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Driver safety analysis: Keep driver documents in check

Date: 15 November 2016   |   Author: Jack Carfrae

Checking documents is fleet management 101, but as simple and essential as it is, things still slip through the net.

Grey fleet opens up a bigger minefield than conventional, leased vehicles, but in any case you're going to have to at least check employees' licences, and the type of business in which you're involved will ultimately dictate the specifics of the paperwork.

"Fleets needs to understand the particular documentation they need and that will vary in terms of the sorts of products they're carrying," explains Volvo's head of business sales Selwyn Cooper. "If it's medical supplies, for example, there's a whole set of different documents required versus just a normal passenger car for a sales representative. But even sales reps carry goods in their cars to demonstrate to customers, so they might require documentation for that.

"Then there are really simple things such as taking a car from the UK into various European countries; there are documentation and equipment requirements for driving on different roads in different countries."

At a broader level, there are common documents that every fleet needs to check.

"It starts with the licence, which is particularly important without the paper version now because you can't see if someone has points or not without doing an online check," says Martin Evans, managing director of software specialist Jaama.

"Some fleets have arrangements with their insurance companies where, if somebody has above a certain number of points, they have to declare it to their insurer. So if you haven't got the information to hand and you're not declaring it, you're potentially really in hot water, so that's probably at the top of list."

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Grey fleet drivers instantly add to the complexity of compliance, according to Adrian Bewley, director of business rental at Enterprise: "Very often, organisations only pick up on grey fleet usage after the event, when an employee presents an expenses form.

"Organisations also need to understand who in the business manages the risk around grey fleet, and who makes the recommendations."

"Insurance, MoT and road fund licences; they're the main ones," adds Cooper. "For a small company, it's quite easy, in theory, to manage that sort of documentation - and you could say it's more difficult for large companies. But very often, in our experience, it's smaller businesses that don't have a dedicated fleet manager, and the processes aren't as robust, and things are easy to miss because the renewal of these sorts of processes is less frequent." 

Licences, tax and MoTs can all be checked digitally, so they're easier to handle than insurance, which is more likely to case a problem.

"Literally the only failure point [for electronic checks], is the insurance document," says Richard Brown, managing director of Licencecheck. "The driver has to produce a physical insurance document, cover note or policy, which can be viewed by a fleet manager.

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"That's the only part that you can't actually check electronically with any other third party and, to be honest, that should be available, but it is a very complex service that the Motor Insurance Database operates."

An added complexity with grey fleet insurance is a lack of understanding - by drivers and managers - that employees need business-specific insurance. 

Brown continues: "Time and time again, people just do not have the right policy, and it's only when you go through the audit process that it's proven there are exposures with drivers that just do not understand what their obligation is.

"Many fleet managers are just looking for 'is it a fully comprehensive policy' or 'is it a valid policy?' and they forget about people who just don't ask their insurance company to include business class one cover."

The value of getting it right

In an ideal world, fleet operators shouldn't have to justify the need for compliance, but the ability to quantify new measures on cost grounds makes it all the easier to get them approved. Checking documents properly might not appear to herald an immediate cost saving, but it's as good as another form of insurance.  

"If you have an accident and you're self insured, the first thing the company does is partition off potentially millions of pounds to reserve for that accident," says Jaama MD Martin Evans.

"The more you control things with documentation and compliance, the less likely you are to be exposed in that situation. Basically, it's insurance in case something goes wrong.

"If a [grey fleet] driver has an accident, it's probably going to be their employer that somebody goes after, because if they kill somebody an individual can't cover [the payout] themselves."

"It's more about protecting corporate liabilities, than hard financial gain," adds Licencecheck's managing director Richard Brown. "Can [a company provide] evidence that they are actually following those processes and procedures so under any form of investigation, they can prove they're doing everything possible to eliminate any risk? That would apply to their insurance company as well as to any claim that might potentially be there."