'Grey fleet' drivers could mean risky business for employers

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Employees across the UK could be leaving themselves and their companies exposed if they fail to understand their responsibility when using their own cars on company business. That's the finding from telematics provider Trimble, who, in a recent survey, saw an alarming six out of ten respondents were unaware of the fact that they needed to insure their car for business travel if they ever drive their own cars on behalf of their company. 

There is a growing trend for firms to operate a "grey fleet," as it is often referred to, as the cost of managing a fleet of company vehicles becomes unsustainable for many UK organisations. However, the legal implications are not clear.

Managing director of Trimble Fleet Solutions in Europe, Andrew Yeoman, said: "It is easy to see why opting for a 'grey fleet' is an attractive solution as it mitigates the expense and resources of running a company fleet. Our survey showed that employees don't fully understand their obligation in this area and often employers are also unaware of the impact on them.
 
Vikki Woodfine, a senior solicitor at business law firm DWF, understands the potential dangers facing those organisations not managing their "grey fleet."

"If an employer sees its employees' expense and fuel reports, the company should be fully aware of which employees are using their own vehicle for business travel. You can't just pay for an employees' fuel and then abscond from further responsibilities," said Woodfine. "There could be more at stake financially than just the cost of insurance if there is an accident," she continued. "For example, there is the cost of an absent employee and the damage that could be caused to your business reputation.

"An organisation could also be at risk of a potential civil claim if, for example, an employee is involved in a serious collision. Claimants may look to the employer in the claim," said Woodfine. "Ultimately, employers have a duty of care towards all employees making work-related trips regardless of who owns the vehicle."

With employees and employers both needing to be more informed, there are simple procedures that can be implemented to start to address any potential issue.

"At the bare minimum employers need to check an employees' driving licence, their MOT and verify that they have the correct insurance for business travel," said Trimble's Yeoman. "These checks at least provide a foundationbut to truly take responsibility for their grey fleet the next step is to see how else they can manage their risk and their employees' safety while out on the road."

Yeoman continued: "Telematics is already used by millions of fleet vehicles around the world. The technology enables our customers to assess their road risk, identify poor driver behaviour and then train those drivers to be safer on the road. For those companies using grey fleets, using telematics in this way is certainly a potential approach for them to help ensure that drivers driving on the business' behalf are doing it in the safest way possible, protecting both themselves and their employees." 

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