Vehicle wear and tear is by far and away the most contentious issue in the rental and leasing industry.
Damage to cars and vans causes tension between suppliers and customers, often resulting in arguments and occasionally ending up in the courts.
When a vehicle is leased or rented from a supplier, that supplier expects it to be returned in a reasonable condition at the end of the contract.
If it is not, then the supplier can legally ask the lessee to pay for the repair of any damage caused.
But what is reasonable?
In the car world, this problem was largely sorted out five years ago when the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association launched a ground-breaking Fair Wear And Tear Guide, complete with pictures, setting out exactly what damage was acceptable and what a lessee should be expected to pay for.
But it was not until March that the BVRLA finally launched a version for the van industry. It enlisted the help of Manheim Auctions, which has a wealth of knowledge about wear and tear and the two concerns finally hammered out the details.
The guide was launched at the CV Show in Birmingham, and Manheim sales director, commercial vehicles Alex Wright, who helped compile it, explained the philosophy behind the move.
He said: ‘We had five aims in compiling this booklet – we wanted it to be clear and concise with no grey areas, simple and straightforward, easily implemented, fair to rental companies and fair to the users. Now everyone knows where they stand.’
If the problems of wear and tear are complicated for cars, imagine how much more difficult it is in the commercial vehicle field. A building firm leasing a van cannot possibly be expected to return it after three years in a similar state to, say, a florist or a baker.
BVRLA director general John Lewis said: ‘An LCV is a working vehicle and a far greater amount of everyday wear and tear is not only accepted, it is expected.
‘But just because wear and tear is greater it does not mean that anything goes. Far from it. There is still a need for an objective standard to be set – a guide for both the rental company, short or long term, and the customer. A guide so that both know where the limits are and what to expect if the limits are exceeded. A guide that defines fair wear and tear.
‘If this guide is accepted in anything like the same way as the car guide, then it will become the industry accepted norm for defining and resolving all questions of fair wear and tear. More importantly, it will become a defining part of many rental and hire companies’ contracts with recharges built in if the limits are exceeded.
‘To many fleet managers, this may sound like another piece of regulation. It isn’t. It is a simple, straightforward customer aid that sets an objective standard so that everyone knows exactly where they stand.’