Fleet News

Daily rental: Cutting the cost of driver fines

THE old proverb goes: ‘You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’. It seems that this adage could well have been written for company car drivers.

As fleet managers turn blue in the face preaching the message of safer driving, those behind the wheel are ignoring the advice and continuing to rack up fines.

Penalty charge notices comprising parking, congestion charge, bus lane and speeding fines have continued to climb over the past 12 months, creating an administration burden for daily rental firms and even a cost mountain for those which subsidise payments for drivers.

Here we take a look at the various problems and highlight ways in which they can be solved.

Reducing fines

RENTAL groups are urging fleets to introduce measures which could reduce the number of fines incurred by drivers.

Brian Jayes, vice-president UK operations for National Car Rental, outlined some of these measures.

He said: ‘Encouraging employees to leave enough time for their journeys will not only reduce the temptation to speed but will give them more time to find a legitimate parking space at the destination.’

As for bus lane fines, Jayes says it is up to drivers to be vigilant. He said: ‘It is not necessarily driving skills that people need – it’s road awareness skills and an acceptance of the risks we take while driving.

‘Greater vigilance generally would go a long way to not only reducing PCNs but improving driver safety.

‘Of course, if all this fails perhaps the final disincentive could be fines to the drivers who incur the penalties.’

A spokeswoman for Hertz added: ‘It might sound obvious, but make sure you keep up-to-date with any changes in legislation or road layouts which will help to make sure you can offer sound advice to your drivers. Regular reminders through your company’s internal communications channels will also help.

‘Allowing plenty of time to reach your destination and using a GPS system like will also help to prevent any last-minute rushes and reduce the temptation to break the rules to get to your destination.’

Bus lane fines have surged 27% over the past 12 months at National Car Rental, while fines at Avis Rent a Car have increased from 60,000 in 2004 to 62,000 in 2005.

Neil McCrossan, vice-president of commercial development at National Car Rental, said: ‘We know exactly who has been driving that car at that time, and yet drivers still rack up these penalties.’

Parking

THE parking problem is also becoming an increasing burden for daily rental companies and their fleet customers.

All the major rental companies have seen an increase in the number of penalty charge notices (PCNs) issued during the past year and some rental companies are advising fleets to fine drivers which fail to pay parking fines. Lesley Sadd, marketing manager at Thrifty, said: ‘It would help the rental company and its fleet customers if drivers were fined.

‘We pay the fine once it arrives at our central records department, then trace the driver and add a £25 administration fee on to the bill.

‘We used to trace the driver first then pay the fine but this meant the fine increased over time, which was bad for the customer and bad for us if we couldn’t locate them.’

London congestion charge

AT Avis, parking fines account for 46% of PCNs, congestion charge infringements 30%, speeding 21% and bus lane violations 3%. Like a lot of rental companies, Avis pays the first day’s congestion charge automatically for customers renting inside the congestion zone but there are additional measures fleets can take according to Stuart Gent, managing director of Avis Rent a Car.

He said: ‘Avis is constantly working with fleets to improve administration and reduce the costs connected to rentals.

‘But it is worth making the company’s policy on all fines with company or rental cars clear in the employee handbook – that way drivers are clear about their responsibilities for paying the fines, rather than expecting the company to pay them.

Also, running a ‘fines league’ on the company’s intranet is another way of drawing attention to the problem.’

Keeping drivers aware of the situation seems to be the greatest factor in reducing fines incurred by a fleet.

Using current resources can help reduce costs and time for both the company and the rental provider.

Brian Jayes, vice-president UK operations for National Car Rental, said: ‘With the London congestion charge zone set to grow, it is important to regularly remind staff of the different methods available to them for paying. Businesses with vehicles regularly travelling into the zone will already be registered so this is less of an issue but for smaller companies and those using rental vehicles, drivers do need to ensure they register on the day they enter the zone. Vehicles rented within the zone already have the first day’s charge included in the rental rate, but any subsequent days need to be paid for.’

How PCN charges at National Car Rental increased between 2004 and 2005

  • Parking fines have risen 2% over the 12-month period
  • Congestion charges have fallen 7.94% year on year
  • Speeding fines have increased 8.43% year on year
  • Traffic offences (including yellow box offences) have increased 1,583 (55%) year on year
  • Overall, all penalty charge notices have increased 3.5% year on year
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