Grey fleets in the UK are at record levels, accounting for 40% of all vehicles on the roads, costing companies more than £5.5bn a year in mileage claims and car allowances but are badly managed, say fleet management specialists Licence Check.

In the public sector, grey fleet vehicles costs £786m per year with the majority of the 1.5 billion miles driven by employees in local authorities, the civil service and the NHS. These vehicles emit 447,000 tonnes of CO2 and 1,118 tonnes of NOX.

But Licence Check, a company providing driver and vehicle management solutions, says grey fleets tend to be poorly managed which is pushing up expenses for local authorities and potentially putting them at risk of prosecution or being sued for negligence.

Local authorities have a clear duty of care with grey fleet vehicles. Current health and safety regulations require companies to ensure that each grey fleet car is fit for purpose, has a valid MOT, is taxed and insured for appropriate business use and that the driver has a valid driving licence.

If a grey fleet driver is involved in an accident and is found to have an invalid licence or incorrect insurance or the vehicle has not been kept in a roadworthy condition, a local authority could be held liable.

Furthermore, there are vast amounts of money being paid out in expenses to drivers unnecessarily when other, more cost-effective travel options exist. There is clear evidence to show that those organisations that put time and effort into managing their grey fleets and drivers can make substantial savings in time, money and exposure of risk that more than justify the measures taken.

Richard Brown, managing director of Licence Check, said: 'Traditionally, grey fleet checks have been a no-go area for many local authorities and there has been reluctance to enforce policies on drivers who drive their own vehicles for work. This is in due part to an 'ignorance is bliss' attitude. Or they rely on a signed letter of declaration, therefore, it's down to the driver and, if they don't know, then they can't be guilty of taking no action.

'There is also fear of repercussions from unions or the workforce, in what may be seen as unwarranted intrusion into their personal affairs because they have opted-out of a company car policy or don't themselves feel a responsible because they are not driving regularly enough on local authority business.

'Very often, local authorities make very few or no internal checks or external referencing to validate the information provided by the grey fleet driver. Neither is there information held about the vehicle itself. Grey fleet vehicles are typically over seven years old and so less reliable, less environmentally friendly than a newer model and no data is collected on servicing and maintenance.

'In fact, research by the British Vehicle Leasing and Rental Association (BVRLA) shows that the average grey fleet car was older, more polluting, less well maintained and potentially more dangerous than any of the alternatives. Grey fleet vehicles were typically 8.2 years old.

'Many local authorities have chosen a course of minimum intervention or to ignore their grey fleet altogether. But a change of attitude is apparent. Increases in the levels of fines for health and safety breaches, together with risk reduction initiatives, have raised the grey fleet profile once again.

'These, coupled with the development of affordable hosted solutions from companies like Licence Check and the need to drive through savings in the business travel expenses budget, means that grey fleet management is rapidly climbing up the public sector agenda'

The obligations to the grey fleet driver include:

  • The employer to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of all their drivers and other road users.

  • The driver to be correctly licensed and the vehicle to be roadworthy, taxed and insured. All this requires is for a responsible employer to put a policy and process in place to check that even where employees are driving their own vehicles, they are legitimate, legal and safe.

  • Both employer and employee may have further obligations through the employment contract.

  • The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires the employer and employee to mitigate risks, including driving at work.

  • Seriously negligent employers may be criminally liable for corporate manslaughter. Senior management could be considered culpable in the death of an employee or member of the public if they negligently allow a person to drive a vehicle known or suspected to be dangerous.

Licence Check offers a grey fleet management system ' Driver and Vehicle Information Solutions (Davis) ' to support an organisation's compliance requirements. This enables employers to directly address the essential issues via a secure online interface through which they can record and manage information about drivers and the vehicles used for business.