Fleet News

The cost of grey fleet for local authorities exposed

The Department for Transport instructs its staff that they must choose the “most cost effective, environmentally responsible and safe method of transport”.

The use of grey fleet vehicles it says should be the last travel option a member of staff considers for any journey in excess of 100 miles. “Public transport should be the first form of transport considered once the decision to travel has been taken.”

Despite this explicit instruction to avoid grey fleet use, the department still spent £3.9 million last year paying its staff for the 10.2m miles they drove in their own cars on business. However, that mileage has fallen from a high of 12.9m in 2007.

The Department for Work and Pensions is also seeing tangible results from its shift away from grey fleet use.

“The Department’s policy is to reduce grey fleet travel using strict controls including line management authorisation for each journey and a requirement for business cases to be provided for journeys over 100 miles per journey or 1,000 miles per year,” explained a spokesman. “This policy has helped to reduce grey fleet mileage by 28% between 2007/08 and 2009/10.”

As a result, it has reduced its grey fleet costs from £13.85m in 2007 to £8.78m last year.

The Wales Audit Office, which is hosting a grey fleet seminar in Cardiff later this month, said it is also working to reduce its grey fleet costs, which exceeded £443,000 over the past three years.

“We have a target to reduce business miles by 5% from our 2008 baseline. We currently promote video conferencing in order to reduce the amount of travel to meetings — we held 473 video conferencing sessions over 2009-2010. We also promote car sharing through our travel and subsistence policy, but this is not enforced,” explained a spokesman.

“We are also assessing the viability of providing pool cars which could provide cost savings and be safer and better for the environment than a grey fleet car.”

A WAO internal fleet management review suggests a “travel hierarchy” be introduced to make travel by car the last resort.

The office is also considering incentives for staff to use public transport, as well as introducing policies to ensure staff work as close to home as possible, and to promote car sharing. It is also developing a policy on providing rental cars.

Surprisingly for a body that produces a grey fleet best practice guide, the WAO does not check grey fleet drivers’ licences, insurance documents or MOT certificates.

However, it is now considering whether to introduce a new rule that all driving licences be checked through the Vehicle Licensing Bureau. Grey fleet drivers will also be required to produce their business insurance, breakdown cover and service documents for scrutiny.

Even some county councils are starting to tackle grey fleet costs. Hampshire County Council has agreed a reduction on its mileage reimbursement rates with the trades unions. “The cost saving from this will help towards the £15m of recurring efficiency savings from 2011,” a spokesman said.

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