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Letters to Fleet News' editor Martyn Moore

Leasing companies share grey fleet blame

I read with interest the recent article in Fleet News highlighting the fact that one third of grey fleet drivers who lease cars without maintenance are failing to have vital safety work carried out.

The finger was being pointed at the bedroom brokers.

However many of the biggest leasing companies are fuelling these problems by giving these cheap rates to brokers in the first place.

Ten to 15 years ago, brokers found it harder to gain entry to the market.

Only the best brokers, enjoyed access to contract hire products.

But as the banks have entered the market and the pressure for growth increases, standards appearto have lowered.

Brokers, who are often given BVRLA status and have no more than a fancy website, are given access to the major leasing company rates, and, by finding out a customer’s allowance, are selling them a rate to maximise their commission.

Excluding maintenance may increase commission by £700-£800.

If the major bank and manufacturer-owned leasing companies do not improve the way in which they vet and control their brokers, there will always be people willing to offer grey fleet drivers non-maintained, cheap deals to the maximum of their allowance.

And while the companies employing these drivers have a duty of care towards their employees, what are they expected to do when a driver turns to them and says that they have spent their allowance and cannot afford necessary repairs or, worse still, decide not to tell their employer and continue to drive the car with defective and illegal tyres.

Many of the major leasing companies will tell you that it is part of their strategy to use brokers to enable them to reach the small fleets. While it has never been our policy at Sandicliffe Motor Contracts to work with smaller brokers, I understand the role the better ones play.

But we will see the emergence of more bedroom brokers encouraging drivers to take out non-maintained deals to the maximum of their allowancet.

If you turn to a financial adviser for a mortgage, they have a duty to ensure you can afford the repayments before they arrange it for you. Isn’t it high time that the major leasing companies insisted on similar best practice from their brokers, striking off those who do not comply?

 

IAN MIDDLETON
Managing director, Sandicliffe Motor Contracts

DIY breathalysers – making right choice

I saw your article about whether you can trust a DIY breathalyser (February 7).

As a manufacturer of breathalysers I can shed a bit of light on the subject.

At present the UK breathalyser market is a bit like the Wild West. There is no British Standards Institute (BSI) mark and there is no controlling body.

As a result there are some very good personal breathalysers but also some very bad ones on the market.

Telling which is which is almost impossible.

Depending on your needs, you should choose one of two breathalyser solutions for your fleet, as follows:

If you are planning to use the breath tester to ‘police’ your employees, with the purpose of potential disciplinary action, you will need to choose one of the two UK evidentially approved devices, either the Draeger 6510 or the Intoximeter FST.

Should your company be taken to court for unfair dismissal these two breathalysers are approved for evidential use in court. They cost around £800+VAT.

If you believe in employees policing themselves a good self-test breathalyser will give them an accurate reading and will tell them how much alcohol they have in their system.

This is the bracket in which our breathalysers sit and pricing is around the £50+VAT mark.

If you are taking the second option you should always check if the product has any official backing, like the involvement of a safety group; whether the manufacturer is based in the UK when quality will generally be better and will be tailored to the UK market; whether the company looks credible and well backed; and whether anyone has independently tested the product and given it a good write up?

If youchoose option two, your recommendation as an employer should be that the only safe limit is when the breathalyser says zero.

HUNTER ABBOTT
Managing director, AlcoSense

Treating dealers as partners

Regarding your story on introducing a blanket ban on under 25s driving company vehicles (FNO, February 14), this may prove difficult in practice.

Insurance companies can refuse to insure people under or over a certain age as they are not covered by age discrimination regulations.

If all insurance companies refused fleet insurance on this basis it would be possible for an employer to say that people under 25 could not drive a company vehicle as the requirement for all drivers to be insured would supercede that not to discriminate on grounds of age.

There may, however, be a problem when only some insurance companies introduce such a ban.

I think it would then be incumbent upon a fleet manager to look around for other insurers and obtain other quotes.

If they are wildly expensive it may be possible to justify the ban on under 25s – although normally expense alone will not amount to sufficient justification.

It would need to be tested and I am not aware of any reported cases.

I am not an expert on road traffic law but as far as I am aware section 144 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 is still in force and there are under that section exemptions for the requirement to have insurance in certain circumstances.

I would assume that if the fleet manager is a manager in circumstances where insurance is not applicable it would be even more difficult to have a blanket ban on drivers under a certain age, without infringing the age discrimination regulations.

In short I would certainly caution against introducing a blanket ban just because your current insurer refuses to issue insurance to under 25s as I think there is a real risk of being found to be in breach of age discrimination regulations if no further enquiries have been made.

AMANDA DINGLE
Legal adviser, Bulfin & Co, employment law solicitors.
 

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