Just how attractive is that grey fleet option?

An employee’s privately-owned vehicle that’s also used for work tasks is said to belong to the Grey Fleet. This is a practice that’s always enjoyed a level of acceptance, and the attraction of it has been further enhanced by the Working-from-Home necessities generated by COVID-19.

It seems like a simple and convenient solution for both employer and employee, but Fleet Managers need to be aware of the risks.

  • A privately-owned vehicle is still a workplace with all the employer duty-of-care responsibilities that come with it
  • Insurance for private vehicles almost never covers business activity
  • Privately-owned vehicles are generally older than company vehicles with a resulting reduction in safety

Are grey fleets a good idea?

Grey Fleet use is now a very common practice, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a good idea.

Using private vehicles for work used to be the domain of freelancers and the self-employed. Now it’s seen as a necessary option for manys organisations and their employees.

In the UK, Grey Fleet activity can be attributed to a huge 40% of all vehicle activity on the roads. And it’s not just the private sector that’s utilising employee vehicles to meet operational demands. In Australia’s public sector, the Grey Fleet is estimated to account for nearly 57% of all vehicle milage.

There are a number of reasons for this prevalence. In most cases, Working from Home means logging in at a computer in your makeshift office. But for workers with tasks that involve face-to-face meetings, monitoring equipment in the field, or managing sales territories, there are still reasons to be on the road.

If employees are fortunate to be allocated a company vehicle, then little changes. However, issues arise if staff rely on pool vehicles. Suddenly the pool is no longer easy to access and insufficient to meet all demands from a decentralised workforce. As a result, using a private car (Grey Fleet) becomes an attractive option for employees.

On the face of it, it seems a simple and expedient answer, but unfortunately there’s more to it than that, and your company’s responsibilities in regard to these Grey Fleet vehicles should be known before Fleet Managers pursue this option.

Grey fleets and duty of care

When your employees use a private vehicle for company business the duty-of-care responsibilities are the same as when they’re behind the wheel of a company vehicle.

According to Doctor Darren Wishart, who chaired a Safe Work Australia seminar on the subject, it’s a case of: “Out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunately, that laissez-faire attitude to adopting a Grey Fleet solution could end up generating unexpected costs and producing more issues than running a fleet of company-owned vehicles. This happens because now you’re also responsible for your employee’s vehicle, and how it’s looked after.

Most organisations rotate their fleet vehicles once they reach a certain age or milage. The average age for private vehicles in Australia is 10 years, and it’s more than 14 years in New Zealand. Therefore, there’s no guarantee the Grey Fleet vehicle you are relying on is up to standard. Has the Warrant of Fitness expired, has the vehicle been serviced regularly, and is it roadworthy? If something goes wrong your company is just as liable for the consequences as the employee who owns it. Accidents, injury, third-party claims, insurance hassles. These are all possible outcomes of using unsuitable vehicles and cutting corners in their management.

Grey fleets and vehicle maintenance

If that private vehicle is a poorly maintained 15-year-old car and it’s warrant of fitness has expired your company is just as liable for the consequences as the employee who owns it.

It may not seem fair, but in regard to Grey Fleet vehicles, the authorities see very little distinction between the vehicle maintenance decisions your company makes and your employee makes. If the vehicle concerned is being used for company business the buck stops at your desk too.

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