Driver Record Monitoring: Why should it be important to every district?
Colleen Shaw (Courtesy of the EmergencyGrapevine.com)
INTRODUCTION: Fire Departments have had their share of
bad press surrounding alcohol in the last year. While individual fire
districts determine whether alcohol on their premises is permissible, a
growing accountability is being fostered in stations nationwide.
Firefighters with DWI/DUI arrests are of concern to every fire district.
Management is often not aware of past convictions, or arrests, and can
be unpleasantly surprised when a departmental accident occurs.
Recent newspaper accounts show that alcohol is a significant problem
both on, and off, the job. In the first 6 months of 2004, New York
Firefighters have logged 26 DWI/DUI arrests, compared to the prior
year&rsquos total of 27.
There is one very important reason to request that your firefighters
have clean driving records and that is liability. Imagine that a
firefighter with a past history of DWI drives a company vehicle or fire
truck, and is responsible for a fatal accident. To complete the police
report, the firefighter driver&rsquos license record is requested and
shows two previous DWI convictions. It is not hard to imagine the
negligent liability claims, the publicity targeting the District
management, the Fire Commission Board, and the cost of the legal awards.
Last December, the mayor of
Albuquerque, New Mexico stood before the press and addressed the public
disclosure of a firefighter with 11 DWI arrests. Publicly embarrassed,
the mayor announced a zero-tolerance policy and an annual background
check for all public safety employees &ndash the Fire Department, Police
Department, and the City Department of Corrections. Once hired,
employees were asked to report any citations or law enforcement arrests
to management. In this case, the employee had only reported two of his
convictions to his manager. Though driving for the department was not a
part of his employment, the two convictions signaled a problem to
management. Upon closer review of his current driving record, the other
arrests were discovered and the story went public. If current news is an
indication of the trend, some firefighters are not reporting arrests and
convictions &ndash thereby putting management, city staff, Fire District
Boards, and the community in very precarious positions. Ongoing driver
record monitoring can be a critical additional service for departments
to consider. Protecting employees, volunteers, the city, county, or
state is a serious responsibility for Fire management and left
unattended can lead to grave consequences.
Could Your Agency/Management be Found &ldquoNegligent&rdquo?
In a recent case, the Bureau of Indian Affairs was found guilty of negligence.
A government employee was in a work vehicle, had consumed 2x the state
alcohol limit, and crashed into oncoming interstate traffic, resulting
in 4 fatalities. The final awards were based on &ldquomanagement
negligence&rdquo and cost the Bureau of Indian Affairs a total of 4
million dollars. Management was not aware that their employee had 9
previous DUI/DWI arrests.
The high-profile fatal accident in Newcastle, Wyoming highlights the
need to monitor every employee. A volunteer firefighter, with an unknown
recent DWI, responded to a call. He was the driver of the fire truck and
was intoxicated at 2X the alcohol state limit. A rollover occurred and a
16 year-old intern firefighter was killed. In December 2003, that
volunteer firefighter was sentenced to 14-18 years in prison. Could the
department management be found negligent?
Hiring practices for employees and volunteers
departments vary in their hiring practices. Larger departments with
dedicated human resource personnel will do full background checks on
applicants. Smaller departments often require a minimum check of a
current driver&rsquos license record and a Department of Justice
criminal record. These processes are not standardized and departments
vary in their efforts and budgets are always a consideration. Based on
the hiring discrepancies between agencies, liability exposure can be
significant. Add a volunteer pool of firefighters, with no background
reviews, and the department could have serious liability exposure.
Monthly Monitoring of Driving Records
employee driving record monitoring ensures the additional protection
against negligent claims. By reviewing driving records more frequently,
you can take action &ndash before serious accidents occur. Monthly
monitoring, combined with a concise Human Resource personnel policy that
clearly defines the action managers must take when employees have
serious driving infractions and DWI convictions, reduces legal exposure.
Is Governmental Immunity Guaranteed?
In the past,
government departments have been immune from legal liability. Not so
anymore. Current trials clearly indicate that government agencies are
now being held accountable, and governmental immunity is not guaranteed.
The National Association for Security Dealers quotes that since 1994,
plaintiff claims have increased 266%, and punitive damage claims 360%.
Multimillion-dollar settlements are being awarded because government
employees are being found negligent in the management of their employees.
Are you responsible to &ldquoknow&rdquo the driving status of your employees?
If you ask an employee, or volunteer, to drive a vehicle
(company/government-owned, or a personal vehicle on company business),
you must exercise reasonably prudent care to check their driver&rsquos
license. Do you think an initial hiring review of your firefighters
driving record is adequate? Do you have veteran firefighters that have
not had their records checked since initial employment? Do you think an
annual review gives you adequate protection? It is important to know the
current license status of your employees and volunteers.
SAMBA FleetWatch&trade: Driver record monitoring
FleetWatch is a monthly online driver monitoring service. The reports
highlight invalid drivers, recent citation activity, and drivers that
have current and upcoming license renewals. Each month management
automatically receives the FleetWatch report delivered straight to the
desktop. Reports include a monthly summary of citation activity and are
quick and easy to read. The streamlined reports show only drivers with
record activity. All other drivers are hidden from view.
The SAMBA FleetWatch Report includes:
* INVALID DRIVER REPORT: lists revoked, suspended and cancelled licenses
* CITATION REPORT: lists all new driver activity for every driver in your fleet
* RENEWAL REPORT: lists current and license renewal dates
If you see an employee with a questionable citation, or you need more
information to evaluate your employee, the full Motor Vehicle Record can
be immediately purchased, from your desktop, through the FleetWatch MVR
Manager. SAMBA provides 90 day free archiving for all reports and
records for easy access and quick retrieval. Extended archiving is
The schedule of reports is based on state record availability. For more
information on the driver monitoring service available in your state,
please call (505) 797.2622, press option 3, or email
SAMBA has delivered millions of motor vehicle records to hundreds of
leading businesses and government agencies.
What do you think?
ABOUT THE WRITER: Colleen Shaw is the Marketing
Director for SAMBA in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is committed to
changing DWI statistics through education and awareness. Through her
writing she reinforces the belief that knowledge is power and through
education, significant change can be made. Collen can be reached by