As the warm weather and summer holiday season approach, employees with company cars should be aware of some of the hazards that can affect driving in the summer months.
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- Employees who drive abroad should perform essential car maintenance checks, such as oil, cooling fluid and tyre pressure.
- Drivers should familiarise themselves with the driving rules in the countries they plan to visit, which can vary.
- A leasing firm can advise an employee on the extent of their breakdown cover when driving abroad.
1. Beware of high temperatures
High temperatures can cause problems for employees when driving, whether in the UK or overseas.
Andrew Hogsden, senior manager, strategic fleet consultancy team at Lex Autolease, says: “High temperatures can affect the rubber on tyres, and under-inflation of tyres can add to the problems, causing friction and additional wear on weak spots.”
Staff should check the condition of their car’s tyres regularly, and make sure they are correctly inflated according to the weight of any load that is being carried.
Hot weather can also cause problems with a car’s cooling system. “It is worth looking at the coolant levels in the engine and checking for leaking hoses,” says Hogsden. “The time when that is likely to become apparent is when [an employee] is in slow-moving traffic. Checking the coolant reservoir level is quite important.”
Alan Hillier, marketing and data leader at Pendragon Contracts, says cars that overheat must be allowed to cool down for at least half an hour before a driver attempts to add coolant.
2. Consider fuel use
Driving with the windows open in the summer months can cause extra drag to a car, leading to increased fuel consumption. Air vents can help to reduce this drag. Hogsden says: “Most cars come with air conditioning these days, but it’s a case of keeping it at an appropriate level, or turning it off when it’s not needed.”
Employees should check their air conditioning system before a journey. “It’s recommended that it is serviced every two years,” says Hillier.
If driving abroad, employees will find that as speed limits vary, for example on a German autobahn, fuel planning is essential. “If driving on an autobahn, you are allowed to drive a lot faster and so will use a lot more fuel, so fuel planning is important,” says Hillier. “Also, if [an employee] is not used to driving at high speed, they will need to allow more time for people overtaking.”
3. Be mindful of speed limits
Drivers must also be mindful of the fact that speed camera detectors are illegal in some European countries, so these must be switched off. This includes disabling the function built into satellite navigation systems.
4. Carry essential equipment
Wherever they are driving, there is a range of essential equipment that drivers should carry in their car.
As well as spare bottles of oil, water, windscreen wash fluid and engine coolant, some European countries require drivers to carry a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangles, reflective jackets and headlamp deflectors.
According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists, drivers in Spain are required to carry two warning triangles, while in France, all drivers and motorcyclists must carry a breathalyser kit with two disposable breathalysers.
5. Ensure insurance and breakdown cover is adequate
When driving abroad, employees must also ensure they have appropriate insurance and breakdown cover. Lex Autolease’s Hogsden says: “Most insurance policies will give them cover if taking a car into Europe, but not all standard policies necessarily cover driving overseas.”
Employees driving a leased car abroad must have the necessary paperwork. Pendragon Contracts’ Hillier says: “If it’s a leased car, they have to get a V103 form, which allows them to drive the car abroad.
“They need to check with their fleet manager about the extent of their breakdown cover. With a leasing company, this is normally covered.”
So, there is a lot for employees to think about when driving a company car, especially in the summer months, and employers have a duty of care to support them.