A quarter of businesses do not have policies in place to manage their grey fleet vehicles, putting themselves at risk of prosecution, new research suggests.
An even greater number, a third (33%) of organisations, believe they face ‘no significant risk’ from those employees who use their own vehicles for work.
The findings, from an annual independent study commissioned by Lex Autolease, show the scale of the grey fleet problem facing the industry.
Paul Coley, principal consultant at Lex Autolease, said: “Employers have a legal and a moral responsibility to ensure that their drivers and vehicles meet all legal requirements.
“There are straightforward vehicle and driver checks and health and safety policies that can be put in place to better manage a grey fleet, which will ensure a company meets its duty of care requirements and help to reduce the road safety risk.”
Almost two thirds (62%) of the businesses surveyed allowed some employees to use private vehicles for work purposes.
Estimates suggest there are 14 million grey fleet vehicles in the UK today, compared to just one million company cars and although organisations across the business spectrum make use of grey fleet vehicles, the survey found that the use of private vehicles was significantly higher in larger fleets (see panel).
Around one in two SME businesses (51%) permitted the use of grey fleet compared to 84% of corporates, while 15% of SME employees were classed as grey fleet drivers compared to 26% of corporate employees.
Interestingly, the average ad-hoc grey fleet driver uses their vehicle for between 15-16 miles per week for work purposes – an indication of how much of their use is casual rather than regular.
John Webb, from Lex Autolease’s consultancy team, said: “Even large corporate businesses and public bodies – those organisations that have the most experience and greatest use of grey fleet vehicles – can find it difficult to manage.
“Certainly, supervising employees’ private cars for work purposes takes management time and effort. However, managing the risks associated with the grey fleet is vital, and organisations must understand their full responsibilities when private vehicles are being used on their behalf.”
While an organisation will effectively monitor the policies, insurance, MOT and routine servicing of its own fleet, these same controls often do not apply to grey fleet vehicles.
The survey revealed that most organisations do make some checks on the grey fleet, with 56% ‘always’ checking a vehicle’s MOT. However, just 28% ‘always’ do a physical check of a grey fleet vehicle’s roadworthiness, with a further 27% doing so ‘sometimes’.
Lex Autolease’s Chris Chandler said: “There are a lot of myths surrounding data privacy with some organisations feeling that they can’t ask employees about their personal vehicle because of the Data Protection Act.”
Some survey respondents, 16%, believed that asking staff to supply details of their vehicles’ insurance and MOT – even requesting to see their driving licences – was an invasion of privacy.
“It is just not true,” continued Chandler. “An organisation has the right to know information about a vehicle, such as its servicing history or MOT status and if it is being used for work purposes. Similarly, the organisation can check information such as an employee’s current driving licence eligibility.”
Some businesses choose not to make mileage payments unless a driver meets all of the terms of a policy, which can help acquire this information. However, the lack of control associated with the grey fleet can be an issue for many organisations, even when driver and vehicle information has been supplied.
Chandler concluded: “Although most employees are upfront and honest when replying to questions about their vehicle’s condition and documentation, the company must take reasonable action to check compliance.
“The law is very clear about vehicle condition and use under legislation such as The Construction and Use regulation and the Road Traffic Acts.
“An organisation could also be deemed to be ‘causing or permitting an offence’ by not taking adequate steps to ensure vehicle roadworthiness and legal compliance.”