Many people who are returning, or are new to the Lab, may not know that the Facilities Division has a fleet of more than 160 vehicles that are used throughout all divisions, for business use both on and off site. Only Lab employees can drive a fleet vehicle, and they must possess a valid U.S. driver’s license to drive one.
Elements spoke with Heather Pinto, the division’s fleet and contracted services manager, about changes that have been introduced to fleet services and specifically about vehicle safety.
Elements: What things do Lab employees need to know before driving a fleet car?
Heather Pinto: First, we have updated our fleet website with a whole lot more information about fleet safety. There you can also read how to request a vehicle, how to maintain it, how to fuel it, how to report accidents, and there’s a link to all our policies and procedures. We also have a special section for Vehicle Custodians outlining their responsibilities and with links to helpful tools for them.
Our vehicles are leased by the GSA (U.S. General Service Administration) and are for official business use only. And anyone who drives a government vehicle, whether it’s a sedan, or a work truck, or a Gem, should familiarize themselves with our website because there are a lot of great resources there, in particular, for people who aren’t familiar with driving electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles.
Elements: What’s the top concerns about car safety at the Lab sites?
Pinto: Speeding is a big concern. The speed limit at the main site is 15 mph and has been for quite some time. I know 15 mph can be hard to do – it feels like you’re just inching along – but it is our speed limit and it’s really important that people adhere to it whether in a fleet car or a personal car. Another concern is that people need to pay attention, especially with our hybrid and electric vehicles because they don’t emit the engine noise we’re used to hearing from gasoline-powered cars so they can be difficult to hear coming down the road. You know, the Lab site roads are tight and our parking spaces are sometimes narrow, so it can be difficult to maneuver. If you’re trying to park and you’re not sure if the car is going to fit, put the vehicle in park and get out to look before you try, or get a spotter, or find a different place to park. People should just be aware of their surroundings when they’re driving any vehicle on site but especially a fleet vehicle,
Elements: What should people do if they get into an accident with a fleet car?
Pinto: If you hit a post, or even if it’s just a little ding, that should be reported to us at accidentreport.lbl.gov. Even if you don’t know how the damage occurred, you need to report it immediately. The majority of our vehicles are leased from GSA and we have requirements to keep them in good working condition, with the car body intact. Reporting helps us identify damage and get it repaired so it doesn’t get worse, and it’s a DOE requirement.