Grey fleet vehicle blues could leave you in the red

If your business runs a vehicle fleet than you're probably aware of the OH&S responsibilities you have to your employees and your potential liabilities to them and other road users in an accident involving one of your vehicles. But you may not be aware that you're also potentially liable for accidents caused by vehicles used on behalf of your business, whether you own them or not.

They're known as "grey fleet" vehicles and they include any vehicle owned by a staff member who's reimbursed by the business for using their own vehicle for work. That includes novated leases.

Managing that grey fleet has been a big issue in the UK for several years, but so far it's largely flown under the radar here in Australia. However that's starting to change, with the growing use of private vehicles and an increasingly litigious environment ramping up the risks for businesses.

Crippling fines and payouts

Unfortunately many businesses are leaving themselves wide open to crippling fines and payouts because they're inadequately managing or simply ignoring the risks associated with their grey fleet.

With work related crashes costing $10 billion a year and accounting for roughly half of Australia's occupational fatalities, the problem is bigger than you might think, and it’s not just about the cars, it's about their drivers as well.

"A lot of businesses assume their OH&S responsibilities only go so far as tools of trade vehicles, but they're wrong," said Nigel Malcolm, CEO of Fleetcare.

"In fact employers are legally required to make sure both their cars and their drivers are safe and fit for purpose," he said.

"That means managing the drivers as well and answering questions like; do they have a valid licence? Do they have a history of drink driving? Is their eyesight OK? How many demerit points have they accumulated?"

Monitoring drivers and vehicles

Online vehicle industry magazine Go Auto News talks about an evolving focus in fleet management:

The new paradigm will include an emphasis on managing the activities of drivers in vehicles other than those owned by the company or organisation.

This will involve systems that will monitor the fitness of these drivers to be on the road at work, their driving records, insurance coverage and the suitability and roadworthiness of their vehicles with all the implications these areas might have on OH&S liability of their employers.

That new approach focusing on drivers, as well as their vehicles, has turned up some disturbing facts in the UK. One company with 10,000 employees and just 50 company vehicles discovered it had 2500 employees using their own cars. It turns out it didn't have the faintest idea whether they were licenced and capable of driving, how many demerit points they had or whether their cars were roadworthy or insured.

Another company made the alarming discovery that one of its drivers had never sat a driving test and the "licence" he flashed about turned out to be a guarantee card for a Polish washing machine!

While the new approach may pose some management challenges to businesses, managers can at least rest assured that they've made sound efforts to meet their OH&S obligations to their employees. They may also enjoy a pay off in lower vehicle insurance and workers compensation costs and reduced downtime due to injuries.

Modern fleet management is an increasingly complex field that's as much about managing risk as it is about managing cars, and one best left to experts. If you have any questions about managing your fleet, contact Fleetcare today on 1300 655 170.

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Categories: Fleet Management, Safety
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