Q: Who’s car are we driving to the trade fayre tomorrow?
A: The car that has the comfiest seats.
B: The car that has a full tank of fuel.
C: The vehicle that has had the necessary tax, mot and insurance checks.
Following our popular Driving for Work Part One (Who’s Driving?) blog, we’re now putting the spotlight on what is being driven.
You may well have dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s when it comes to driver checks, but what about the vehicle that’s actually being driven? A driver and a vehicle go hand in hand and as such the vehicle is subject to certain essential checks to fulfil your duty of care obligations. Reminder – it’s the employers’ responsibility to ensure that the vehicle is fit for purpose/use if it is being driven for work, regardless of who owns it.
For those roles where driving is a necessary part of the job, it’s highly likely that the employer has a clear driving policy in place and the vehicles used are company owned or leased. But what about the business miles that are covered every day that are overlooked because the trips may be infrequent or only for short distances in non-fleet vehicles?
How often have you or someone in your organisation used a privately-owned vehicle to go to the shops, the train station or to a meeting? Was the vehicle officially approved for use as a grey fleet vehicle? This scenario occurs on a daily basis, across the UK, and many vehicles aren’t being registered as ‘grey fleet’ vehicles which in turn means that they are not subjected to the necessary checks required to fulfil an organisation’s legal obligations.
Grey fleet is a grey area
Lack of accountability is one of the key reasons why the grey fleet is so often overlooked. Sometimes the management of grey fleet is considered to be an HR responsibility, sometimes it falls within the remit of a fleet manager. Unfortunately, in many instances, no one is actively taking charge of grey fleet and as such the organisation is left wide open to occupational road risk. Whoever the person responsible, it is likely that more than 1 department will be involved so it’s best to establish a working group to assist with the development and implementation of a grey fleet policy to include representation from fleet/transport, human resources, finance, health & safety and environment / sustainability.
Why does it matter?
Grey fleet should be a concern for all organisations to meet basic duty of care responsibilities. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires employers to ensure the health and safety of employees (including agency staff and contractors) while ‘at work’, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes ALL work-related journeys driven in company vehicles AND also extends to privately owned vehicles.
Employers MUST have appropriate measures in place to ensure that grey fleet vehicles are ‘reasonably suitable for the purpose’, roadworthy, properly maintained, taxed and insured to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public. Unfortunately, many organisations still do not check driving licences or whether motor insurance covers ‘driving for work’. Lack of responsibility and management of these vehicles could lead to organisations facing substantial fines, or culpable senior management a prison sentence, should a death or serious injury occur following a road traffic accident involving a work-related driver.
There is also the question of corporate social responsibility and the ever-increasing focus on managing a “green fleet”. Fleet Managers, Operations Managers and HR Managers are under pressure to make sure company fleet (including grey fleet) related decisions take environmental factors into consideration.
It’s worth noting here that according to the BVRLA the average age of a grey fleet vehicle is 8.2 years old, compared to a company vehicle which is generally 5-6 years younger. Typically vehicle CO2 emissions have decreased over the years therefore a grey fleet car is much more likely to be more polluting than a hire or lease car.
Making small changes in policy can make a big difference to your grey fleet’s green credentials. Grey fleet management tools such as DAVIS empower businesses to restrict certain vehicles on account of engine size, vehicle age, CO2 emissions and even fuel type which will help to address the environmental impact of your fleet at base level. However, to make a significant reduction in carbon emissions, alternatives to grey fleet should be considered to decrease the amount of grey fleet miles driven.
Alternatives to grey fleet
Whilst privately owned/leased vehicles continue to make up a hugely significant proportion of overall business miles, it is worth considering alternatives. Some organisations implement a decision process for each and every business journey where the following options are considered before choosing to drive a grey fleet vehicle:
- Video/tele conference
- Public transport
- Lease car
- Pool car
- Hire car
- Authorised grey fleet vehicle
The alternatives outlined above are subject to access, practicality, cost and are likely to change according to whether the employee is an occasional or frequent driver. Weigh up the alternatives that are suitable for your business and adapt your driving policy accordingly. It may be advisable to involve staff from the onset if any policy changes are to be made, ensuring that their requirements are heard and their driving patterns and behaviours are considered.
What should employers be doing?
If you begin to understand the problem, you can tackle it. With DAVIS, your grey fleet can be managed easily and efficiently. The first step in getting to grips with your grey fleet is to keep a database of the employee owned vehicles that are driven for work purposes.
When using a grey fleet management tool such as DAVIS, the onus is on the grey fleet driver to add his or her vehicle details, rather than the nominated person responsible for grey fleet. This means that aside from the initial set up and inviting the driver, manual input is minimal. Next, make sure the vehicles have the necessary tax, mot and the driver has the correct type of insurance cover (you can read more about grey fleet insurance here). Again, using the grey fleet software service in DAVIS will automate the entire process for you as the driver will input the details and so long as the vehicle meets your company’s requirements, the vehicle will be automatically approved (or rejected). The DAVIS system user will simply be presented with a summary of risk and any actions that are required.
The above will cover off the essentials of grey fleet management, however if you wish to gain a greater level of control over what vehicles are being driven for business purposes, you can set the parameters against which vehicles can be approved or rejected.