The grey fleet is not a UK-only phenomenon. Our research shows that right across Europe, employees use their own cars for work trips.

Thousands of drivers on the continent are making business journeys in cars that are often older, and may be more polluting and potentially less safe than leased or rented vehicles.

We recently surveyed more than 2,000 adults across the UK, Ireland, Germany, France and Spain who drive their own cars for business to find out about how those vehicles are maintained and equipped.

The findings highlighted some of the challenges facing grey fleet drivers and their employers.

Many grey fleet drivers across Europe don’t know if their car contains vital safety equipment. More than a quarter (28%) are unsure if they have a warning triangle, 36% don’t know if they have a jack and a third (33%) are uncertain if their car holds a high-visibility vest or jacket, even though these and other safety tools are mandatory in many European countries. Two thirds (66%) don’t even know if their car has a usable spare tyre.

A large number of grey fleet drivers also don’t prepare for a trip of 100 miles or more: 44% don’t check that they have enough fuel and more than half (51%) don’t do any basic safety checks on their vehicle.

Almost two-thirds (61%) don’t plan for breaks at least every two hours, even though driving safety organisations agree that regular breaks on long trips are vital to maintain driver concentration.

Our research also found that more than two in five grey fleet drivers (43%) do not undertake any regular maintenance checks. When asked why they didn’t, a third (35%) said that they expected ‘the car to tell them if something was wrong’ and 36% said ‘that’s what services and MOTs were for’. One in six (17%) simply expected modern cars to work.

In these days of onboard diagnostics it may not seem unreasonable to expect a modern car to work without regular maintenance. However, privately owned cars are often much older. Nearly half (44%) of the drivers we questioned use a vehicle that’s more than five years old for work journeys, one in eight (13%) drive a car more than a decade old and one in 14 grey fleet drivers (7%) is in a vehicle more than 15 years old.

So what does this all mean? Many businesses don’t keep track of their grey fleet vehicles, let alone ensure they’re suitably equipped and properly maintained. Grey fleet employees can fall between different areas of responsibility in a business and often, no one knows a driver is planning to use their own car for a trip until they claim the mileage.

While this situation can seem convenient, it does reduce the level of control and could increase risk for many organisations, not just in the UK, but across the continent.