Business and Fleet — 31 August 2011
The Grey Fleet – You Can’t Ignore Them

Henry Ford famously quoted that you can have any colour – providing it is BLACK and we all know what happened to that policy. Then the environmentalists came along and everything became GREEN and now we have what is probably the dullest colour GREY which relates to the millions of motorists driving their own private vehicles on company business. According to figures from HMRC it is estimated that there are just over 2 million Company Cars on the road but the estimate for the Grey Fleet is nearly 6 million vehicles.

The majority of Health and Safety policies in place with fleets take no account of the Grey Fleet vehicles or the employees that drive them. However government legislation does require that these vehicles and their drivers operate within the same legislation that is applied to genuine company vehicles.

An area of great concern to the authorities is that the Grey Fleet covers an enormous number of private vehicles driven by employees that are not subject to the required rigid management policies and procedures that apply to company-provided vehicles. However, it is a legal requirement that Grey Fleet vehicles and their drivers are subject to exactly the same internal management policies and procedures.

For example simple short journeys such as trips to the bank or the Post Office etc. on behalf of the company will be regarded as a business journey and as such the vehicle and driver are subject to the same legislation applying to the operation of Company Cars. A simple rule is that any employee who is paid by the employer to undertake any journey of any length is for the purpose of that journey operating a Company Car. 

Employers must ensure the vehicles and employees undertaking Grey Fleet Journeys meet all the Vehicle Legalities, Driver Legalities and Servicing schedules before allowing any vehicles and or drivers to drive on company business no matter how trivial the journey. The authorities do not recognise the difference between the Company Car and the Grey Fleet vehicle driving on company business and all such vehicles and drivers will be subject to current Health and Safety legislation. Employees driving on company business in a private vehicle are ‘at work’ and therefore, have to be regarded by the employer as being at a ‘place of work’ which means the private vehicle and the employee driving such a vehicle become subject to the Health and Safety at Work Act.

With changes in the tax structure a company car can be an attractive part of a salary package again. With the low tax on the greener cars on the market, of which there are plenty Company Cars are becoming a better proposition for both employee and employer giving the employer the control to minimise their risk. With company provided vehicles managing the risks can be relatively simple but with the Grey Fleet it will be anything but simple. Management of the Grey Fleet can add considerably to existing Fleet Management operations and such systems must be able to cope with any additional workload resulting from management of the Grey Fleet.

Make sure that all levels of management are aware that policies do exist with regard to employees using their own vehicles on company business and that these must be adhered to with no exceptions. If you have a Grey Fleet operation ask yourself these questions. Does the journey have to be made? Can they use a pool car which you can totally control? Or perhaps they can use public transport?

Many companies could be at risk if they have a Grey Fleet and for them it is definitely worth giving the issue some serious thought and ask if it is worth the risk. It is easy for employers to regard the Grey Fleet as being none of their business. Unfortunately the law does not see it that way – these vehicles and their drivers are very much the concern of the employer. There are already a number of examples of where an employer ends up in court resulting from an incident involving a private vehicle being driven on company business.

Many larger companies now believe that because of the additional administration workload the Grey Fleet should be abolished entirely and drivers made to use pool cars, company cars, or dare we say it public transport. However many smaller and medium sized firms are often unaware of the issues, with fleet management being handled in an ad hoc way. 

The following data from a recent report by Fleet Management Consultancy Fleet21  reveals some alarming facts.

• It is believed that over 75% of companies have no procedures in place to check that privately owned vehicles undertaking a Company Journey meet all standards regarding maintenance and safety.
• The majority of companies do not check that MOT legislation is being adhered to by employees using privately owned vehicle for company business.
• 35% of companies have no formal procedures for checking driving licences for employees driving privately owned vehicles for company business.
• Over 50% of employers have no idea as to whether the privately owned vehicle being used on company business is correctly insured.
• The majority of companies permitting company business in privately owned vehicles do not carry out risk assessments or driver training for the Grey Fleet drivers
• The majority of companies have no policy for reporting accidents in which an employee is involved in an accident whilst driving a privately owned vehicle on company business.

So how do we solve the problem ? One of the first steps organisations can take is issue all employees who drive their own cars on company business with the same guidelines that they would issue to bona-fide Company Car drivers. The guidelines for Company Car drivers and Grey Fleet drivers should be virtually the same. They also need to put in strict procedures to check licences, insurance documents, and the general road worthiness of the vehicles. There are a number of companies that offer an outsourced service to undertake all of these checks on behalf of an organisation for a relatively low monthly fee. It might save you and your company a lot of heart ache and expense in the future.

Image: Pete Keen / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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