Replacement engines hit fleet budgets for thousands of pounds, and members of the Association of Car Fleet Operators report a growing string of incidents in which engines, particularly diesels, have failed because they have run out of oil early in their life.
Manufacturers state in their handbooks that engines may use up to a litre of oil per 1,000 miles during running-in - but fleet drivers who ignore or don't read the handbook are in danger of having their company cars' engines seize up.
At a meeting of ACFO's East Anglia committee, members heard that draconian measures may be needed to educate drivers to the seriousness of the issue - even if that meant passing costs directly to the driver.
One company forced a driver to contribute £2,500 towards a £6,000 bill for a replacement engine. The driver had been aware the oil in his vehicle was low but carried on driving, and the original engine blew up, having run out of oil.
ACFO East Anglia secretary Stephen Hewett said: 'We need to start banging on all manufacturers' doors about this. They need to plaster the words in service books to check your oil.'
Some manufacturers, such as Peugeot and Renault, already provide an oil level indicator as standard on some models. Most manufacturers have an oil pressure warning light, but the risk is that by the time the light comes on, the engine has already been damaged.
ACFO members raised further concern that drivers who top up their oil will use the cheapest available, even if their vehicle uses synthetic oil to reduce service intervals.
With some service intervals now more than 20,000 miles, manufacturers are also offering free engine 'health checks'.
Hewett added: 'There is also an environmental issue to this, because if a vehicle is burning through two or three litres of oil, what effect is that having on the atmosphere?'