Mike Waters' Blog: 26 November 2007
27 November 2007
Mike Waters is senior insight & consultancy manager at Arval, the leading vehicle leasing and fleet management company.
You might have read something about the 'grey fleet' in recent weeks. The debate comes following a report Arval published recently on employees using their own or opt-out vehicles for business purposes ...
The black and white of grey fleet
You might have read something about the 'grey fleet' in recent weeks. The debate comes following a report Arval published recently on employees using their own or opt-out vehicles for business purposes. The media have been keen to jump onto the findings describing it as 'a damning report' the 'grey fleet scandal' and even as a 'withering attack on companies for failing to manage safety issues relating to employees'.
I can forgive the headline writers for going with the more emotive message, but in doing the research it was never our intention to attribute blame to businesses or attack them for poor performance. What these headlines do underline though, is the strength of feeling about the issue of health and safety in company car driving and how CSR considerations now form part of the fleet manager's role.
As many will have already read, the report highlighted some significant areas for concern: 83% of businesses have no procedures in place to check that non-company cars are regularly maintained; 74% of businesses do not ask their employees for a valid MoT certificate for their vehicles; 35% of businesses do not check the driving licences of non-company car drivers and 53% have no policy for knowing that the vehicle is insured for business use.
When compared to the approach that business typically take to company vehicles, the feedback makes for alarming reading. By and large the grey fleet typically remains unchecked and unmanaged with potentially serious health and safety and environmental concerns.
While it would be easy to lambaste businesses for poor performance, I'm not so keen to point the finger. The problem with the grey fleet is that it's exactly that, a grey area. I do not believe that employers are wilfully neglecting the health and safety of their employees. No, the problems surrounding the grey fleet result from the fact that many employers simply do not know how far their duty of care obligations reach and whether they or their employees are responsible for the safe running and regular maintenance of non-company cars.
When we launched the report I was given a series of examples by one person and asked to state whether or not they would constitute grey fleet. While the scenarios - ranging from an employee being asked to pick-up company documents while out on a private time lunch hour to doing the boss a favour by picking up a friend from the train station - were almost deliberately obscure, they did highlight the difficulty in pin-pointing exactly what constitutes a grey fleet vehicle and journey. And this was a discussion between automotive industry professionals - for those businesses juggling the multiple requirements of business motoring without the resources of a specialist fleet manager, distinguishing grey from black or white is no easy task.
Be that as it may, changing legislation means the grey fleet will have to rise up the agenda for businesses regardless of whether or not they have a dedicated fleet manager. The Corporate Manslaughter Act will, as of next April, make it easier to prosecute businesses following fatal collisions. The grey fleet is not exempt from this. The Crown Prosecution Service has also stated that it intends to work much closer with the Health and Safety Executive to regularly assess whether employers should be held responsible for incidents involving workplace driving.
In the near future businesses will have no place to hide should they be found negligent in the event of their employees being involved in accident. With this mind, employers need to start making sure there is no grey in their company car management, only black and white.
Until next week,