Should you be employing a more qualified Chauffeur?

Travel Requirements

Over the years, our method of transport has changed – significantly. From horse and cart, through the arrival of public transport to modern day luxury travel by land, sea or air. One thing, however, has remained consistent throughout; having a private chauffeur brings with it a sense of class, prestige and importance. A chauffeur or private driver is, after all, an extension of the private household and whilst these individuals may fulfill many roles, we may not think twice about the qualification and skills these individuals have behind the wheel. And why should we? As long as they have a driving licence, everything will be fine. Actually, there are individuals specifically trained in defensive driving who can not only avoid a threatening situation but have the ability to escape and evade if required. Many of these are also Close Protection (CP) qualified, and equally many CP operatives are trained in defensive driving.

When we set sail or board a plane to travel overseas, we likely do not question the skills possessed by the Captain or pilot. Whether employed directly or through an agency, there will have been certain criteria they had to meet. Airline pilots spend considerable time training for every eventuality, learning the correct actions to take and completing simulations of worst case scenarios. A ship Captain will do the same; rehearsing counter-piracy actions, checking weather forecasts and drawing on previous experience when encountering a difficult storm at sea. The point here is that these individuals are professionals. They are trained experts is commanding and controlling these vehicles, understand the mechanical limitations and have the skills to prevent disaster should things go wrong. So, with this in mind, should we really be asking the butler to drive us into the city?

Because travel by car has become so commonplace, we often will not regard this as a time of significant travel, and instead it becomes a daily chore or routine. Whether we self-drive, take a taxi, private hire or have a personal driver, the chances are that a client is paying more attention to the intended destination than the journey itself. And here is the issue; being sat in a vehicle, especially in traffic, is a vulnerable position. There is a plethora of armoured vehicles available to purchase or lease, both from aftermarket distributors and from manufacturers directly (Land Rover have recently announced the launch of the new Range Rover ‘Sentinel’ model). These options will not always be applicable though, especially in the moderately ‘low risk’ areas across Europe, and a more common solution will be to use a high end luxury saloon, possibly with tinted windows but otherwise with no additional protection. In these cases, our only defence comes from the driving abilities and situational awareness of the driver at the time, and other professionals following in support vehicles. That moment, when something happens in transit from one location to another, can be an extremely frightening and isolated episode for an individual. Decisions must be made in a split second, actions taken immediately and clear thinking applied if damage to life and property is to be avoided. These reactions only become ingrained through rigorous training and conditioning.


The Weakest Link

If we take one step further and consider this within a wider security context, the scenario illustrated previously becomes slightly more alarming. If a client has an Executive Protection (EP) team who monitor all movements outside of a residence, and provide security at the residential location, they would, of course, travel with the client. They may be there to open the car door upon arrival at the destination, or travelling in a lead vehicle to prove the route. They will likely check any rooms prior to the client entering a destination and will be there to prevent unknown members of the public and press getting too close. In the event of an incident, they are on hand to provide immediate protection and defensive action to the client. Again, with this in mind, should we really be asking the butler to drive us into the city?

When serving in the military, I was responsible for the planning of complex operations, bringing together many varied assets to achieve a common aim. The challenges faced were huge, ranging from different types of communication to problems with identification at greater distance. Whatever the task at hand, we would assess the different capabilities of each component part of the plan and calculate which one was the weakest link. We would decide how to mitigate this as a potential risk, from complete exclusion to increased supervision or training. This method can be applied to any planning activity where a number of component parts make up one solution. In this case we are interested in the protection of a client, where the component parts are members of staff who have an impact on overall safety.

Making the journey from one safe location to another will present different threats depending on the individual, location and wider situational context. What should be highlighted is that if a client deems it necessary to have EP staff at a residential location, place of work or when out in public, the driver used to get from A to B may very well be the weak link, unless they too are suitably trained.

What Threat?
What Threat?

In my previous article on travel management and risk assessment, I alluded to a number of threats which pose risks of varying severity to High Net Worth families and Executives at all levels. These included exposure to thieves, chance of kidnap and in more extreme cases the chance of terrorist activity to establish political or financial gain. For the purpose of this piece, we must consider instead the daily patterns and movements of individuals to understand at what point a threat may present itself. Naturally, when in a static location security is easier to manage. When in a new environment, especially with public access, the security consultant is most challenged due to the many variables at work. When travelling by vehicle we are particularly vulnerable due to the constant stop-start routine, and in military terms will cross a number of choke-points where a convoy could become compromised. The threat in this sense comes from all external actors who may be in a position to directly or indirectly interfere with the travel of a vehicle. Alarmingly this risk is on the increase with more car-jackings and kidnaps taking place in the UK than previously recorded and although different police forces monitor these crimes differently, what is clear is that more criminals are choosing the private vehicle as a suitable target. The logic is simple; gain access to a vehicle and end up in a position of control of the passengers, their possessions and the destination. If the target is a young child being driven to school, as Hollywood has demonstrated many times, the accomplishment may be far more valuable.

Many of our clients would not initially consider the dangers of being driven from home to a restaurant for a regular Friday evening dinner. What we set out to demonstrate during any of our engagements are the measures that we can all take to reduce the risks we face on a daily basis. This is true for our corporate clients as much as the Private Family Offices. By setting patterns and having a regular routine, we make it very easy for those wishing to do us harm to meticulously plan and test an attack.

The Different Options
The Different Options

Whilst not suggesting that most ‘chauffeurs’ are unsuitable, there is a clearly lacking appreciation for the different skill sets available in today’s competitive market. There are those qualified as a chauffeur, who deliver a personal service, are meticulous and timely. Then there are the chauffeurs who have added to their skill set and gained additional experience in advanced driving. This typically includes defensive techniques, evasive manoeuvers and basic pursuit tactics. This is the type of driving the police use for apprehending criminals, but within this context used in reverse – the aim here is to escape from danger, not chase it down. Finally there are close protection operatives (CPOs) who have gained additional training in executive driving and they too will have studied and practiced the evasive and defensive tactics mentioned previously. The key difference is that a typical CPO will already be meticulous, polite, discreet and punctual (if they are worth their salt) but also possess all the personal protection abilities the residential security team do. What is to say that a member of the security detail cannot also double as the family driver when needed? The question of why a chauffeur cannot gain close protection training may be asked here, and my answer would be simple; a chauffeur has not chosen to put his/her life on the line for another individual as a primary function. Any CPO is willing to make this sacrifice, and it is this loyalty and commitment which make them such a valuable asset for any individual interested in their own safety.

The Executive Protection Chauffeur
The Executive Protection Chauffeur


If we were to imagine a worst case scenario, and play through the eventualities it may help illustrate why this is an area I feel passionately about. In a one vehicle move from a residential location to the airport, the client vehicle (the vehicle containing the individual(s) being protected) unexpectedly comes to a halt due to an obstruction in the road. There is a CPO in the front of the vehicle with the client in the rear, who becomes aware of what is unfolding. In an instant, two armed men emerge from the vehicle behind the client and approach the rear side windows. The CPO has a choice to make and his actions are limited to merely seconds. At this stage, a normally trained chauffeur may attempt to drive away but other than having basic understanding of vehicle capabilities and little knowledge of CPO tactics, is rendered useless if the vehicle is blocked and unable to move. A CPO qualified driver with training in advanced tactics would deal with the situation differently, possibly taking an offensive stance against the pursuing vehicle, but can at least add to CPO numbers if needed. Two assailants against two CPOs would be far more equally matched than two assailants against a CPO and a chauffeur. This may be the ultimate solution and sound a little far-fetched or unnecessary. In reality, this is not only perfectly do-able (we have several very well qualified CPOs who double as executive drivers) but is also more cost effective. The benefits you generate from having a skilled and appropriately trained defensive driver at the wheel far outweigh any potential difficulties. So, you should ask yourself, “should I be employing a more qualified Chauffeur?

Who to ask?
Who to ask?

There are a number of organisations who offer the executive protection services mentioned in this article, and as always we highly recommend that you consult a specialist if safety is either a priority or of concern. Many Family Offices have an in-house Security Manager, which is absolutely necessary and specialist providers work with such individuals and by no means replace them. Sometimes an external viewpoint and independent assessment can be the most valuable use of time and resources. Remember that a clear and decisive action taken now could return the investment of a saved life in the future.

About Xavier Firth

Xavier is one of the Founding Partners of Conops Global (LLP), a UK based security consultancy specialising in protective services and security management for High Net Worth clients and corporate businesses. His first career was as a Commissioned Officer in the British Army where he completed a number of training posts and Operational Deployments. He has since worked in the corporate consulting industry, for organisations such as Deloitte UK delivering high level consultative services and leadership workshops. He is a qualified trainer, manager and operational planner and has a passion for working alongside ambitious, successful and driven individuals. It is this vision which helped set the foundations and formed the values of Conops Global; passionate about client relationships and only providing tailored solutions, where other security providers are more focused on a ‘one-size fits all’ approach.More information can be found at www.conopsgroup.com including contact details and confidential enquiry line.

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