falls to vendor management and governance, or the logistics and supply chain divisions of companies. It’s common for these departments to lack clear and consistent processes for vetting fleets.
Yet standardizing methodologies for investigating and collecting relevant information on new drivers, and maintaining up-to-date information on those already hired or contracted, is critical for business continuity. While taking these steps may be costly and challenging to achieve at scale, failing to be a safe and compliant operator can leave your business open to unnecessary risk and financially crushing disruption.
When collecting data on new driver programs, corporate culture and individual company policies can impact the level of fleet vetting that is truly required. But it’s important at the outset to know who actually owns the fleet company, as the most valuable investigative information often comes from them. From there, organizations should always verify that the information an owner provides is accurate and true, and any conflicting information that may raise red flags.
Companies should review Department of Transportation records as well as civil and criminal records at the state and federal level, as drivers or contractors involved in litigation could reflect poorly on your brand. Consider reviewing media coverage, and complaints filed about fleet companies and individuals, as they can provide critical intelligence that might not be apparent in public records.
The implementation of technology that provides visibility into the associations a vendor or driver may have with non-compliant businesses or high-risk individuals is of equal importance. Flagging vendors who have previously tried to circumvent the screening process, or receiving real-time updates and notifications related to criminal activity or major traffic citations, can be the gating factors in driver or contractor hiring decisions.
Imagine you are an employer hiring a new contractor, and without doing the appropriate vetting, you hire a company that has committed fraud while operating under another name. On top of that, one of their employees driving your truck isn’t properly insured. The cost of investigating and terminating this contract, as well as any legal or settlement costs, are going to far outweigh the expense of conducting an initial onboarding assessment of the company. That’s why it’s necessary to address these issues proactively. For every bad operator that can be stopped at the gate, a company can save upward of $50,000-$100,000 per incident.
Because every employee or contractor is an extension of the brand itself, it’s imperative to choose the right people to represent your company values. When organizations fail to take proactive measures to evaluate their fleet owners and partners, it can be viewed as negligent. Deploying software that aggregates all pertinent information into one place so that vetting real-time data and concerning activities isn’t siloed, is key in assessing potential risks and threats.
Gone are the days of criminal background checks and driver DUI alerts. That’s no longer enough. Companies are reliant on their driver pools to ensure that the business can operate. Some report that if only 10% of their driver fleet were to be found unsuitable, they wouldn’t be able to operate and meet the needs and expectations of their customers. The failure to address security issues with driver fleets can mean major liability for your business continuity and brand reputation.
Ensuring the quality and actions of hundreds if not thousands of potential employees and contractors is a daunting task for any organization, let alone one that’s not equipped with the necessary technology to make this research effective. Organizations need an alerting mechanism that can proactively highlight changes in behavior, so that companies are aware of potential risks before they occur. This enhanced vetting process looks into a contractor or employee’s background from a different vantage point. These factors can be the differentiators when it comes to limiting liability and maintaining continuity of service when speed is essential.
E-commerce has shaken up last-mile logistics in ways no one could have ever predicted, and with the current pandemic, there’s even more pressure to ensure that packages are delivered quickly, carefully and safely. The vaccine distribution now underway is testimony to that. Whether it’s a full truckload or small parcel, the last leg of final delivery is the most challenging part of any shipment, and shippers and carriers must ensure the reliability and trustworthiness of their drivers in order to secure brand reputation.
Thomas Kopecky is co-founder and chief strategy officer of Ontic.
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