‘Grey fleet’ drivers failing to carry out safety checks

Published: 14 September 2017

At-work drivers who drive their own cars for work, the so-called ‘grey fleet’, do not always carry out basic safety checks on their vehicles, according to new research from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The study among more than 2,000 adults in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France and Spain who drive their own cars for business found that more than two in five ‘grey fleet’ drivers (43%) did not undertake any regular maintenance checks themselves on their cars.

When asked why they didn’t, a third (35%) said that they expected ‘the car to tell them if something was wrong’ and 36% said ‘that’s what services and MoTs were for’. One in six (17%) simply expected modern cars to work.

Even more (38%) had never checked the tyre tread, a third (33%) had not looked at engine oil levels and almost half (40%) had never checked if their brake lights were working. Almost a third (30%) admitted they had never even opened the car bonnet.

Moreover, the research revealed that the personal cars Europeans drive for work were often less modern. Nearly half (44%) of the business drivers questioned were using a vehicle for business that was more than five years old, around one in eight (13%) drove a car that was more than a decade old and one in 14 ‘grey fleet’ drivers (7%) is in a vehicle more than 15 years old.

Rob Ingram, director of business rental for Europe at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, said: “All over Europe, businesses allow employees to use their own cars for work journeys. However, our research indicates that many drivers are not always checking their vehicles before a business trip. It’s very likely that this is something that companies are simply not aware of, and equally, they may not be aware of some of the implications for the business should the driver be involved in an accident due to lack of vehicle maintenance.

“We would advise all European businesses with employees that drive their own vehicles for work to ensure their travel and transport policies cover areas such as vehicle maintenance and routine checks for personal vehicles used for business travel. Developing travel policy is an area where we often work with our business customers, not least because this is our day-to-day work. At Enterprise, for example, every daily rental vehicle is put through a 25-point check before each hire and Enterprise Car Club vehicles in the UK have an inspection every fortnight.

“It may also make sense to provide employees with other travel options when they are planning a trip, such as pool cars, rental car vehicles, car clubs or advice on the availability of public transport, especially where it may be difficult to monitor how privately-owned vehicles are maintained. These options can be more cost-effective than the ‘grey fleet’ and employees often welcome not having to use their own vehicle for business.”

The research further revealed that many ‘grey fleet’ drivers across Europe were unsure if the car they used for work contained vital safety equipment. More than a quarter (28%) didn’t know if they had a warning triangle, 36% didn’t know if they had a jack and a third (33%) were uncertain if their car held a high-visibility vest or jacket, even though those and other safety tools were mandatory in many European countries. Two thirds of ‘grey fleet’ drivers (66%) didn’t currently know if their car had a usable spare tyre.

The survey also looked at how ‘grey fleet’ drivers behaved when they were preparing for a trip of 100 miles or more. It revealed that 44% didn’t check that they had enough fuel and more than half (51%) didn’t do any basic safety checks on their vehicle.

In addition, almost two-thirds (61%) didn’t plan for breaks at least every two hours, even though driving safety organisations agreed that regular breaks on long trips were vital to maintain driver focus and concentration.

Mr Ingram said: “This research highlights that many personal vehicles aren’t always equipped for business travel and that employees don’t necessarily have the right equipment in the car if they break down. Staff may need a reminder before they set off on a trip of what they need to take in their vehicle, especially if they drive abroad where the requirements may be different.

“In some cases, companies may wish to consider if it’s appropriate to help with the cost of these items, not least as they may be stopped and fined by the police on the highway. Again, this is an area that can be addressed by a travel policy designed to cover the ‘grey fleet’.”