Arval UK has a simple solution to the grey fleet issue vexing many companies that run vehicle fleets.
“No-one is allowed to drive their own car on business,” says Tracey Scarr, Arval’s fleet and road safety manager. “And we don’t offer cash allowance.”
The contract hire and leasing company, which operates 330 company cars, insists staff who don’t have a company vehicle but who need to drive on business must use one of its pool cars or hire a car.
Of its 900 employees, 500 are insured to drive on business.
Without a grey fleet to worry about, all of Scarr’s efforts are focused on ensuring Arval’s company car drivers stay safe on the road.
Those efforts saw Arval collect the Fleet News safety award for 2010.
The list of initiatives and controls are extensive and has seen Arval’s incident rate, which takes account of all reported accidents, including damage while parked, minor dings and theft, fall from 40% to 25% over the past couple of years.
The industry benchmark is 35-40%.
In addition, third-party costs have halved in the last three years, helping to reduce Arval’s costs at a time when budgets are under increasing pressure.
So far this year the incident rate has tumbled again, to 20%. Of the 48 reported incidents, almost half were the fault of a third party.
Most of the remainder were parking incidents. Just a handful were
own-fault accidents – and most of those were low speed/low cost manoeuvres.
Training, financial penalties and constant education have been key to the improved safety record.
In addition to the usual tactics of licence checks and risk assessments, Arval trains every driver who travels more than 10,000 business miles a year, as well as all high risk drivers, on its Drive4Life programme.
Meanwhile, any driver that causes two fault incidents pays an excess charge based on the repair value.
For example, a £250 repair would cost them £50. The average deduction is £100.
Arval takes the same approach to unfair wear and tear, charging drivers for unreported accident damage. It’s a zero tolerance policy.
“This does drive behavioural changes. It makes staff personally accountable for their actions but the policy also demonstrates that there is support such as driver training and discussions about why incidents happened,” says Scarr.
“We want them to treat the car like their own, but it’s also a valuable company asset that has been entrusted to their care.”
Fleet performance is regularly reviewed by a road safety committee, while safety presentations are given to staff, family and friends.
“You have to find the thing that makes drivers pay attention. It might be tugging at the heart strings, saving money by reducing fuel use or simply the value they attach to the company taking interest in their safety and wellbeing,” says Scarr.
Two years ago Arval became one of the first UK fleets to make electronic stability control mandatory on all company cars.
It is still one of a minority of organisations to take this action.
It is also leading the way on the use of mobile phones in cars, issuing a complete ban (handheld and hands-free) when the use of handheld phones was outlawed in 2003.
Random checks are carried out, such as calling staff to see if they answer the phone while driving.
All staff are made acutely aware of the seriousness of non-compliance, which includes full disciplinary proceedings.
If someone is caught, other staff are informed to reinforce the message. “You have to take a hard line,” says Scarr. “Everyone is treated the same, from the top down.”
Scarr is constantly seeking out new safety initiatives to trial on the fleet.
She has just completed a test of the CG-Lock seatbelt system which improves posture and is claimed to help reduce injuries in accidents.
The results show a clear reduction in back pain. Arval is now considering extending the trial and purchasing a number of locks for use in the more pressing cases.
“We will trial any safety product to see if it works but technology, while it helps, is not the solution – the campaign has to cover everything and needs top down support,” Scarr says.
“Road safety is a lifelong campaign which you have to fill with tools and changes in policy to keep up to date.”
Mike Waters, Arval director for market insight, adds: “Road safety fatigue is a risk.
“People see the coverage but not the message so you have to find ways to keep it alive and fresh.”