Fleet Safety Officers’ goal is to educate

The driver of the small City of Edmonton flatbed utility truck must have had a panic attack when he saw Fleet Safety Officer Steve Pedersen standing in the middle of 95th Street, waving him over.

Steve and fellow officer Melissa Emery had just finished lunch and were returning to their Westwood headquarters when stopped on the roadside, watching for a heavy City truck short-cutting on a non-truck route.

Within minutes, they flagged the utility truck over and, after talking to the driver and inspecting his load, they found four violations: failure to wear a seat belt, incomplete paperwork, insecure load and a wheel that had not been brought into the City’s Fleet Services shops for a re-torque within the required time.

“He’ll get a demerit on his City of Edmonton driving permit for the seat belt, and his supervisor will be informed of all of the infractions,” says Steve.

As he and Melissa speak to the driver, their tone is supportive and educational, rather than critical and punishment-focused.

“We’re not the internal City Police,” says Steve. “Our main goal is to keep City and EPCOR drivers safe, and to prevent collisions from happening. The best way to do that is to educate,” he says.

Fleet Safety Officers Steve Pedersen and Melissa Emery discuss the four infractions they discovered when they stopped this driver on 95th Street.
Fleet Safety Officers Steve Pedersen and Melissa Emery discuss the four infractions they discovered when they stopped this driver on 95th Street.

Steve starts his day with an informal information-sharing meeting of fellow Fleet Safety staff, followed by a sometimes-futile attempt to catch up on the paperwork side of collisions he’s investigating. He’s often interrupted by walk-in City employees who report a minor collision involving a City vehicle.

Officers are required to complete written reports for each and every incident they investigate, whether it’s a small one or a very serious injury incident.

“Serious ones must be documented thoroughly in case of future legal action by either a third party, or the City or EPCOR (to recover costs),” he says.

Most Fleet Safety officers come from a law enforcement background. Steve served 17 years before joining the City as a highly qualified collision investigator and reconstructionist.

In his van, he carries laser survey equipment for taking precise measurements at a collision scene, a high quality camera to record the scene (day or night), and a case jam-packed with a variety of cords to connect his computer to vehicle ‘black boxes’ which provide him with an amazing array of information to help reconstruct what happened.

“Those little boxes can tell us anything from basic speed at the time of the collision, to acceleration, braking, the angle of the front wheels, the severity of the collision, driver’s seat position and a whole lot more. They’re very helpful,” he says.

Officers must file reports and collect evidence of even the smallest incidents in which a City vehicle is damaged. This car had a faint smudge on a fender.

Steve has investigated some serious vehicle-pedestrian collisions in which he has taken more than 200 precise distance measurements and even laser-surveyed driver sightlines to determine blind spots.

His computer’s full of highly complex applications that use his measurements and observations to paint a vivid picture of how the collision occurred.

Another major Fleet Safety focus is making sure the City complies with the National Safety Code, which applies to any vehicle weighing more than 4,500 kilograms.

That code also runs into the hundreds of pages, covering as it does everything from weights and dimensions, dangerous goods, cargo securement, preventive maintenance, accurate recordkeeping, hours of service and lots more!

“The Code is enforced by the provincial government and various law enforcement agencies,” says Melissa. “The province does periodic audits of commercial carriers to ensure compliance with the Code, and in the worst case, they can suspend or terminate the fleet’s ability to operate a fleet.

“It’s serious business, because it all comes down to ensuring public safety,” she says, pointing out that provincial fines for non-compliance can cost a driver nearly $800 and possibly a court appearance.

Fleet Safety officers are on duty or on call 24 hours a day, year-round.