Up to 85 percent of attacks on principals happen in or around a vehicle, says Greg Threatt of Threatt Protection Services in a recent Security article, What to Look for in Travel Security and Executive Protection Services. Threatt concludes that having a security-trained driver is paramount to a successful executive protection program.

But the benefits of a security-trained driver extend well beyond their greater ability to utilize a vehicle’s performance capabilities, as Threatt emphasizes. Ground transportation can be riskier than most executives and those planning their travel realize, and security drivers should offer much more than chauffeurs. While technical driving expertise is important, it merely scratches the surface of the value a specialized security driver can provide.


The Unacknowledged Risks of Ground Transportation                  

Let’s start by understanding the risks at hand. That the majority of attacks on principals occur in or around a vehicle, as Threatt describes, is concerning. But direct attacks are not the only reason security drivers are such a critical component of a mature executive protection program.

Take the case of kidnapping. According to Control Risks, nearly 60 percent of abductions occur while in transit. Actual numbers, however, may be higher. AIG data suggests that as many as 90 percent of kidnap-for-ransom events go unreported, likely due to a fear of reputational damage or police reprisal.

Given that the average ransom demand made in executive kidnapping cases is $2 million (with some claims exceeding $90 million), kidnapping is a risk companies should consider more carefully.

Beyond extreme events like attacks and kidnappings, more mundane occurrences underscore the need for security-trained drivers. Although a recent Global Business Travel Association survey found that 45 percent of business traveler participants called terrorism their greatest safety concern, motor vehicle accidents are actually the #1 killer of healthy U.S. citizens living, working or traveling overseas, according to CDC data.

Nearly 1.3 million people die in vehicle accidents each year. If any risk is likely to disrupt or end your principal’s travel, there’s a good chance a vehicle will be involved.


Why You Need a Security Driver

As noted earlier, security drivers can offer much more than high-performance vehicle manipulation, particularly in unfamiliar locations far from home.

For example, properly-trained security drivers typically engage in pre-mission planning that helps them avoid risk in the first place. In addition, they may have access to ongoing oversight and threat monitoring tools that allow them to maintain situational awareness, even while driving. Those with medical training may be able to provide care to travelers experiencing emergency symptoms while on the road.

Beyond that, the way security drivers can support their executives’ time and productivity on the road should be considered as part of the organization’s broader asset protection program. For top executives, time is money – and that’s still true in the car. Because a security driver is better able to avoid disruptive situations, there are likely to be fewer distractions or interruptions in transit that could derail productivity or result in costly itinerary changes.


Selecting a Security-Trained Driver

No formal definition of “security-trained driver” exists; there is no central governing body whose credentials you can trust to lead you to the right provider. “Security-trained driver” could mean anything from a military veteran with 20+ years of relevant experience to a taxi driver who’s gone through a defensive driving program.

It’s important to properly screen ground solutions claiming to offer security services. Assess the credibility of their security qualifications with questions such as:

  • Do drivers have specialized skills or experience related to this line of work?
  • What type of security-oriented driving courses have they completed?
  • Are they prepared to handle medical emergencies?
  • What type of experience do they have managing operational risk?

Use these questions to weed out providers who use this designation loosely. The above questions provide a starting point. Then, if you’re confident in the answers you’ve received, inquire further about the appropriateness of the provider’s solution for your specific needs.

  • Are drivers subject to initial and recurring background checks?
  • What information will I have about my driver in advance of pickup?
  • Will my driver have local area familiarity?
  • What pre-mission preparations will be undertaken?
  • What real-time situational awareness tools will be available to the driver?
  • What visibility will I have on the location of the driver and my principal during ground movements?
  • Beyond safety and security, will my driver be capable of providing the level of service and discretion my executive expects?

Apply this framework whether you’re hiring an internal driver or outsourcing your ground travel needs to an external solution. Given the variability of needs and locations across organizations, the right answer might be either one or some combination of the two.

Ultimately, there’s no single correct approach to choosing a security-trained driver. Only after you understand the true threat posed by ground transportation – as well as how to identify the solution that will best help you mitigate this risk – will you be able to make the right decision for your executive movements.