Not only are they unaware of many of the rules of the road throughout Europe (Fleet News July 22), but also the valid registration documents needed to take a company car across the channel.
Last year, Lloyds TSB autolease saw 11% of its 141,000 vehicle fleet travel overseas for business or pleasure. But the company believes a further 5% travel without following the correct procedure. By doing so, more than 7,000 drivers from their fleet alone are running the risk of stiff financial penalties or even imprisonment.
George Reid, head of technical services at Lloyds TSB autolease, said: 'The popularity of motoring abroad is generally rising. Since 1991, there has been a 45% increase in people visiting Europe in their vehicles. What many don't understand is that fleet vehicles must be accompanied by the correct paperwork to make sure they comply with European legislation.'
In order to avoid falling foul of EU legislation, drivers must notify their leasing company, as owners of the vehicle, at least four weeks before they travel. This is because every driver must have written permission to travel overseas.
When travelling abroad, drivers must be able to produce a valid registration document, the V5. However, drivers of leased vehicles need to apply through their fleet management company for a vehicle on hire certificate, which is referred to as the VE103.
George continued: 'The VE103 will be processed by your fleet company and is another reason to get in touch early. We have had calls from people already at the dockside – the key is to be prepared.'
Along with written permission and the VE103, drivers must check their insurance.
They should ask their fleet management company about European Motoring Assistance, which should ideally include 24-hour breakdown cover for the entire duration of the trip. The RAC, for example, will provide a replacement vehicle at foreign ports to make the homeward journey easier.
Fully comprehensive insurance is essential, regardless of whether they are travelling for business or pleasure, as is a valid driving licence, up-to-date passport and a GB sticker. However, we would recommend you check everything with your insurance company first.
Reid added: 'It is a complicated area but one where steps have to be taken by the driver. Without the right papers, drivers can find themselves embarrassed and out of pocket with a shortened holiday or unfruitful business trip.'
If you are planning a trip to Europe, make sure you have your car fully serviced in line with the manufacturer's servicing schedule several weeks prior to the trip, to flag up any potential problems and give you an opportunity to get them sorted. More cars break down on their way to or from the holiday destination rather than while away, Lloyds TSB claims.
This is often because a car overloaded with passengers and luggage adds additional strain. Add to this driving at higher speeds for longer lengths of time and your car could end up letting you down.
John Ascroft, head of RAC Fleet Services, said the stress of breaking down abroad could be made worse by language difficulties: 'If unfortunately you find yourself stranded on the side of a European highway, the last thing you need to think about is, what is the French/Spanish/ Portuguese word for clutch?
'But if you have RAC European cover, you'll go straight through to a native English speaker in our call centre in Lyon. The reassurance of speaking to someone who is familiar with your make of vehicle and its components, as well as having all the local knowledge required, will help get your car back on the road quickly.'
Checklist for British drivers heading abroad on holiday