Valera Global, an executive transportation firm that operates in New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut trains its independent chauffeur contractors the old- fashioned way, then monitors them using the latest high-tech tools. An intensive, two-week unpaid training course for prospective chauffeurs includes nine days of classroom training on geography, math, and language skills; safety; driving skills; and customer service, with pen-and-paper tests at the mid and end points. Those who pass the training then are paired with a veteran driver, doing everything required of an executive chauffeur except for driving the car, says Tony Notaristefano, training director of the company, which has affiliates in 35 U.S. cities and Europe.
New driver training continues at set intervals through the first year, focusing on safety, service, and geography. The company uses the DriveCam risk management system, in-car cameras that trigger in the event of hard braking, hard turns, or accidents. Every unit is downloaded weekly, even if the chauffeur hasn't had an incident. Five days a week, a Valera employee does spot checks on chauffeurs, watching pickup locations, and asking to see inside cars to ensure they're clean and appropriately stocked with water, mints, and magazines for passengers.
As a result of its commitment to safety, Valera's liability insurance rates have dropped 40 percent in the last few years, while the amount of coverage has increased. "We get insurance carriers knocking on our door to insure us," says Notaristefano. "We give out awards to anyone who goes a year without an accident, and two-thirds of our drivers got awards last year. It's a huge selling tool to our executive clients."
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