The risks of using a personal car for work

If HR fails to have effective driving policies in place, organisations may have to shoulder some responsibility when an employee has an accident, warns Simon Turner

An estimated 14 million personal vehicles used for work purposes, also known as grey fleet, are driven on British roads. As a way of reducing the risks associated with grey fleet, HR departments must manage a shared set of responsibilities towards their organisation’s individual employees, and towards the organisation as a whole.

Yet Driving for Better Business’s Censuswide survey of 255 executive directors found that 53 per cent are not aware that grey fleet employees are their company’s responsibility. Even more – 60 per cent in total – do not know whether their organisation even has a grey fleet. This is despite our parallel survey of 1,006 employees who drive for work finding that 75 per cent use their own car for work purposes at least once a week.

There’s a double-edged risk here. First, individual employees are potentially at risk because their employers are not aware of their full responsibilities. This means they are less likely to be trained on and informed of their organisation’s driving policies, designed to keep company drivers safe and healthy. In turn, this means grey fleet drivers are more likely to drive for long hours without a break, or possibly take calls while driving, particularly if that call is work-related. 

Second, organisations as a whole are at risk. If a grey fleet driver has an accident – and according to the Department for Transport, more than a quarter of all road traffic incidents may involve someone who is driving for work at the time – then the company may have to shoulder some responsibility for that accident if any of the organisation’s established work processes were deemed to be a contributory factor.

If appropriate health and safety legislation is not abided by then the impact on the company can be severe. This risk is compounded by the fact that, according to the survey, a staggering one in three grey fleet drivers do not have cover for business use on their motor insurance, meaning they are effectively driving uninsured.

How, then, can HR departments reduce the risks associated with employees using their personal vehicles, and ensure that grey fleet operates as a productive and safe function for both the organisation and individual employees?

The foundational principle has to be ensuring that everyone within the organisation has a clear understanding of their responsibilities in relation to grey fleet. From individual drivers to senior management, everyone needs to understand that grey fleet comes under the organisational banner. 

Under health and safety law, companies must risk assess all their business activities to ensure they don’t put employees or anyone else at risk. Businesses must then develop policies that reduce those risks as much as possible. A formal written driving for work policy is therefore essential in explaining the standards that are expected of those in your company who drive for work – and that includes those who use their personal car to drive for work purposes. 

HR teams need to ensure they have a watchful eye over the company’s duty of care, and must ensure that, as part of every new hire’s joining process, the driving for work policy is communicated effectively and that it is understood by those who make up the grey fleet. At the same time, individual grey fleet drivers have a duty to comply with the organisation’s driving for work policy.

A driving for work policy explains the standards expected of individual drivers and the responsibilities held by the organisation. As part of the policy, it is essential that all employees have their driving licences checked before they are allowed to drive on organisational business, then periodically thereafter – typically annually – and that no employee is allowed to drive on company business without having insurance cover for business use in place. Many companies ask their drivers to confirm their licence is valid, that they have insurance for business journeys, and that their car is properly serviced and maintained each time they submit a mileage expenses claim. A separate driver handbook is also a good indicator of a company that manages their drivers well.

Grey fleet can be a hugely powerful resource, maximising flexibility and agility and genuinely putting employees first – but it is critical that it is managed appropriately and with a clear understanding on all sides of where responsibility lies.

Simon Turner is campaign manager at Driving for Better Business