Better understanding & managing Grey Fleet Driver Safety

Grey Fleet is an important but often neglected aspect of fleet management and driver safety. It is estimated that there is more than three times the number of Grey Fleet vehicles in comparison to company-owned vehicles. Therefore having a good understanding of how to manage driver safety among the Grey Fleet is essential. Below, fleet consultant, Jerry Glass, provides you with all the essential information to get started. 

What is the Grey Fleet?

Grey Fleet refers broadly to any vehicle that doesn't belong to the company but is used for business-related journeys. This includes all privately owned or leased vehicles used for business purposes (whether owned or leased independently or with the benefit of a cash allowance or employee ownership scheme).

Why is it essential for a business to manage driver safety among Grey Fleet drivers?

Legally, in most countries, a vehicle is viewed as a place of work. So business owners have a Duty of Care to ensure vehicles used by employees for business use are fit for purpose and as safe as possible, and that employees are behaving in a way that minimises the risk to their wellbeing while on the road. 

"We have to do our utmost to push the message that driving for work can, and should, be managed like any other part of the business." - UK Road Safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick

Even if a company also has company-owned or leased vehicles, the law is clear – the
employer still has a legal Duty of Care to that employee, regardless of vehicle ownership. Hence, the Grey Fleet needs to be managed to the same standard as company-owned or leased vehicles. Additionally, because Grey Fleet vehicles are not supplied by a company and also tend to be older (with an average age of 8.2 years) and less well maintained, ensuring the safety of these vehicles and drivers may pose even greater challenges for companies. 

The Grey Fleet is not an area to get wrong or neglect. For instance, in the UK, under the Corporate Manslaughter Act (2007), companies can be prosecuted for the death of drivers resulting from work-related journeys. In the event of a Grey Fleet driver being involved in an incident, there's a burden on the employer to prove that they have fulfilled their obligations. 

Page 9 of Lex Autolease's "Managing the Grey Fleet" report covers the risks businesses face and how to mitigate these, warning:

"In the event of a serious incident, authorities may seek evidence that robust policies and processes were already in place to manage an organisation's Grey Fleet risks. Failure to provide an audit trail showing that all reasonable steps have been taken could prove that an employer had been negligent in its Duty of Care to its employees; resulting in fines and even prosecution."

Depending on the country your drivers are based in, businesses could also face stiff tax penalties if they fail to keep accurate and complete mileage reimbursement records.

It's an area that can also hinder some businesses when trying to win contracts. More and more tendering processes – especially for public sector work – require evidence that Duty of Care is well-managed.

What are the requirements when managing Grey Fleet driver safety?

Before allowing employees to hit the road in their Grey Fleet vehicles, there are some basic compliance requirements that are fundamental to ensuring your Duty of Care:

  • Perform driver licence checks (ensure that the driver is legally able to drive a vehicle)

  • Check that the vehicle has a valid MOT certificate (ensure that the Grey Fleet vehicle is roadworthy)

  • Check that car tax or road tax has been paid (also known as Vehicle Excise Duty in the UK) 

  • Check the Grey Fleet driver's insurance (ensure that it covers business mileage - as insurance can be overwhelming for some, this is often overlooked, and employees are driving for business without insurance cove)

  • Ideally, make a copy of the Vehicle Registration Document

There are also some additional items that will help to ensure best practice and minimise your collision rates among Grey Fleet drivers: 

  • Define and communicate a Grey Fleet driving policy (ensure all Grey Fleet drivers understand what the organisation expects in relation to safe, legal driving using vehicles that are fit for purpose; consider a policy around the age of the car, i.e. must be less than x years old)

  • Ensure a process is in place for reporting road safety issues (which may include crashes, incidents, penalty notices, summons and convictions etc.)

  • Advise Grey Fleet drivers to remove features/distractions that may increase the risk of collisions

  • Check maintenance & servicing schedules of Grey Fleet vehicles (although this really only applies to high mileage drivers that might have safety-related wear and tear that would occur sooner than a 12 month MOT)

  • Enforce regular vehicle checks (perhaps even via a vehicle checks app), or alternatively conduct the vehicle checks or visual inspections yourself (this is your right as an employer, in practice, this is likely to be more feasible as a spot check than a regular appointment)

  • Mandate the use of a safe driving app (despite all of the above procedural best practice, sometimes the only way of moving the needle on driver safety is to understand and improve real-life driving behaviour)

In conclusion, Grey Fleet is an area which, where well-managed, can work well for a company as an alternative to company-owned or leased vehicles. However, you, as an employer, need to be aware of your legal responsibility and Duty of Care to ensure the safety and compliance of the Grey Fleet driver and their vehicle. Employer and driver alike cannot avoid their responsibilities - if you feel that you need help or advice, please feel free to reach out!

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