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Private car use is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card

Sir – A huge increase in the number of drivers using their own cars on company business does not mean that companies are absolved in any way in their duty of care towards those drivers.
This swing in perceived car ownership from company to employee masks the real issue that the actual ownership of the vehicle is irrelevant in meeting health and safety requirements, especially as laid out in the latest HSE thinking, ‘Driving at Work – Managing Work-Related Road Safety’. Companies should not perceive the movement towards private ownership is in any way, shape or form a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If the car is used for or continued to be used for at-work driving, there still remains a strong duty of care from the company to the driver.
While many of these private ownership or personal leasing schemes have been introduced to avoid the payment of ever-rising benefit-in-kind tax bills on the employee’s behalf, the company’s duty-of-care remains if those cars continue to be used on company business.
Duty-of-care requirements include ensuring that the driver is correctly licensed and has the necessary competencies to carry out the company’s driving tasks. Consideration must also be given to ensuring that vehicles provided by employees are fit for purpose and portray the correct corporate image.
However, the less control companies have over the provision of the vehicle the harder it is for them to ensure that vehicles being used are fit for purpose and are being regularly maintained.
A particular issue is that of insurance cover and companies must ensure that privately-owned cars being used on company business are fully insured for business purposes. But at the same time, it is not simply a one-way street. The employee who drives for work also has a duty of care and he or she has the ultimate responsibility to drive safely and interpret the company’s safety policy out on the road, regardless of who actually physically owns the vehicle.
It is vital that all drivers of vehicles being used on company business, regardless of ownership, are risk assessed, and appropriate training provided where necessary. After all, it is drivers who are having the crashes, not the company.
Drivers must therefore understand their responsibilities and receive the necessary training and guidance to help them carry out their driving tasks safely and to as high a standard as possible – regardless of the type of vehicle they drive or who owns it.

James Sutherland
Peak Performance Management

ECOs can prove a huge benefit for both sides

Sir – Employees are attracted to employee car ownership schemes for their tax-reduction qualities. However, fleet managers do not seem so keen to push it forward (‘Managers give caution over opting out of cars’, Fleet NewsNet, September 2).
They claim that while firms may save money at the purchase stage, the administration involved becomes no less time-consuming and no less costly than traditional company car schemes. However, it doesn’t have to be an ‘either/or’ situation. With the right technology, such as intelligent data logging and telematics solutions, these schemes become highly beneficial for both parties.
Using technology, the driver only needs to specify for each journey whether it is for business or personal reasons. The total mileage is then calculated and transmitted from the vehicle to the internet. It can then be simply downloaded by employees and management for expenses purposes. Not only does this reduce the cost in terms of time and money to the company on administration but it also ensures more accurate reporting of mileage.
The direct savings in reimbursed mileage and fuel costs can be as much as £80 per vehicle per month.
Therefore the uptake of employee car ownership schemes combined with fleet management technology could see huge benefits all around.

Andrew Hunter
Runcorn

Easy way to eliminate UK’s uninsured

Sir – I have read about so many instances of unqualified or uninsured drivers wrecking people’s lives and have tried unsuccessfully to introduce my idea, which would virtually eradicate these problems.
I am hoping that I might get a better response from your readers as your coverage shows some concern about the problem.
My idea works very simply by only allowing access to fuel with the use of a ‘smart’ card, because without fuel no-one can drive.
The technology exists to make this work. Most people carry some form of credit card so the use of a smart card would not be unusual and we already have to have a licence. Many garages already have the means to pay for fuel at the pump so this would only need adapting.
I believe my idea would prevent the uninsured, unqualified or disqualified and those without an MoT from being able to drive.
Drivers would not be able to dodge road fund tax, which would reduce costs, as there would be no need to chase dodgers, which could lead to reduced road fund tax for fleet users.

Peter B Smith
Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire

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