The Role of a Security Driver: Forgotten or Well Respected?

You were contracted by a Miami-based client to provide protection for the principal and family while they stay in New York City for their business duration. Unbeknownst to you the client's staff has hired an outside limousine service to provide all transportation. This normally could be a helpful gesture but, this time, due to business relations, the client hired a familiar firm that they have done business with on prior occasions. Not being able to select the transportation service creates a problem for the protection team since this transportation service is home based in Boston.

When you brief the drivers on the current situation and their responsibilities for the upcoming weeks that lie ahead, you quickly find out that they do not know the environment very well. You find out that they have very little security knowledge and worse they have never been exposed to a security detail of this magnitude. The two drivers usually provided basic airport runs for executives and worked many entertainment events for their companies' clients.

Although this detail is not really considered a high threat of danger and everything is expected to run smoothly; there is a slight chance of interaction with an aggressive group of demonstrators. This group does not share the same beliefs and views toward your client's work. They have created very embarrassing situations in the past, however they are not expected to be violent to the point of causing physical harm. It is probable that it will only be a matter of time before their aggressiveness turns from just protesters pranks to badly hurting someone whether accidentally or intentionally. You certainly don't want your client injured or embarrassed on your watch!

In your first briefing with the drivers you start to address basic route awareness issues starting with points along route that could be vulnerable to the element of surprise. You also address zones of predictability which are places along your routes that your detail will be unable to avoid on a daily basis as well as important safe havens, locations where you would go to in the event of an emergency such as police stations, airports, and hospitals. The drivers look at you with a blank stares as they are much more interested in finding out if a gratuity will be figured into their paycheck and if they get a lunch break everyday.nAnyone with some basic knowledge of executive protection can finish this story.

These are basic ingredients for disaster. The drivers do not know the environment very well at all. This will cause problems with route selections in whether to bypass a problem or just to avoid traffic jams. Will the drivers know how to react and where to go if a major hospital and/or safe haven was needed? What alternate emergency routes to take without the detail leaders assistance? You have done your job and investigated your teams thoughts and subject knowledge, since there was no indication of an open-minded attitude, one that could accept the fact that they may be inconvenienced or have to make a sacrifice for the job and/or the guy who ultimately signs their check (the principal). So should the Agent in Charge (AIC) or Detail Leader (DL) try to take on the job with the current drivers that they are faced with? This could blow up and that famously dreaded finger would point directly at you, the contact person for the protection team. You would hear how "You could not make it happen, we even got you professional drivers".

Starting a job without all the tools needed could prove to be disastrous unless the Agent in Charge (AIC) could renegotiate or discuss the possibilities for a new transportation team? If he/she does make headway in selecting new drivers for the team what should he/she now consider? What makes a Security Driver different from a Chauffer or regular Limo Driver? What types of questions need to be addressed? Why consider someone with a security background for a driver?

First of all, many decisions should be based around the risk level of the job and the degree of chance that the Principal and detail may come under the threat of violent attack or even embarrassment. This is the type of risk that puts the client in harms way and ultimately could be the end of your career as an Executive Protection Agent. If there is any degree of chance that an incident may happen to the Principal and family then the Detail Leader or Agent in Charge must decide to hire responsible, reliable, and properly trained Security Drivers for the job. Whether the detail is a temporary assignment like the one described above or a permanent salary position such as providing protection for a corporation's executive staff, transportation and professional drivers should be considered a major priority!

First, in the event of an accident there could be terrible consequences for the principal and corporation. Risk of injury, or worse fatality, vehicle damage and paying the price of injury/down time for both the driver and principal is a large consideration. Using a trained driver will not negate all of your risks. However, it is definitely added insurance that a trained driver will have better skill and judgment level to avoid potential accidents/ambushes thus lowering injuries and damage rates. Basically, it is a big step in minimizing risk, which is all anyone can do. Risk will never go away but any AIC or Security Director can ultimately minimize potential risk.

Outside the realm of an accident there is always a chance of attack on the target (principal). Chances are you probably will not know right away that your principal was selected as a target. For numerous reasons your principal could get targeted by any number of criminals. Kidnapping of principals is less common in the United States, however, it does happen. In many countries kidnapping for ransom or religious & political reasons is a growing and quite prosperous industry in itself.

So what does this have to do with the driver? Lets take a quick look back at the last 30 years of vehicle attacks that happened in and along route. This is certainly not a complete list, just a snapshot from the Advanced Driving & Security Inc.'s database. Our database covers some of the major kidnappings and assassinations that took place through out the last 30 years.

  • 1971 Sir Geoffrey Jackson, Uruguay - simulated accident on motorcade – abduction
  • 1973 Carrero Blanco, Spain -motorcade explosive ambush - assassinated
  • 1977 Hanns-Martin Schleyer, West Germany - simulated accident on motorcade -abduction
  • 1978 Aldo Moro, Rome - simulated accident on motorcade --assassination after 55 days captive
  • 1979 General Alexander Haig, Belgium - motorcade explosive ambush - luckily escaped attack due to terrorist error
  • 1979 Ambassador Adolph Dubbs, Afghanistan - stopped car at staged search point - abducted and then assassinated
  • 1980 Ambassador John Dean, Beirut - Road side attack - Detail escaped by reacting quickly returning fire and driving to safe haven
  • 1980 Samoza, Ambushed and killed by terrorists using RPG's
  • 1981 Fredrick Kroesen, West Germany - Road side attack - Assassination attempt failed due to partially armored car and no direct hit from terrorist weapons
  • 1981 President Ronald Reagan, Attacked and shot while walking to his car - luckily was not fatally wounded
  • 1982 Freddie Heineken, He was walking to his chauffer driven car when abducted by two masked gunmen
  • 1982 Colonel Altika, Canada - Assassinated by a gunman while sitting in traffic
  • 1982 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Ray, Paris -Attacked while walking to his vehicle - Shot and killed by a gunman carrying a small caliber pistol
  • 1982 Orville Gundaz, Sommerville, Ma., - attacked en-route home from work as he approached a choke point - terrorist fired a 9 mm. handgun into the drivers window killing Gundaz
  • 1983 Ken Bishop, Bogota - He was being driven to work - came under gun fire attack while in a zone of predictability
  • 1983 Lieutenant Commander Albert SchaufelBerger, El Salvador - Attacked while waiting in vehicle - shot in the head by a 22 caliber revolver / left the window down in his armored vehicle
  • 1983 Captain George Tsantes, Athens - Attacked and killed at traffic light - came under attack by two men on a scooter shooting a 45caliber pistol
  • 1984 Master Sergeant James Judd, Athens - attempted assassination - same people as above and same technique
  • 1986 Leamon Hunt, was assassinated at the entrance of his house - terrorists shot through a weak spot in the window of his armored car
  • 1986 George Besse, Paris - walking from car to his front door - a young couple shot and killed him then escaped on motorbike
  • 1986 Karl - Heinz Becurts - While en-route his vehicle was hit by a road side bomb
  • 1986 Antonio da Empoli, Italy - Ambushed and shot in the leg and hand while getting out of his chauffeur driven vehicle to get a newspaper
  • 1987 General Lico Girogieri - was being chauffeured home when attacked and killed by a motorcycle who came up along side Girogieri's vehicle and fired into the back window
  • 1988 John Butler, Bogota - Two car motorcade traveling from his work to his residence - hit with roadside bomb
  • 1988William Higgins, Lebanon - driving his car - was abducted and executed
  • 1988 US Navy Captain William Nordeen , Athens - Road side bomb - assassinated
  • 1989 US Army Col. James N. Rowe, Philippines - attacked en-route to his office - assassinated by two hooded gunmen with M16 rifles
  • 1990 Alfred Herrhausen, Germany - explosive ambush - motorcade came under attack en-route as his motorcade passed through Spa Park in Bad Homburg
  • 1991 Chefik Wazzan, Beirut, Lebanon - was en-route in and armored car when a road side bomb placed in a parked car exploded. He was injured but survived
  • 1992 Sedney Reso, New Jersey, USA - was abducted and later died of injury - Attacked at the base of his drive way as he was getting out of the car to get the newspaper
  • 2003 Zoran Djindjic - Belgrade - Shot by sniper as he exited his car and walked into government head quarters
  • 2003 Edward Lambert - Connecticut, USA - Kidnapped at gunpoint in a parking garage - released two days after attack
  • 2005 Rafik Hariri, Beirut, Lebanon - motorcade struck by a road side bomb demolishing target along with his motorcade, buildings, and over 11 people

This list of past vehicle attacks further drive home the fact that one of the most common points of vulnerability is while the principal is en-route and passing through any transitions in and around the vehicle. The protective detail needs to make sure the principal or target is protected around the vehicle and en-route at all times. Many of these attack scenarios were not successful. Some principals escaped attack by either reacting quickly or having a professionally trained driver who reacted quickly. Most of the untrained drivers froze and made a terrifying situation much worse.

Anyone in the protection business must be honest with themselves and always ask that very serious question "how important is your principal and their families lives worth and since you may be with them how important is your own life worth? Whether high or low threat we always need to minimize risk before it could become a potential life-threatening situation. However, the job of minimizing risk can become a very difficult task, since we do not live in a very proactive society and every decision revolves around budget and degree of pain the decision maker happens to be in. Unfortunately at times Detail Leaders and Security Directors have to become skillful sales people to sell the need of trained drivers to their principals. In many cases a trained Security Driver can even be used as a sizeable tax write-off. When protecting a principal en-route it is essential that we minimize risk and add a layer of insurance by providing trained drivers who have extensive knowledge and fill the criteria in the list below:

  • Accident avoidance and vehicle dynamics training with a good understanding of how time and distance works while in motion.
  • An excellent understanding of vehicles capabilities and safety features both active and passive.
  • An understanding of seatbelts / airbags / fuel cut off switches / tires / and armor.
  • Knowledge of security maneuvers
  • Emergency or attack evacuation maneuvers.
  • Knowledge of how motorcades work.
  • Understanding proper vehicle positioning in the motorcade.
  • Understanding of how different vehicles present different problems in a motorcade, as well as regular driving scenarios.
  • Trained and certified in Automatic External Defibrillation (AED) and CPR as well as First Aid
  • Understand the application and need for a Route survey as well as how to conduct and brief them
  • Drivers should be able to conduct their own route surveys and at minimum understand terms used by executive protection staff. Many times the EP team conduct route assessments for the driver prior to hiring.
  • I strongly suggest if time allows that the driver always do his/her own route surveys. It is one thing to say you understand the path of travel and another to have driven the route severaltimes before the threat becomes reality.
  • Understand the need for contingency plans and where to go if something happens.
  • Know how to use technology such as GPS and other basic communication devices.
  • Prepared to move at a moments notice
  • Ensures safe and comfortable transportation
  • Knows the vehicle extensively (could be a rental)
  • Reacts to any threat and understands the importance of instructions from the Agent in Charge or Shift Leader
  • Knows all primary and secondary routes and all react routes such as routes to hospitals and safe havens
  • Has driven all the routes and is aware that landmarks look different depending on time of day and night
  • Ensures that the vehicle is clean inside and out, checks the vehicle's mechanical condition (ex. - oil, tires, power steering fluid, belts, radiator coolant levels, wipers, brakes, lights, flashers, headlights, horn and all emergency equipment - airbags fuel cut of switches, etc.)
  • Accounts for all emergency equipment and verifies it is functioning. Ensures all weapons are accounted for, loaded and in the proper carry position. Test all doors and automatic locks.Asks if unfamiliar with an item or it's use.
  • Ensures vehicle log is present and filled out, notes any problems with vehicle or security issues.
  • Sets vehicle 30 minutes prior to scheduled departure and is ready to be in place when called.
  • Starts the engine 15 minutes prior to scheduled departure.
  • Knows the motorcade route (even if there is a lead vehicle) so that the motorcade may continue if the lead car is lost.
  • Understands there must be NO surprises. The driver cannot react to danger if he or she does not know what is right and wrong, or not part of the norm.
  • Safeguard car keys. When the vehicle is not in use, it should be locked and it's keys kept inside the command post. A spare set should be kept in the follow car, when en-route.