Finding The Right Transportation Provider
One of the many challenges that corporate security professionals face is maintaining adequate security for their executives and other key personnel as they go about their daily business. Often times, these challenges are far greater when those folks are traveling beyond the umbrella of protection that has been established for them in and around their residence, their workplace and while moving between these familiar locations. But what happens when they are visiting an out-of state (or overseas) facility? Or attending a meeting in a city where the company has no presence? We’ve all heard the stories of executives getting in the wrong car at some unfamiliar airport or, worse yet, hailing a cab when they can’t seem to find the driver hired to take them to that meeting and, on more than one occasion, listened as a corporate pilot or personal assistant recounts how some executive was picked-up ramp side by some nefarious looking character in a vehicle that was better suited for the scrap pile than carrying passengers.
When issues like this arise, they aren’t necessarily the fault of the person who was responsible for arranging the transportation, though they often bear the brunt of it. Larger transportation companies often boast of how many cities they cover, when in reality they sub-contract a large portion of their work out to independent operators, especially in cities with low volumes of business. Now, with the advent of the internet and pre-packaged web sites it’s all too easy for someone, say the independent driver with a single twelve year old sedan, to portray themselves as something other than what they are, like a high end, professional car service with modern cars and equipment. Complacency also plays a part in some of the problems that arise with ground transportation, particularly in smaller companies as they tend to rely on vendors simply because they’re the ones they have always used, even though the company’s needs may have changed dramatically.
Today, finding the right transportation provider is becoming even more complicated as a shifting economy and negative media attention have raised the profile and increased the security risks for many corporations and their executives while, at the same time, budgets are being cut and cost saving measures are being implemented across the board. All of this places an even greater importance on ensuring that contract ground transportation providers are not the weak link in your security program and that your company is getting what it pays for.
Regardless of whether risk management (security) or cost effectiveness is the driving factor in the decision making process, given what’s at stake – the safety and security of some of the company’s valuable assets – the need for a formal vetting process for transportation providers has never been greater. When properly documented, the results of such a process will prove useful in identifying which provider truly offers the better value, as opposed to the best price.
The framework for a ground transportation provider vetting process, that has proven to be useful for corporate security decision makers and satisfies most basic due diligence requirements is outlined below.
1. Verify vendors financial standing through third party service (Dunn & Bradstreet, Hoover’s, etc.)
2. Verify vendor holds proper operating licenses – transportation, security or both – for all locales they will be providing service in.
3. Verify insurance (require that their broker provide ACORD certificates of insurance directly to you).
4. Establish contractual requirements for minimum coverage levels, require notification of any change in status or coverage
5. Check for and review current and past civil or criminal case filings in all locales where vendor operates – not just those where they will be servicing your account (use data mining service such as LexisNexis, Choicepoint, etc.)
6. Check with Better Business Bureau, or similar agency, for complaints in all locales where vendor operates – not just those where they will be servicing your account
7. Review vendors hiring practices (minimum qualifications, requisite experience etc. Require proof of compliance (i.e. sampling of documentation/credentials of new or recent hires as well as long term employees).
8. Review vendors training requirements (type of programs, frequency of training). Require proof of compliance (again, a sampling of documentation pertaining to current employees)
9. Review vendor’s maintenance and vehicle replacement program or policies, require proof of compliance (i.e. sampling of documentation for specific vehicles). For example, we are aware of at least one transportation provider that replaces all vehicles at 30K miles and has a strict maintenance schedule
10. Ensure vendor has capability to fully support your security needs (i.e. drivers with specialized security training – not just off-duty police officers) through client references and review of appropriate documentation
As with any other vetting process the operative phrase is “trust, but verify”. When it comes to documentation and references, you want to take every step possible to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of the information provided by contacting references directly, getting documentation directly from the source (i.e. the insurance broker), and establishing a contractual right to request further documentation, updated information or to perform periodic inspections, at your discretion.
While there is a lot to be said for dealing with larger, more established vendors there are some downsides as well (high turnover, less clout for your company, less emphasis on customer service, etc.) and if you happen to be in need of more specialized services – like experienced security drivers or drivers with BLS/AED certification, specially-equipped vehicles or the like – dealing with a smaller company with a shorter track record may be the only option available. If security is the deciding factor you may be best served by dealing with one of the few local or regional companies that provide a bona fide secure ground transportation service. Of course, regardless of how large or small the service providers business may be, a thorough vetting process will help guard against costly and embarrassing problems further down the road.
Joseph Autera is president of Tony Scotti’s Vehicle Dynamics Institute, a leading provider of training services related to mobile security – from driver training to educating security managers on best practices for planning and managing secure transportation operations. Prior to entering the training sector, Mr. Autera gained valuable experience as both an independent consultant and corporate security executive responsible for planning, directing, and participating in the conduct of threat detection mobile security operations in various high risk locales, ranging from South and Central America to Europe, as well as the Middle and Far East. His tenure in corporate security includes serving as the Director of Security for a multinational technology firm and later, as the Vice President of Global Security Services with one of the world’s leading providers of global risk mitigation and international crisis management services. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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