Employees who use their own cars for business journeys are increasingly referred to as the grey fleet, and can carry a large risk if employers don’t take steps to ensure their safety, says Nick Golding
The term ‘grey fleet’ is one which is often bandied around the fleet industry. Put simply, this refers to drivers who are not eligible for a company car or permitted to be part of a cash allowance scheme, but who use their own cars for business journeys. These are the drivers, however, that many employers are likely to have very limited knowledge in respect of the type of car they use and how safe it is to drive.
Richard Schooling, chief operating officer at Alphabet, explains: “The term grey fleet is about the people that use their own personal car on business journeys. For example, it could be an administrator who is sent on a training course and uses his or her own car to [travel there].”
Risk of prosecution
This is not a small scale issue, as one-in-six employees in the UK who are not eligible for a cash allowance or company car currently drive for business reasons throughout the year, according to Alphabet’s Risk and reward report 2007.
Organisations that have grey fleet drivers will be investigated if any of them are involved in accidents while on business journeys. If the car involved is deemed unsafe to drive, an organisation could be prosecuted under corporate manslaughter laws due to come into force this April.
The real danger lies with high-mileage drivers, and firms that do not offer company car schemes or structured cash allowance programmes, but do require staff to rack up miles are at risk.
“The problem becomes more of an issue with high-mileage drivers, because some organisations still don’t have a company car or cash allowance scheme in place and just reimburse drivers for their fuel, so they have absolutely no control over the car they drive,” says Schooling.
To overcome any potential risks, employers should treat all drivers the same, whether they are in a company car or use their own vehicle on business, be this occasionally or on a regular basis. This means they should encourage drivers to regularly check their oil levels and tyre pressure and prove their vehicle has recently had an MOT, is adequately insured and fit for business use.
Jenny Powley, director of the large corporate group at Arval, says: “If a personal vehicle is driven on business the organisation should give it the same treatment as if it were a company car. This is about managing the whole fleet in the same way.”
The main problem behind many organisations’ failure to take such action is that they simply do not see these cars as being part of the company’s fleet.
To drive the point home, therefore, company policies on fleet should not be limited to those in registered car schemes, but should also be communicated to occasional business drivers, as these will contain crucial information on rules such as drink driving or the maximum hours of driving that can be undertaken each day. “According to Alphabet’s research, at least a quarter of organisations do not communicate with grey fleet drivers, which means their health and safety policies are not reaching this section of the fleet,” says Schooling.
Identify unsafe cars
Construction logistics firm Laboursite has already taken steps to identify its grey fleet drivers and encourage them to input details of their vehicle’s insurance and mileage levels before a reimbursement for fuel can be claimed. Drivers using their own car for business use can only complete the claim form for fuel once they have answered a list of questions, so the firm can easily identify an unsafe vehicle using information such as its age and mileage.
Simon Mills, fleet and expense control manager at Laboursite, explains: “We have a policy that says you must have a vehicle of a certain age that is up to the job. They also have to input their miles and [confirm] that the car has a valid MOT when claiming mileage costs.”
Fleet managers, therefore, would be wise to locate any grey fleet drivers within their organisation so they can begin treating these employees in the same way as the rest of their company car drivers.
If you read nothing else read this…
- The term grey fleet refers to staff who are not eligible for a company car or a cash allowance, but instead use his or her own vehicle for business use.
- There is a risk involved here because employers often have no idea what car these employees own and how safe these vehicles are to drive.
- Employers should take steps to identify grey fleet drivers in their organisation and then treat them in the same way as others within the fleet.
- To mitigate potential risks, employers should actively ask their grey fleet drivers to record information such as when their vehicle last had an MOT and its service history.