Poorly educated and trained company car drivers are causing thousands of breakdowns a year because they are failing to carry out basic vehicle maintenance and are not fully briefed on the vehicle they are driving.
Company drivers are putting petrol into diesel cars, which can cost up to £6,000 to repair, and plugging so many electronic gadgets into their cars that their vehicles’ batteries run flat.
Such common mistakes, which according to the RAC mean fleet vehicles are off the road for 11,757 days annually, could be avoided if drivers conducted simple maintenance checks and undertook driver training.
The RAC estimates that over 40,000 fleet breakdown call outs could be avoided this way.
The company’s analysis of fleet vehicle breakdowns revealed that 17 out of the top 20 reasons for breakdowns are beacuse drivers fail to carry out simple actions.
The top call out is for punctures, although this has more to do with health and safety policies than poor driver education, as Debbie Floyd, fleet manager for Bauer, explained.
“The days of a young female sales rep trying to change a flat tyre at the side of the road are over,” she said.
“It is part of our driver health and safety policy that a breakdown service must be called to repair a puncture.”
The most common avoidable call out is for flat batteries.
“Fleet vehicles have become like mobile offices with more and more current-hungry gadgets, such as mobile phones, PCs and navigation systems, and drivers seem to think their cars are bottomless pits of energy,” said Elvin Ravenscroft, tactical development manager for RAC.
“Modern batteries are designed for a high discharge of power when starting the car, but not for a constant, steady power flow as in the case of lights or charging mobile equipment.”
Fleet drivers are continuing to mis-fuel their cars in massive numbers.
Diesel contamination now makes up almost a quarter of the top 20 driver-induced faults.
“If a vehicle is misfuelled, the car should not be unlocked and the key should not be put in the ignition.
"Under no circumstances should the engine be started, since it could result in a repair cost of around £200 to have the fuel tank drained and between £3,000 and £6,000 to repair an engine,” said Mr Ravenscroft.
As well as education regarding their vehicles, fleet managers must continue to ensure their drivers improve their road skills.
RAC data revealed that fleet drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a collision as an average motorist.
“If fleet drivers adhered to road rules, took adequate breaks to avoid tiredness or considered undergoing training to improve driving skills, the number of fleet call outs to a collision could be reduced by as much as 50%,” said Mr Ravenscroft.
Top 20 fleet call outs
2 Battery flat
3 Road traffic collision
5 Battery - non serviceable
6 No fault found
8 Clutch assembly
9 Diesel contaminated
10 Starter motor
11 Battery flat - Interior Lights
13 Ignition coil
14 ECU - engine management (combined)
15 Battery Flat - external lights
16 Gearbox - manual
17 Puncture - no spare
19 Lockout - key in seating area
20 Sensors – coolant temperature