Establishing a cell phone policy

Every company needs to have its own policy for managing distracted driving, says Christian Schenk, vice president-product marketing for Xata Turnpike

“Every company needs to have its own policy for managing distracted driving,” says Christian Schenk, vice president-product marketing for Xata Turnpike. “Technology alone can't solve the problem. You need to get buy-in from your drivers.”

Data on the relationship between solid, enforceable policies and fleet safety support Schenk's view, which is shared by others across the mobile communications industry. A study by the Network of Employees for Traffic Safety (NETS), for instance, found that the companies with the best safety records had enacted total bans on cell phone usage (handheld or hands-free) and had strong policies, including termination, for employees who violated them.

Creating such a policy is not always easy, however. ZoomSafer, a provider of mobile phone control and tracking technology, offers a list on its website (www.zoomsafer.com) of steps for fleets to take as they begin, including:

  • Review details surrounding prior crashes to see if cell phone usage was a contributing factor.

  • Identify the types of technologies and the types of applications employee drivers regularly use.

  • Review existing policies for the use of these technologies, especially to see if mobile phone use is actually required to meet performance expectations.

  • Identify how your company communicates its “acceptable use” policies to employees.

  • Check with your insurance carrier about possible discounts for using technology to manage in-vehicle cell phone use.

  • Identify your state's legal statutes and restrictions regarding technology use while driving.

  • Identify federal regulatory requirements and restrictions that might apply to your company.

The NETS study also offers additional policy development pointers, including:

  • Make sure you create a policy, not guidelines.

  • Make sure the policy language is clear.

  • Expect contractors to abide by the same rules as your own employees and make sure they have signed off on the policy.

There are other suggestions that might also be added to this list:

  • Listen to what your drivers have to say about how mobile devices are used in their daily work and give them the opportunity to participate in setting enforceable standards.

  • Build notification, training and retraining requirements for employees right into your cell phone usage policy, along with a procedure for documenting that each employee has received that policy notification and training and understands its implications.

  • If you are gathering cell phone usage data, it is important to also review and react to that data in a timely fashion and be able to document that you did so.

  • Include requirements in the policy that apply not only to drivers, but to those who monitor and supervise their on-road performance and have responsibility for providing coaching or disciplinary action.

  • Make sure you spell out the consequences of noncompliance and then stick to them.

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