With road usage back to near normal levels (van traffic fell to as low as 38 percent in April compared to pre-lockdown levels but hit 97 percent by the end of July) and public transport use at an all-time low, grey fleet driving could be happening in greater numbers. With employees having a new ‘normal place of work’ at home, any car journey they do in relation to business will fall under the ‘driving for work’ banner.
What is a grey fleet, what are the new rules and how can fleet managers ensure they are compliant and maintain employee safety?
What is Grey Fleet?
Grey fleet is the use of an employee's private vehicle for business travel. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) estimates there are around 14 million grey fleet vehicles on UK roads, with public sector users covering 1.5 billion miles a year at a cost of £786m and private sector drivers supposedly racking up 11 billion miles and costing operators up to £5bn.
Research carried out in 2019 by Driving for Better Business (a Highways England programme) showed that 53 percent of more than 250 company directors surveyed completely misunderstood their legal obligations in this area.
The same survey also showed that approximately one third of all UK road collisions involved someone driving for work and also recorded an increase in occupational road risk through driver distraction, poor vehicle maintenance, stress and lack of awareness of legal obligations.
Ninety percent of drivers surveyed said that they used their personal vehicles for work journeys, with 75 percent using it at least once a week. More worryingly, a third of those surveyed were not properly insured, admitting that they didn’t have business use cover on their car insurance.
Grey Fleet: Who’s Accountable?
As firms downsize, many employees who used to commute by car to their work could now be classified as home-based. This means that even the odd drive to the office is no longer classified as commuting because the employee’s normal place of work is home. It becomes a ‘business journey’ and won’t be covered by a private motoring policy without specifically requesting cover for business use.
The responsibility is clear: if a car is being used to make a business journey, whether owned by the company or the driver, the company has a responsibility to ensure that it is suitable, is roadworthy and is driven safely. If you have to travel to more than one place of work, or you’re a travelling salesperson or casual delivery driver, you’ll need to let your insurer know that the vehicle is being used for business.
Businesses and their fleet managers have the same duty of care to ensure all vehicles used for any business purpose are safe and legal to be on the road. Whether the employee is travelling to a company meeting, visiting clients or simply dropping off some paperwork, the law applies across the board. Every employee must have a valid driving licence and every car or van needs to be appropriately taxed, MOT-ed (if more than three years old) and regularly serviced.
Grey Fleet Insurance
Additionally, companies must also check their employee’s insurance to make sure it includes business use cover. At the very least, employees should have Class 1 business insurance that covers their journeys during working hours. Class 1 covers you for driving between multiple places of work or occasional travel to meet clients. It typically includes people like care workers who drive to visit patients, but it wouldn’t cover you for deliveries or door-to-door sales. You would need to provide extra cover for that including Goods In transit insurance.
Work-related driving that becomes unsafe or illegal can result in huge legal, reputational and financial repercussions for businesses if a driver and their vehicle documents haven’t been checked and recorded. If a driver who fails to meet the minimum requirements is involved in an accident while working, then the consequences are considerable resulting in large fines as well as claims for compensation made by those who suffer injury or damage as a result of employer negligence.
Fines for conviction under the Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act 2007 are based on the size and turnover of the business. Fines start at £300,000 and there is no maximum limit. Under the Corporate Manslaughter Act, employers, including fleet managers and company directors, could find themselves facing prosecution and even prison sentences. Fleet managers must review their Driving for Work policy in light of any changes caused by COVID-19 and share it with everyone who drives for work.