Fleet News

Fleets set to pay for free servicing

FIXED-cost servicing schemes are at the centre of a safety row amid claims that they are creating an auditing black hole which could lead to prosecution for firms whose cars are involved in accidents.

The growth in popularity of fixed cost servicing and maintenance packages – also known as lock-in schemes – is making it ‘almost impossible’ for fleets to create essential duty-of-care audit trails, a leading leasing company has claimed.

The problem is occurring because no invoice is dispatched to the fleet management company when a vehicle is serviced under a lock-in scheme, as the manufacturer retains it.

As a result, according to Lloyds TSB autolease, fleets lack proof of essential work.

At the recent Fleet News Double Jeopardy conference, fleets were warned that employers should keep a full record of servicing and maintenance, no matter who services their cars.

A recent example found Land Rover liable in a civil case involving an accident in which the vehicle was faulty despite the problem occurring while it was being serviced by an outsourced provider.

George Reid, head of technical services at Lloyds TSB autolease, said: ‘We believe lock-ins are a good idea and, in some cases, provide excellent value for fleets. Unfortunately, they do create a hole in service and maintenance records, causing a significant problem for fleets by making it almost impossible to allow an auditable SMR trail to be created. Carmakers and dealers need to tackle this urgently.’

The Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) claimed there were many ways of creating an audit trail without an invoice. ACFO director Stewart Whyte said: ‘The dealer has to submit an invoice to say they carried out the work on this vehicle, so there’s a record somewhere to prove that work has or hasn’t been carried out.’

A spokeswoman for Volvo, one of several manufacturers offering free servicing, said the problems did not apply to the Volvo scheme because it dealt only with servicing, not maintenance. She said dealers could provide zero-cost invoices and Volvo was also working on a way to upload servicing and maintenance information directly to customers.

Reid suggested that those using the Epyx 1Link e-commerce system could use its no-cost invoice facility to solve the problem.

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