Managers claim that in the past few months, there has been a significant growth in the number of invoices for damage arriving on their desks, even though their rental profiles have not changed.
One fleet manager told a recent meeting of the Association of Car Fleet Operators’ (ACFO) London West area: ‘We hire 15 to 20 vehicles a day and do inspections to note the damage.
‘Then, about six months ago, we started getting invoices for damage on hire vehicles.
They are coming through at the rate of 10 to 15 a week. I speak to the drivers and they say they handed them back in good condition.
‘On one occasion, I received a bill for a missing spare tyre in a returned hire, but looked out of my window and could see the vehicle in the car park. It hadn’t even been returned yet. I think it is just another way of them getting money at the end of the hire or clawing back something to make up losses on residual values.’
However, members said that if decision-makers kept a tight rein on their fleets and had the confidence to challenge suspect invoices, they would often be successful.
Another fleet boss told the meeting of more than 80 decision-makers: ‘I have challenged numerous bills and have been told there is no further action. Ask for a condition report from the previous rental. When we have asked, there is normally no further action.
‘You do have to be careful. Problems occur when a vehicle is delivered or picked up without the driver being present.
‘Ask to see a condition report from the time it was picked up and check whether it was after the time the hire had ended – in which case the rental firm may have to take responsibility.’
Members were told to ‘fight their corner’ but when drivers were not present for delivery or collection, then it was impossible to verify the condition of the vehicle.
Rental companies have warned in the past that tight profit margins and intense competition mean they can no longer turn a blind eye to vehicle damage. Another reason for the increase could be the use of electronic appraisal systems, which make it quicker and easier to identify vehicle damage and simpler to send out bills.