Call for innovation over fleet fine problem
24 December 2019
Author: Sean Keywood
Acfo says managers need to act to stem the tide of costly fines. Sean Keywood reports.
Drivers incurring fines for minor motoring offences is an increasing problem for fleets, requiring innovative responses, according to Acfo.
The fleet operator organisation cites analysis from Lex Autolease, which found that the proportion of fleet drivers incurring fines and penalties for minor motoring offences increased by 21% year-on-year during the first half of 2019, while the financial cost of these rose by 41% to £10.6 million.
In addition, research by the RAC Foundation has found that the number of private parking tickets issued to all drivers has risen from around 690,000 in 2008/09 to an estimated 8.6 million in 2019/20.
Acfo warns that fleets therefore face a legal, financial and HR administrative nightmare, solutions to which were discussed on its most recent webinar, entitled Managing Penalty Fines.
One potential solution to the problem was offered by Glenn Ewen, fleet manager for outdoor advertiser Clear Channel UK, which had previously faced an annual £65,000 bill for fines across its fleet of more than 400 company cars and LCVs, including additional administration charges levied by the company's leasing providers on some 25 fines incurred per day.
Ewen said that his solution was to persuade the leasing providers to re-register the fleet to Clear Channel's own address.
This is because fines including those relating to parking tickets, speeding, low-emission zones, congestion charging, road tolls, yellow box junctions, red routes and bus lanes are issued to vehicle registered keepers, which in the case of leased company vehicles is invariably the lessor.
Ewen explained: "Fines incurred by our vehicles were immediately paid by the leasing company and forwarded to Clear Channel as a cost with an administration fee added on. It made appealing against the fine very difficult.
"We decided that we wanted first sight of any fine and so registering vehicles in Clear Channel's name to the company's address was the answer."
The solution, which Ewen admitted was a 'deal breaker' for some leasing companies, also saw Clear Channel register as many vehicles as possible with local authorities responsible for managing traffic cameras, as the company was wrongly incurring fines from vehicles parked at bus shelters while work was carried out.
In respect of company cars, which previously incurred a bill of £15,000 a year for fines, with an average five penalties per day, any fines now received are immediately passed on to drivers for payment.
"Drivers receive a copy of the fine notice, and are told to deal with it and pay, but we do encourage drivers to appeal fines," Ewen said.
"However, if Clear Channel receives a 'charge certificate' giving notice to pay the original fine plus 50% more, then, as a last resort, the payment is made through expenses or payroll. For persistent offenders their line managers and HR are copied in."
Commenting on Ewen's approach, Acfo digital chairman Julie Summerell said: "I think that getting leased vehicles to be re-registered in the lessee's name is quite unique. I don't know any other fleet that does that.
"It will be interesting to see how leasing companies react if other fleet managers follow Clear Channel's lead."
Acfo says it has been campaigning to help fleets fight the rising number of fines issued to drivers, but fears the volume will continue to escalate with the advent of low-emission
Fleet management company SAFO Group, which sponsored the webinar along with TR Fleet, is talking to local authorities and parking operators about having the entire fines issuing and payment process made digital.
SAFO sales and marketing manager Jane Taylor said: "We believe the effective management of all fines will help to reduce and conquer bailiffs' visits. Fleets must protect themselves.
"Our goal is to digitise the UK market and we are working to do that. A switch to digitisation would deliver benefits and cost savings."
Acfo digital secretary James Pestell added: "Communication with drivers is essential and it is important they understand company policy.
"Too often fines get detached from drivers because they are paid by an employer's leasing or fleet management company, and then recharged with no appeal. Drivers must take ownership and responsibility."