A vast number of UK companies are exposing themselves to prosecution for failing in their duty of care to drivers because they do not understand their responsibility for a section of business drivers that is bigger than the entire company car market.
An estimated five million employees use their own cars for business trips, yet only 2% of fleet decision-makers check to see if private cars used by employees for work journeys are safe to drive.
By contrast, 86% of fleets check to see if their company cars are safe according to new research unveiled yesterday in Driving on Company Business, part of the RAC Report on Motoring 2003.
Millions of drivers who use private cars are covering business miles without proper insurance. Experts estimate that 3.5 million private cars, covering 17 billion miles a year on business, are not insured for these journeys.
Nearly half of fleet decision-makers believe it is the driver's responsibility to arrange business insurance and two-thirds of those questioned do not ask for any evidence that the correct cover has been arranged.
This week, RAC Motoring Services warned fleets they faced a mammoth administrative task to take responsibility for millions of drivers covering business miles in private cars, to protect their employers from prosecution for failing in their duty of care if there was a road accident.
Simon Cashmore, managing director corporate services, said: 'Business seems to be unaware of corporate responsibility, despite being left exposed to a whole raft of potential litigation.
'More than half of all fleet decision-makers believe – incorrectly – that insurance policies for private cars cover work trips. This will increase as a problem as more employees opt out of company car schemes.'
He said companies should immediately start implementing safety procedures, such as checking insurance policies and licence details.
Driving on Company Business also revealed company drivers were spending longer behind the wheel, although less than a quarter of companies issued guidelines on good practice for driving. It estimates 300,000 employees drive more than five hours every single day of the working year on work-related business.
Cashmore added: 'The most effective, yet least popular, method to improve the safety of corporate drivers would be to make fleet decision-makers personally liable. More than two thirds of fleet decision-makers say they would do more to improve safety if they were personally liable. Ironically, they can already be liable under the existing legislation.'