Corporate moves to managing ‘safe, sustainable mobility’ amid a rising trend of employees opting for cash in lieu of a company car due to a perceived rising tax burden makes ‘grey fleet’ management ever-more critical.
That was one of the key messages from speakers participating in UK premier fleet decision-makers’ organisation ACFO’s, ‘Not so Grey: Managing Opt Out and Private Vehicles’ webinar, which is now available as a download from the ‘members’ area’ of its website - www.acfo.org.
What’s more to ensure the efficient and effective management of ‘grey fleet’ vehicles - privately owned vehicles driven on business journeys - it was critical, said speakers, to have in place technology to deliver a ‘cohesive, auditable and systemised’ approach and mileage capture systems to further aid compliance and accurate mileage reimbursement.
With at least 14 million privately-owned vehicles driven on work-related journeys - there are around 940,000 company cars on the UK’s roads, according to HM Revenue and Customs’ data - Simon Turner, campaigns director of RoadSafe, which delivers the Driving for Better Business campaign, the core element of the Highways England business outreach programme, said: “I see a lot of inconsistency in the way many companies, of all sizes approach ‘grey fleet’.
“That includes small ones that get it right, and well-known larger ones who are getting it wrong or ignoring it completely. Who owns the car is largely irrelevant as the duty of care to manage occupational road risk is the same, so the management procedures to deal with that risk should be the same as well.”
The reasons for “poor management” of ‘grey fleet’ vehicles were many and varied, explained Mr Turner, who said they included: Misunderstanding of both employers’ and drivers’ rights and obligations; a management fear of confrontation with drivers; a misplaced employer trust in drivers; or a lack of management commitment to provide the necessary resources.
The webinar was hosted by ACFO national chairman John Pryor and other speakers - Richard Evans, head of business development at fleet and asset management software solution provider Jaama; James Pestell, national sales manager, IFC Group, which includes Vertivia, a mileage capture system, and ACFO digital secretary; and Stewart Lightbody, head of fleet services, Anglian Water and a co-opted member of the ACFO board - were united in their view that who owned a vehicle driven on business was “irrelevant” as employer responsibility was identical whether or not it was company provided.
RoadSafe aids the Department for Transport’s ambition to support and promote good practice in safer fleet management and occupational road safety as set out in the Government’s road safety statement and Mr Turner said: “Asking someone to drive for work brings certain obligations regarding a duty of care to manage the risk and, in law, these obligations are largely the same, whoever owns the vehicle, or however it is financed.”
Referring to a privately owned vehicle driven on business, he said: “The company is, in effect, commandeering a private vehicle and using it as a de facto company car for the duration of the journey.”
Therefore, he said: driver licence checks were essential, driver policies should be shared with ‘grey fleet’ drivers, just as they would be with a company car driver; similar driver profiling, assessment and training regimes should be in place as with company car drivers; vehicle roadworthiness monitoring should be undertaken including checks on the status of servicing, MoT and Vehicle Excise Duty; and business insurance - highlighted as being regarded as a ‘misunderstood’ issue by drivers and company bosses - should be in place.
If employers had not undertaken such checks and had no system in place for doing so, Mr Turner said: “They could be guilty of causing and permitting an offence. Employers need to take this risk seriously.”
However, he added: “There is nothing inherently wrong with having a ‘grey fleet’, provided employer risks and obligations are fully understood, and it is managed properly.”
As employers increasingly focus on the concept of Business Mobility-as-a-Service, Mr Turner said: “We’re seeing the more forward-thinking employers move away from managing occupational road risk, and they are now looking more broadly at managing safe sustainable mobility, which incorporates a much more integrated approach to where employees need to be, why they need to be there, and how businesses get them there safely.
“The mobility question is only going to become more pressing due to the rising trend in drivers taking a cash option due uncertainties over future tax liabilities and vehicle emissions.
“‘Grey fleet’ will probably form a vital part of most companies’ future mobility solutions when integrated with other travel and communication options. But it needs to be effectively managed if it is to be successful. Employers must ensure they have well thought out policies and processes in place and stick to them.”