If not for a major lifestyle balance decision she made two years ago, City of Edmonton Fleet Safety Officer Melissa Emery could well have become Canadian manager for a huge, international courier firm.
“My 13 years with the company started as a driver while I was getting my business degree. After graduation, I stayed on and ended up managing branches in Calgary, Winnipeg and Regina, and working in Germany, Denmark and Sweden before I was posted to manage Edmonton,” she says.
“Four years later, my children were starting kindergarten and elementary school, and I was in line for another transfer and likely a promotion.
“I realized I needed a much more stable life, so I joined the City’s Fleet Services Branch.”
Melissa’s courier corporation experience was perfect training for her job’s safety focus. Not only does the company have an exemplary defensive driving program, but it rewarded her statistical analysis approach to finding operational safety weaknesses and fixing them with training.
Training City of Edmonton and Epcor drivers, particularly those operating nearly 1,300 vehicles with gross vehicle weights of 4,500 kg or more, is a big part of the Edmonton’s five fleet safety officers’ jobs.
Melissa’s a high-energy teacher – “everything I’ve ever done, I’ve done passionately,” she says. “I’ve trained lots of people, and it’s always fascinating – everyone’s different.”
Training focuses on the National Safety Code, involving federal/provincial regulations ranging from recorded daily vehicle ‘walk-around’ inspections to mechanical condition and load securement.
Stakes for drivers are huge. Even failing to sign a daily vehicle inspection report can mean a $230 fine.
Fleet Services’ safety officers also attend approximately 1,200 events involving damage to City vehicles annually – the majority being minor ‘dings’ caused, for example, by a driver not doing a walk-around and therefore being unaware of a nearby pole or parked car.
“Unsafe behaviour escalates into far more serious problems, so we try to use all events as learning opportunities that leave the driver more aware of preventing similar events in the future,” she says. That’s also the principle behind the City’s ‘Call for Backup’ program promoting safety while reversing vehicles.
Fleet safety officers also routinely patrol the streets, watching for errant City drivers. They make notes, then contact management with verbal reports or go one step further, issuing internal traffic violation notices resulting in demerits on drivers’ internal City driving permits.
Melissa’s happy with her work. It’s given her family the stability she sought, and it’s fulfilling her by making the world just that much safer.
“I’ve always been a rules and regs geek,” she says.