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Adrian Bewley's blog: Managing grey fleet risk is an international priority

Date: 03 August 2021

Businesses across Europe are telling us that their employees are increasingly driving their own vehicles for work and reclaiming mileage reimbursement because the pandemic has changed travel patterns that are not explicitly covered under their plans and policies.

This reinforces the 'grey fleet' as a default travel option when the company policy is not sufficiently explicit and policies are not sufficiently robust to signpost better alternatives. 

We conducted research among 2,466 employees in the UK, France and Germany into how the vehicles they use for business trips are maintained, to get a sense of the scale of the risk. 

It showed that in these three major markets, businesses could be exposed to higher emissions and duty of care risks if business road travel remains uncontrolled. 

Across the UK, France and Germany, 62% of grey fleet drivers don't regularly conduct essential basic maintenance checks to ensure their cars are safe and legal. Nearly half (48%) said they had a live dashboard warning light that they did not plan to check ahead of their next trip. 

Compound that with the fact that grey fleet vehicles are also older and more polluting - on average 8.6 years in the UK, 9.8 years in Germany and 10.6 years in France - and the risk extends to the corporate carbon footprint. 

We're encouraging business to take action to provide better alternatives to the grey fleet now given the scale of change in business travel.

Previously, car trips that started and finished at the employee's home location were a small aspect of the business travel budget. 

Today, commuters will become business travellers if they only go into the office for meetings rather than because it's the primary place of work. Businesses could be responsible every time an employee who previously only commuted now uses their own car for twice-weekly trips into the office. 

As the research shows that most privately-owned vehicles are not fit for business mileage, this poses a risk.

We are seeing many examples of businesses who are eliminating grey fleet while breaking new ground in reducing carbon emissions by providing options that empower employees to make their own sustainable travel decisions. 

Driving the required behaviour change requires access to good data to create a clear picture of which employees need to move where and when, as well as the openness to explore new mobility options such as car clubs and multi-modal travel. 

Employees don't default to their own car to create risk. They do it because they don't understand the implications and aren't necessarily aware of the options. 

The downsides of allowing employees to drive their own older, more polluting cars will only increase with the growth of low-emission zones across Europe. 

It is imperative that businesses know the consequence of allowing employees to drive their vehicle into these zones and ensure their travel policy is fit for purpose. 

Businesses futureproofing their travel policy to address ever-changing variables such as the tightening of policy around air quality and congestion will enable the employee freedom of movement that is fundamental to reanimating business successfully post-pandemic.

Adrian Bewley is assistant vice president of business mobility for Europe at Enterprise Rent-A-Car.