It is this attitude which can lead to mishaps and unnecessary damage, with added costs being passed on to the fleet manager.
As an example of the number of accidents rental companies have to deal with, National Car Rental (NCR) has revealed its accident rates for the past four years. Despite slashing its rate by more than 60,000 incidents, the firm still has to deal with more than 100,000 a year.
The number of accidents amounted to 164,704 in 2000, 152,226 in 2001, 108,424 in 2002 and 104,139 in 2003.
When NCR analysed the damage claims received in 2003, driver misuse or accidents which could have been avoided amounted to 7,956 cases.
More than half of these (4,202) were due to a vehicle being hit while parked and almost 2,000 were due to drivers hitting walls or fences. Fleets can avoid the charges such incidents would bring at the end of the rental period by ensuring drivers adopt a few simple measures.
Dean Mugglestone, insurance and risk manager for NCR, said: ‘It is essential to check the car when it is delivered or picked up to ensure the rental provider has noted any damage. If there is, it should be recorded on a docket that the rental agent will ask the driver to check or sign. When the car is returned, notify the branch of any damage.’
Some measures seem to be stating the obvious but it is failing to complete basic procedures such as adjusting mirrors or seating position and checking where the controls are, that can lead to an accident.
Fines are also a common problem for rental companies. However, it is the fleet that loses out as the fine will be forwarded to the driver’s company, along with an additional levy for administration.
Mugglestone said: ‘If drivers are going into a congestion-charge zone, they should check the policy with regard to payment of the charge with the rental provider. Paying by text message if there is an account already set up will not cover the rental vehicle.
If a penalty charge is incurred, such as a parking fine, it will be forwarded to the company to pay and an administration charge may be added.’
With the majority of damage cases coming from parked vehicles, Mugglestone believes many could be avoided through sensible parking.
He said: ‘Badly parked cars are more prone to knocks and scratches and the majority of culprits will not leave their details. Therefore, drivers need to park sensibly so they are not liable for damage caused by others.
‘Drivers should not take unnecessary risks when driving, such as squeezing through tight gaps, as the size of the car may be unfamiliar and so it will be harder to judge the distance. Don’t drive fast over speed ramps as this may cause unnecessary damage.’
It is not just damage charges that can incur fines at the end of a rental period. Returning the vehicle without a full tank of petrol can be enough to warrant an additional charge.
Mugglestone said: ‘A rental vehicle will normally be provided with a full tank of fuel. Make sure drivers refill the car before it is returned. Also, make sure the right kind of fuel is used or a charge will be made for refilling the vehicle.’
Examples of accident damage
Typical rental firm accident tally 2003