Corporate, Chauffeuring, COVID-19, Waiting, and Auto Hold

I think, for the most part, those working overseas would say I have had it easy, and they would be right. Most of what I have been doing for two months is a lot of – sit around and wait. Let’s start with a quick backstory. For over 25 years, this company has had a corporate driver, but it has only been in the last three years after relocating, and a new CEO did they consider a security component to it. The Global Security Director hired me, a retired peace officer, as a sort of go-between.

I can fill both positions reasonably well and have done so for the past three years. It’s a lean operating machine as Global Security protects the assets of the company, and I transport the Executives while providing a layer of personal protection during transports and at HQ and at various off-site locations

I wouldn’t consider myself a full-time PPS, but it seems to work pretty well as we operate in a relatively low-risk environment. Once COVID hit, our business operations definitely changed. The company is involved in several projects that are deemed essential by the Federal Government. In fact, shortly after the stay at home orders came out, our Legal department defined my position as essential. From virtual town hall meetings the Executive Leadership Team has had with employees of the company, our project output was the same the first two weeks of the stay at home order as it was for the two weeks leading up to the stay at home order. I thought that was pretty impressive, but rarely do I concern myself with the company operations because frankly, that is not my job. Hopefully, I know enough to carry on an intelligent conversation while transporting our executives or sometimes our clients, but honestly, that happens quite infrequently.

The problem with my job and COVID is that the transports have dwindled down to maybe one a week if I’m lucky. There is a company-wide travel ban, and many of the executives do not have a primary residence at HQ. I go into the office once or twice a week now to do an expense report, wash the SUV, or transport packages to the CEO. 98% of our workforce (globally) is attempting to work from home as much as possible. Sure, I am getting paid (which is a lot better than some), but now there is a lot of downtime at the house. I’m a worker bee and not working is killing me. I try to keep up on Linked In, view Active Self Protection Videos, and credible YouTube videos dealing with protective transports, fighting from a vehicle, and working on situational awareness. That only takes me so far during the day. Obviously exercise is on schedule, but again, that only takes you so far in the day.

The one positive from all this is that I got the new company leased SUV during this time. We switched from a three-year-old Yukon Denali to a Lincoln Navigator, and the downtime has allowed me to familiarize myself with all the technological features in advance before picking up Executives. There are A LOT of advanced features. Overall it was a step in the right direction. It is definitely more luxurious inside the vehicle, but I am not sure the driving dynamics are better. Maybe not worse, but definitely different. This brings me to the last topic of this article – Auto Hold.

What is it, and does it have a place in security driving? Auto Hold is a switchable feature you can turn on in the Navigator. Once you come to a complete stop, you can let your foot off the brake, and the car will stay in gear but stopped. The Denali did not have this feature. It is great in traffic or in the drive-thru. When you need to go, just press on the accelerator.

It is probably my most favorite feature of the new SUV, well maybe besides the massage seats. Here is the rub, for auto hold to engage, the seat belt must be on for the driver. Now I definitely see the rationale in this, but for security drivers doing transports, this is really not a workable solution. I don’t know about others, but I do A LOT of sit and around and wait for the principal to arrive. Now, if they are at a meeting or dinner, the SUV is parked, the engine is off, and I wait. Doors are locked all the time, whether I am in or out of the SUV. The problem is waiting for the principal to get in the vehicle, especially if waiting in a public area which, as we know, is a transitional space and where bad things happen.

I wait with the SUV in gear and foot on the brake. Again, doors are always locked. If I need to move quickly, I don’t want to waste time putting the SUV in gear. This now takes longer as the gear selector is no longer on a stalk by the steering wheel, as was typical for the GM SUVs. Auto Hold can’t be enacted because my seat belt is not on. My seat belt is not on in case I need to egress the SUV (after putting it in park), or I need to draw my weapon. It goes back to my old patrol days of arriving on a hot call – I taught recruits to take the seat belt off prior to arrival for their safety. Lincoln almost got it right, in my opinion.

As always, drive safe and be aware of your environment. Awareness buys you time, and time buys you options.

You can contact Chris on LinkedIn