An exclusive Fleet News survey has revealed that nearly half of fleets require employees without a company car to drive rental vehicles on business, rather than taking a private car.
Employers have been involved in an intense debate about the future of private car use on business following Government moves to improve safety standards for business drivers.
Companies have a duty of care to ensure that all employees driving on business are equipped to do the job safely, even if they are driving a private car.
Therefore, employers need to ensure that staff in private cars are insured for business use, that vehicles are properly maintained and they are 'fit for purpose'.
To avoid the increased administration costs this might involve, many fleets are turning to rental cars, where they can specify the make and model and be assured it is new and regularly serviced.
Some fleets point out that a balanced approach is vital. For example, employees getting into an unfamiliar rental car and just driving off might be more at risk of an accident as they try to familiarise themselves with the car's controls.
However, many fleets agree that the increased focus on health and safety at a Government and corporate level has meant they have had to conduct a major review of their fleet policies.
And with new corporate manslaughter laws expected to be introduced over the next couple of years, this task has taken on added significance.
Would your company allow drivers to take private cars on company business, or would you demand they take a rental car?
'THERE are arguments for and against both options. Giving the employee the option is the optimum solution. A nearly-new hire vehicle has been correctly maintained and insured and does not put depreciation on the driver's own vehicle, but their own car is often more convenient, and one they are familiar with, thus reducing the increased risk of driving an unknown vehicle, possibly on unfamiliar roads.'
Manager, UK Fleet Management, IBM
'PRIVATE. The risks involved here are really simple administration items. For example get file copies of MoT, insurance, etc and you might even arrange an independent vehicle inspection annually for vehicles over four years old. You will probably find the administration time and cost involved is about the same and there will certainly be a saving in the drivers' time. As usual we have had a 'knee-jerk reaction' without thinking everything through.With rental, what about the risk factor of driving an unfamiliar car? And we are supposed to be considering the environmental issues, so what about the extra mileage by having the hire car delivered?'
Transport Consultancy Services
'As a general rule we use rental cars, with private cars being used only in extreme circumstances.'
J.H, via email
'PRIVATE, although we don't allow this very often. There are occasions when it suits everyone – generally for those not normally provided with access to a company vehicle. Having said that, we keep a pool car just to avoid this being a regular occurrence.'
Finance director, Walter-Broadley Machines
'RENTAL. We have not got the time to check the condition of the staff's own private vehicles and their insurance conditions. Any travel required by staff on business who do not have a company vehicle will always be with a rental vehicle. We can be satisfied that the vehicle being hired is relatively new and has been checked by the rental company prior to delivery to us. We also have the backing of the rental company that in the unlikely event of a breakdown, a replacement vehicle would be supplied as soon as possible.'
P.T, via email
'RENTAL, because there are too many issues relating to items such as health and safety, insurance and vehicle legalities. If we use our own company pool vehicles or daily rental vehicles from our approved supplier, there is less of a need for such tight control as our pool vehicles are serviced and up-to-date and our approved supplier of hire cars is a long-term partner.'
C.W, via email
'PRIVATE. We have a fairly small number of employees who may need to drive their own private vehicles on company business. Unfortunately, it would be impractical both time-wise and financially to rent a car for them each time. The company takes all necessary steps to ensure that such business use is strictly limited, that vehicles are maintained and roadworthy and that the drivers are properly licensed and insured.'
Cope & Timmins
'IN our business, the answer has to be both. With a diverse geographical spread and large number of outlets, rental will not always be able to meet our requirements in a timely manner.'
Fleet manager, Whitbread
'PRIVATE. The simple answer is driven by economics and practicality. Yes the 'duty of care' argument has to be considered but this is easily dealt with by the effective implementation of a sensible car policy. Unfortunately we have entered into a health and safety paranoia where people prefer to scaremonger and therefore delegate their liabilities while increasing their responsibilities rather than adjust to a changing situation and manage it accordingly. This may of course be symptomatic of the American culture of litigation invading our shores but I do not believe there are any issues that cannot be dealt with by a robust car policy.'
R.L, via email
'FOR some time now we have put the use of employees' private cars on business to a 'very last resort' option. Very rarely is that necessary. If the loan of a colleague's company vehicle or a spare company car is not available as an option, then we do hire the minimum appropriate level of alternative vehicle, taking the journey distance and specific task (and individual's build!) into account.'
Fleet manager, Nuswift
'RENTAL. Our current policy allows use of personal and lease cars. Ideally we would like 100% use of rental vehicles.'
Assistant head transport services, City Hall, Lincoln
'PRIVATE. This is because our vehicle policy takes into consideration all health and safety considerations. The vehicle has to be commensurate with the employee's job role.'
J.C, via email
'PRIVATE, for the following reasons: cost and convenience for the driver (rental cars have to be collected and returned). Our safety policies ensure drivers comply with the law and company policy and we have arranged company insurance cover for 'casual' business use of private cars.'
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)
'RENTAL. That way we can make sure the cars being used on company business comply with our duty of care responsibilities. If a private car is used there is no guarantee of the condition of the vehicle and whether it would have the correct insurance cover.'
Group fleet manager, Bayer
'RENTAL is used when an individual does not have a suitable, correctly insured vehicle.'
Fleet manager Hertfordshire Fire & Rescue Service
'WE have a strict policy of only allowing private vehicles to be used for local trips (maximum of 40 mile round trip) so long as the driver and vehicle can meet the stringent criteria which includes showing evidence of service history, appropriate insurance, etc. Otherwise all business travel must be undertaken in either a company car or hire vehicle – including those drivers on short trips who cannot meet the criteria.'
Phillippa T Caine
Company secretary, CORGI
'FROM a professional and duty of care issue the use of a rental car would be my suggestion. However, in the real world many businesses rely on staff using their own car for business use, for increased availability, efficiency and, most importantly, cost. The duty of care issue has not hit home yet and until it does any recommendation from a fleet manager to stop the use of private cars for business will not receive the recognition it deserves by company directors.'
Fleet manager, Guide Dogs for the Blind
'WE have never allowed non-allocated company car users who need a vehicle for occasional business use to use their own vehicles. We provide them with a vehicle from our pool of spare cars, which are awaiting re-allocation, or demonstrators. If none is available we will rent the appropriate vehicle.'
Business services manager, LEO Pharma
'RENTAL. This way the company is sure the individual is driving a safe and well-maintained car.'
P.O, via email
'RENTAL. It is much simpler and more cost-effective to arrange a hire car.'
Fleet manager, King UK
'YES, we would allow drivers to use private cars on company business. This is acceptable as we have a system in place that checks that drivers can only claim if they meet company standards. These checks are administered on a quarterly basis.'
N.J, via email
'PRIVATE. With health and safety in mind we will be incorporating insurance and MoT checks, and making managers responsible for staff using their own cars on business. The whole health and safety issue is being reviewed to ensure that all legal requirements are met correctly and procedures put in place.'
C.D, via email
'THE most likely scenario for us is a mixture, with the very occasional users in hire cars and the frequent own car users continuing in their own vehicles. It will certainly be necessary to be more vigilant in regulating private cars used on our business; formulating the policy and controls required will be a priority for 2004. Another dimension to this debate is more liberal eligibility criteria for company cars and the provision of pool cars. We have already considered replacing the pool cars we currently run with a daily hire programme and have found it to be uneconomic due to their high utilisation.'