Grey Fleets: The hidden safety risks

Hybrid and remote working have become the ‘new normal’, resulting in many employers foregoing the company car fleet and encouraging employees to use personal vehicles – otherwise known as the ‘grey fleet.

For employers and employees across the globe, hybrid and remote working have become the ‘new normal’. Business travel is consequently more sporadic, resulting in many employers foregoing the traditional company car fleet and encouraging employees to use personal vehicles for work-related journeys – otherwise known as the ‘grey fleet’. The benefits could include cost savings – particularly for SMEs – as offering employees a cash allowance for their business miles and vehicle maintenance is often preferable to investing from the outset in an owned company fleet. The rewards, however, must be balanced against the risks companies may face due to the reduced safety control associated with an employee’s ‘grey fleet’ driving. 

When an employer owns their fleet, they can often mitigate risk by ensuring that all vehicles are well maintained, road-worthy, taxed and insured; however, evidence suggests that businesses do not manage their grey fleet with an equal degree of safety nor care. Grey fleet vehicles are typically older, of poorer quality and less fuel-efficient than the average company car and data indicates that driving for work carries a higher risk of collision. When these statistics are considered together with an estimated 14 million grey fleet vehicles currently on UK roads, an employee’s eventual road accident becomes increasingly likely. 

Why should companies manage grey fleet safety risks?

Failing to identify, evaluate, and mitigate grey fleet safety risks could inflict negative legal, reputational, and financial consequences on an employer. Risk management may foster positive outcomes; for example, driver training may reduce dangerous behaviour behind the wheel and subsequent collision, but may also improve fuel efficiency and vehicle maintenance. This could also limit the potential costs incurred by the employer. Maintaining grey fleet safety is also an absolute necessity to avoid liability in the event of a road accident. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must exercise their duty of care by ensuring that all workers are safe while ‘at work’, including during work-related journeys. The Working Time Regulations legislation emphasises this point, as an employee may be considered to be on ‘company time’ from the moment they leave their driveway if they are not travelling to a regular or fixed workplace. Therefore, if a business does not assess the propriety of an employee’s grey fleet vehicle, and that individual is then injured in a road accident due to their ‘unsafe’ car, the employer could face significant fines for breaching their duty of care. What’s more, if a grey fleet driver is providing transport to a colleague or other employee at the point of that accident, the company could face multiple, simultaneous claims. While the owner of the vehicle is indeed responsible for ensuring its compatibility with road traffic law, if they are found after a collision to lack business-use insurance or have an invalid MOT certificate, the employer may still be found to be liable. Regular risk management is therefore key to maintaining the safety of colleagues and the reputation of the company.

How can companies manage their grey fleet?

Well-established and easily accessible grey fleet policies are essential to protecting employee safety. Before an individual is approved to use their personal vehicle for work, preliminary checks could include the following:

  1. Proof of driving licence, insurance, and MOT documentation.
  2. Declaration of any previous accidents and/or driving-related convictions.
  3. Declaration of physical and mental wellbeing.
  4. Details of the vehicle in-use, for example registration, age, total miles, and safety rating. 

After the employee is signed off and their vehicle is deemed fit-for-use, companies can establish regular and continuous practices to maintain the safety of their grey fleet, including the following:

  1. Annual re-verification of all necessary documentation.
  2. Driving performance reviews. 
  3. Road safety and driver training to improve awareness of how to avoid distractions and fatigue. 
  4. Employee reporting of journeys that exceed a certain duration, for example pre-approval of a trip totalling more than 2 hours. 
  5. Awareness campaigns, for example reminders around insurer notification of incurred speeding offences and/or driving convictions as and when they are issued, rather than at the point of renewal. 

It is a legal duty for an employer to manage their grey fleet with the same degree of care as an owned fleet. Consistency, however, is key and it is vital to collect the correct documentation throughout the integration of the grey fleet. Employees should know to whom they must report driving incidents, near misses, and proof of insurance, as well as vehicle road-worthiness. This may be the final line of defence to protect an employer from liability in the event of an employee’s collision or a third-party claim. 

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