“Caring for the world, one person at a time...” That’s the ethos at Johnson & Johnson and it’s applied across the board, including for its company car drivers.

Nearly two decades ago the health care company recognised its duty of care to its fleet drivers and took action to implement its SAFE Fleet Program, which educates and trains employees about safe driving techniques and injury prevention strategies.

Since SAFE Fleet was first introduced in 1994, the company’s crashes per million miles driven (CPMM) rate has decreased by 37% globally – and that’s despite the fact that the number of company cars and the mileage driven has increased by over 100% during that time.

And, far from resting on its laurels, the company has set new internal performance targets for SAFE Fleet as part of its five-year sustainability goals and is looking to achieve a target of 4.90 as a global CPM rate by 2015.

Helped by such strong success results, Johnson & Johnson’s SAFE Fleet Program has earned much recognition, including equipping the company to become a “business champion” under the Driving for Better Business scheme run in the UK by RoadSafe.

And it has also led to Johnson & Johnson being awarded the prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award for the company’s long-standing commitment to road safety. Commenting on the company’s achievements, HRH Prince Michael of Kent GCVO said: ‘The need for enhanced road safety is one of the most intractable of world problems and I applaud the company as a fine example to the private sector of what can be done to address this global endemic.’


The fundamentals of the SAFE Fleet Program

The SAFE Fleet Program was initially introduced in North America and subsequently rolled out in the firm’s three other operating regions – Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific. It now covers over 30,000 company car drivers across over 100 country and franchise level teams in Johnson & Johnson’s three divisions: Medical Devices and Diagnostics, Pharmaceuticals and Consumer.

‘The goal of SAFE Fleet is to ensure that our drivers around the world return home safely at the end of each day – to their benefit and the benefit of their families and communities,’ says Alex Gorsky, the company’s vice chairman, executive committee, and also the executive sponsor of SAFE Fleet.  

As well as having Mr Gorsky’s support, the programme is managed by one regional manager of fleet safety for Europe, Middle East & Africa, for Latin America and Caribbean and one director level responsible for Asia Pacific. Within each region there are also high-level executive champions who support the programme and provide assistance when needed.

It’s a structure that Gabriel Kardos, who is the SAFE fleet manager covering Europe, Middle East and Africa, would advocate to other fleets looking to implement a pan-European road risk safety programme.

When asked about his advice for such fleets, Mr Kardos says: ‘The first thing that I’d recommend that is that they adopt a senior champion of the programme within the company – whether that’s the CEO or another high-level member – to really help them drive the message through.’

He adds: ‘The next step is to develop a strong set of policies around driver fatigue, around alcohol and drug use, around seatbelt use etc. Around many of the issues, such as tiredness, it’s very important that you have reporting – you can’t manage what you can’t measure – so accurate definitions need to be in place on a global basis and making sure that the reporting is accurate to those definitions is very important because once you start measuring your results, it’s much easier to develop your programmes around the metrics.’

Under the Johnson & Johnson worldwide fleet safety policy, drivers are required to abide by standards covering areas such as mobile phones and hand-held electronic devices; motor vehicle operation, which covers the driver’s licence, alcohol/drug use and alertness amongst other areas; new hire eligibility and driver requirements, which includes a review of employees’ motor vehicle driving records; and Major Driving Events: Classification and Remedies, which ensures that drivers who have been in a crash receive appropriate training and coaching that will improve their driving skills, attitudes and behaviour.



But it’s not just the assessments of drivers but also the audits of the entire programme that are vital. As Mr Kardos says, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and the global teams are audited on five key elements – executive management, field management, core systems, support systems and results – which have been distilled from the six sigma business management strategy.

These five elements are now reviewed using a new internal audit system to provide global benchmarking. And according to Mr Kardos, this was a prime factor in Johnson & Johnson being chosen for the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award.

He explains: ‘We have a new online system globally where all of our SAFE fleet teams and all of our countries are required to do a self-assessment of the five programme elements that we look at each year. That self-assessment turns in a yearly action plan, which gets signed by the management in each of the countries.

‘What will happen is myself and each of the other three regional managers/directors will do a formal assessment of the team every three years. And this is entirely an online system  – you can upload best practices so that teams around the world can see what other teams are doing in terms of best practices that we, as assessors, actually upload after the formal assessment.

‘So this is the first time we have a global consistent way of auditing the teams and making sure they’re implementing the five elements of our programme.’

Johnson & Johnson has also launched a global online training tool this year – described as an “e-university” by Mr Kardos – so that drivers can access all of the company’s road safety tools electronically. This includes new recruits – who are expected to undertake driver training within 90 days of joining – with Johnson & Johnson then able to access the portal to see who’s complete the training.

This is also tied up with the company’s data on crashes –which is published quarterly on a global and regional level – to ensure a targeted approach to road risk.

Mr Kardos explains: ‘If we know that in one year we had x-type of parking accidents, then we will cover that in following years, using communications and training to cover all those areas where we were having the problems. We try to keep them short and concise because our sales people don’t have a lot of time so we use three-minute surveys, short flashes, five-point quizzes, addressing the topics that we find from our data.’

He also says that the development of online tools has been important in helping to reach different borders: ‘The beauty of that is that they’re all translatable into the various languages.

However, he adds that there will always be regional variations that can’t be eliminated but can be addressed.

‘There’s a lot of variations and that’s the beauty of Johnson & Johnson – it’s a very diversified company. We’re doing business and selling products in over a hundred countries. We have two-wheelers in Asia-Pacific that sales reps are using for example so that’s a very unique area and we have different training programmes in place. And language, religion and culture are also a challenge that we overcome. We address those issues very well within Johnson & Johnson.

‘We have quarterly reporting so we know exactly worldwide, regionally every quarter what types of crashes we’re having – we don’t call them accidents anymore, we call them crashes because “accidents” seems to imply there’s nothing the driver could have done about it but actually 90% of crashes are preventable. And then there’s an executive dashboard that comes out from our top champion every quarter – with the data – saying that this is what we need to focus on this quarter.’



Of course, none of this can be achieved without the support of the drivers but Mr Kardos says this has not been an issue: ‘Driver buy-in comes on its own because people feel honoured to work for a company that really cares for their health and safety like Johnson & Johnson. When we have new hires for example, they are required to go for behind-the-wheel training, preferably within 90 days of hire. So they are introduced to SAFE Fleet right from day one when they start the business. They know it’s important to Johnson & Johnson. They are required to sign off on our fleet safety standards and policies that they’ve received and then read them.

‘It’s good for the reputation for the company because the drivers think: “What a great company I’m coming to work for if they’re putting me through behind-the-wheel training and they care for my health and safety.”’

So does the company use “carrots and sticks” to incentivise and penalise drivers? ‘Yes, there are both. We do have “carrots and sticks” and that’s left up to the cultures and the companies to do the recognition. In many countries some employees may get a bonus for safe driving or they may be required to pay the deductible after the second accident – it’s also punishment. We leave that up to the companies.

‘But in general the message is not about the money, it’s about the people and our SAFE Fleet logo even has “SAFE Fleet – caring about people”. That’s the number one message that we try to communicate to our employees.’

Included within these elements is a focus on the broader community within which the Johnson & Johnson companies operate. This focus forms part of the company’s “credo”. Written by General Robert Wood Johnson, one of Johnson & Johnson’s founders, in 1943 this company blueprint sets out that the customer should come first, the employee second, community third and stockholder last – and as a result many of the SAFE Fleet Program teams do outreach work on fleet safety with their communities.

There are multiple benefits of such an approach, as Mr Kardos explains: ‘[Some] companies put the profits first but General Johnson believed that if your customers are satisfied, you treat your employees with dignity and respect, and you give back to the community in which you work then the money will come on its own.’

He adds: ‘For us, safety has never been a priority, it’s been a value, because priorities change year to year in an organisation, so if we treat safety as a value it’s really sending a different message.’