203 – Why Do You Need a Security Driver?

The topic for this week’s podcast episode is a question, why do you need a Security Driver?

A few years ago there was an article that appeared in Security Magazine, titled “What to Look for in Travel Security and Executive Protection Services.”  While the article may be old the content is still valid. The author concludes that while the Executive is traveling, having a security-trained driver is paramount to a successful executive protection program. As the author emphasizes in the article, the benefits of a security-trained driver extend well beyond their greater ability to utilize a vehicle’s performance capabilities, and we’ll add, particularly in unfamiliar locations far from home.

Listen to the Podcast

For example, properly-trained security drivers typically engage in pre-mission planning that helps them avoid risk in the first place. In addition, they may have access to ongoing oversight and threat monitoring tools that allow them to maintain situational awareness, even while driving. Those with medical training may be able to provide care to travelers experiencing emergency symptoms while on the road.

Beyond that, the way security drivers can support their executives’ time and productivity on the road should be considered as part of the organization’s broader asset protection program. For top executives, time is money – and that’s still true in the car. Because a security driver is better able to avoid disruptive situations, there are likely to be fewer distractions or interruptions in transit that could derail productivity or result in costly itinerary changes.

Selecting a Security-Trained Driver

The article goes on to say that there is no formal definition of “security-trained driver” that exists; there is no central governing body whose credentials you can trust to lead you to the right provider. A “Security-trained driver” could mean anything from a military veteran with 20+ years of relevant experience to a taxi driver who’s gone through a defensive driving program. 

We respectfully disagree with that comment. While the following may appear to be a marketing statement; it is a fact. 

There has been a standard accepted by the corporate Kidnap and Ransom Insurance (K&R) and the High-Net-Worth (HNW) community for more than four decades. It is called the 80% standard.

The Origin of the 80% Standard

Where did the 80% standard come from? In the mid-1970s, Scotti School clients wanted, actually demanded, that they receive an objective measurement of their employee’s driving skill. The goal was to produce a professional security driver who has been scientifically measured to an objective and documented standard. 

Just an aside here – for those who may not know the Scotti School was founded by Tony Scotti, who for close to 50 years has catered to the training needs of industry and public service agencies including governments, corporations, law enforcement agencies, and military organizations to avoid vehicle violence. 

The Scotti School studied the Society of Automotive Engineers, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), and NHTSA’s research to meet the demand. 

The School’s research created an understanding of how drivers make decisions in emergencies and how long it takes them to make those decisions. The Scotti School found that these organizations created minimum standards, based on the laws of physics, for measuring driving skill and, therefore, survivability in an emergency scenario.

Studies conducted by the Society of Automotive Engineers indicated that the average driver when confronted with an emergency, can only use 40% of the vehicle’s capability before relinquishing control of the vehicle. 

This does not mean a driver necessarily loses control; it means the driver can no longer put the vehicle where they want. We would add when looking at the “average driver,” the 40% to 55% number is maybe a bit optimistic. 

Minimum Standards Not Sufficient

The Scotti School decided that to perform the duties of a professional security driver, these minimum standards were not sufficient.

The School’s on-track testing showed that at the 40% mark, the vehicle becomes non-linear, which in turn creates driver anxiety (fear). They also found that once the driver was at the 40% usage of the vehicle, there remained much more vehicle capacity available for the driver to use. After a considerable amount of testing and evaluating, they decided that a good driver should be able to use a minimum of 80% of the vehicle’s capability in the three modes of vehicle operation and in a measured minimum amount of time and space to be considered for employment as a principal’s driver—hence the 80% standard. 

Read more on the origin of the 80% standard in the Science of Security Driving.

Chauffeur or Security Driver

The question that many Security Drivers and Secure Transportation providers have heard – “Why do I need a Security Driver – Why can’t we use a chauffeur service?” Or – why can’t we use an Uber or Lyft car?

Listen to an episode on Chauffeur vs. Security Driver

Good question and as a professional security driver or secure transportation provider you need a good answer.

Ground transportation can be riskier than most executives and those planning their travel realize, and security drivers should offer much more than chauffeurs. While technical driving expertise is essential, it merely scratches the surface of the value a specialized security driver can provide.

A good chauffeur is concerned about not spilling the boss’s coffee and avoiding bumps. Generally, chauffeurs can handle routine emergencies if they happen slowly. This has nothing in common with the skills needed for a trained security driver. 

Security drivers are very aware of the environment and are always prepared to drive out of a problem using the full potential of the vehicle’s capability. This is guaranteed to spill coffee. It also saves lives. 

Becoming a Good Security Driver

Your mother or even the local police may be impressed that you have a valid driver’s license or that you have been driving for twenty years, but these are not qualifications for being a good security driver. Virtually all of the skills needed for high-performance driving can be learned. 

Knowing the Threat is Key

The most critical skill is learning to recognize trouble and stay out of threatening situations. For an executive, the most dangerous area is near the home. That means that the Executive’s driver must know what is normal in the neighborhood and be able to quickly recognize any unusual situations. The most critical thing to recognize is the presence of surveillance. This may be the only clue in many cases that an attack is being planned. 

Even though it makes sense to avoid danger by understanding the threat, many drivers do not employ effective surveillance detection skills or have a basic knowledge of threats. It is critical to begin the security driver’s work well before getting behind the wheel. This includes working closely with corporate security and executive assistants to keep updated on threats to the executive, changes in the corporation, and the general image of the organization. 

Background work to identify and contain threats is much more effective than last-minute offensive driving to get out of a tight spot. If a driver spends significant amounts of time with the executive, she bears an even greater responsibility for the executive’s welfare. This situation requires even more work with security to define threats and avoid them.

Security skills include defensive driving, but the most memorable training involves offensive driving. Even though few security drivers use in their training ramming or pursuit, driving these sorts of high adrenaline activities makes an impression. In fact, making an impression on a student is what a good driving school must do. 

Out of Control

A security driver has absolutely no control over several critical factors in executive security. The first is where the Executive lives. Only in unusual cases such as high threat overseas assignments will the executive home be chosen by security personnel. The Executive’s neighborhood may be on a dead-end street, an apartment building, or near a busy highway. All require different approaches to avoid the problems that threaten the Executive. 

Weather and traffic are also out of the control of the security driver. They affect the general security environment and may allow threats such as ambushes to become more of a problem than they would be on “optimal weather” days. These variables must be part of a security driver’s thinking and need to be part of overall contingency planning. 

Ex-Law Enforcement Officers make good Security Drivers

Because they are naturally suspicious of people and circumstances, former police officers make good security drivers. They have been trained and conditioned to observe their environment and have generally been prepared for some of the driving situations that security drivers may encounter. 

A significant change of strategy is necessary for the transition from “To Protect and Serve” to being concerned about the person in the back seat. Good security drivers do not think about apprehending anyone; they are expected to drive away from the dangers, not confront them. Police officers that are able to leave their egos behind do well in the driver’s seat. 

All drivers must have good driving skills and physical capabilities. Since physiological changes occur with age, making drivers less effective, it is critical to test basic vision, hearing, and reactions for all security drivers. Additionally, measure night vision for security drivers over the age of forty. At the age of fifty-five, peripheral vision should be added to the annual physical. 

Even a driver in good physical condition can become a liability if fatigue is present. This is especially a factor in city driving. Overtime pay may lure drivers into working longer than they should, but eight-hour shifts should be the rule. A tired driver may only be able to operate the vehicle void of all of the security aspects of his job. A very tired driver may not even be able to handle basic driving tasks.

Medical Emergencies

Most executives won’t be kidnapped, but many will face medical emergencies of some sort while traveling. The obvious requirement for security drivers is knowledge of medical facilities along any given route. This does not just involve knowing the address of a hospital. Specific information on the nearest trauma centers, emergency rooms, fire stations, and outpatient facilities should be at hand. Knowing the direct line to an emergency room can save valuable minutes for a seriously ill or wounded executive. 

A sensitive issue that is not normally addressed involves medical background information for the executive. Sharing medical history information with security drivers improves the survival probability for an executive, but it is not common for “just a driver” to know about the boss’s chronic illness. If a medical emergency does occur or if an accident threatens the life of an executive, a driver’s medical knowledge can be a lifesaver. 

Watch out for the Tax Man

The Internal Revenue Service looks for opportunities to tax corporate compensation, and executive protection can become a problem in this area if it is not handled properly. Imagine the difficulties associated with an unexpected $100,000 tax bill for the CEO. It is possible if the salary of a security driver and other related expenses are considered executive compensation. In a 40% tax bracket, the personal income tax on several years’ protection can easily reach astronomical amounts. 

It is crucial to employ an independent professional to study corporate security needs to avoid this problem. The study should be based on objective facts and circumstances. If security threats require a trained security driver and vehicle for the company’s benefit, the IRS should not tax the Executive who also benefits. 

Dealing with Executive Objections

Whenever there is a change in an executive’s lifestyle, expect a problem. This is especially true for security where there is no direct link to corporate profits. If the CEO must have a security driver expect that the change will be resisted. The same security survey that was done to justify the expenses to the IRS may be helpful in convincing management of the need. 

One approach to the subject might be to explain the need for a proactive approach in terms of the other parts of the organization. No good manager would wait for a disaster to make changes in manufacturing, accounting, or marketing. The same is true in security. Spending an effort and some money upfront can produce significant results in the future. 

Join the International Security Driver Association

The International Security Driver Association (ISDA) is the only organization in the world dedicated to supporting the advancement of professional Security Drivers and other Secure Transportation providers.

Learn more about who we are, what we do, who we do it for, and member benefits; visit ISDACenter.Org.

Leave a Reply