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Grey fleet management and COVID-19: How to reduce risk

The team at Trakm8 have created a detailed report for business owners and fleet managers, delving into how COVID-19 has intensified grey fleet risks and how businesses can mitigate them.

From relocating to a home office to the growth of online meeting platforms, the Coronavirus pandemic has made an indelible mark on how we work, including how we commute and drive for business. 

Fleet managers have been forced to adapt to the new norm – our guide offers advice and support for those trying to understand and move forward with the rise of the grey fleet.

Table of Contents

What is a grey fleet?

Firstly, what actually is a grey fleet? Not every business has one and many that do, aren’t even aware of the amount of grey fleet vehicles they actually have.

A grey fleet is a fleet of personal vehicles used for business purposes. The vehicles are each owned by employees and used frequently for specific business travel. These employees may get a fuel allowance or expense and will automatically become a part of that business’s grey fleet.

Many businesses fail to manage their grey fleet effectively – this can have serious implications should an employee have an accident whilst driving on business or have issues with work travel in general.

18% of businesses don’t know how many grey fleet vehicles they have in their fleet.

Understanding of more specific details than a standard business fleet – fleet managers must remain compliant with legislation and ensure the safety of their drivers.

How has COVID-19 affected businesses’ grey fleets?

Although recent research shows there is an estimated 14 million grey fleet vehicles on UK roads (*BVRLA), this number looks set to swell as people become less inclined to travel on public transport moving forward. 

The starting point for this research was to try and determine the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses when it comes to grey fleet. Our research demonstrates that 30% of businesses have been moderately or significantly impacted by the pandemic in regards to their grey fleet.

By itself, this figure is not particularly illuminating until we asked how many grey fleet vehicles businesses had in their fleets. Our research revealed that in a quarter of all businesses, grey vehicles account for more than 50% of the fleet mix. 

To effectively manage the safety of a grey fleet, a company must first identify the number and type of vehicles there are and what the vehicles are being used for. 

With such a large proportion of business fleets dominated by grey fleet vehicles, and a figure that looks set to increase as the full effect of the pandemic is felt, it has never been more prevalent for businesses to understand the crucial role effective grey fleet management plays in respect of financial efficiency, environmental sustainability and duty of care obligations.

More and more employees are now considering opting out of company owned or leased vehicles and considering the move to grey fleet solution.

‘’Grey fleet is more important now than ever before as there is a commitment to reducing capital costs of company owned fleet cars where ongoing employment is uncertain due to COVID-19.’’

What are fleet managers responsible for in a grey fleet?

In businesses that have a Fleet Manager in position, this is most commonly the individual that is responsible for managing anything grey fleet related. Our research however, also uncovered that 58% of fleets are managed by non-fleet professionals, covering various different job titles. 

Wherever it falls in your business, it is essential that the person responsible understands what having a grey fleet means and how to manage it. 

Our shocking statistics help us to understand why grey fleets are often mismanaged and why many businesses are struggling to keep up with the rise of the grey fleet throughout the pandemic:

more than 50% of businesses are unaware when a personal vehicle is being used for business purposes.

Historically, one of the key reasons grey fleet issues are overlooked is because of a lack of awareness of where fleet accountability lies within the business.

58% of fleets are managed by non-fleet professionals.

Our research has proven this still to be the case as 14% of businesses don’t know who grey fleet management responsibility lies with, as well as more than 50% being unaware when a personal vehicle is being used for business purposes

14% of businesses don’t know who grey fleet management responsibility lies with.

An essential starting point for the implementation of a cohesive grey fleet management strategy is to ensure responsibility for the grey fleet is assigned to an individual team.

Businesses that operate effective grey fleet management processes generally spread the responsibility among various departments, particularly HR, accounting and health and safety.

Engaging with senior members of the business in developing the overall grey fleet strategy ensures employers are considering their duty of care obligations, which are not limited to just company car drivers. This means:

  • Fully understanding their own responsibilities;
  • Communicating clearly what is required of grey fleet drivers;
  • Having the right systems in place to ensure that these requirements are met. 

For example, although important areas of focus for company car vehicles include roadworthiness, driving standards and insurance cover, these are generally overlooked for personal vehicles, highlighting just how important it is that duty of care responsibilities are upheld and enforced for grey fleet drivers.

What happens if a grey fleet isn’t correctly managed?

Failure to uphold duty of care responsibilities of a grey fleet can have serious consequences. When dealing with a business road accident, employers need to be able to demonstrate that they have put reasonable measures in place to protect the wellbeing of their employees, including grey fleet drivers. 

The penalties for not doing so include significant fines and even custodial sentences for management failures.

What legislation applies to grey fleets?

There is a host of legislation pertaining to effective grey fleet management which can sometimes feel difficult to navigate. This was reflected in our survey, with 34% of respondents saying they were not aware of current grey fleet legislation

There are a number of key legislative measures that businesses need to be aware of to ensure compliance. Key ones include: 

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974: 

This states that ‘it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all employees’.

Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007:

This means that companies can be prosecuted for the death of drivers resulting from work-related journeys where negligence is proven. 

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999:

This requires every employer to carry out an assessment of the risks to the health and safety of their employees while they are at work.

HSE Driving at Work Guidance:

This dictates that any grey fleet policy should include statements relating to the vehicle, the driver and the journey.

The Road Traffic Act 1988:

This act makes it a criminal offence under section 87(2) for an employer to ‘cause or permit another to drive on the road a motor vehicle otherwise than in accordance with a licence authorising that person to drive’.

Implementing a grey fleet programme for fleet managers and drivers

The implementation of a successful grey fleet programme is reliant on buy-in from both businesses and employees. Organisations that take a proactive approach to engaging with their workforce on grey fleet regimens are more likely to realise the inborn benefits that such a programme can deliver.

22% of businesses do not have a driving work policy.

44% of businesses do not include specific training.

50% of businesses don’t offer ongoing driver training opportunities.

200 road deaths or serious road injuries per year directly involving somebody driving in the line of work

As part of our research, we asked businesses if and how they integrate protocols surrounding the grey fleet into their wider staff training:

  • Almost half (44%) of all businesses that have some element of grey fleet requirements said that they do not include specific training on it when on-boarding a new member of staff.
  • 50% of businesses worryingly don’t offer ongoing driver training opportunities to personnel using grey fleet vehicles. 

Businesses that operate the most successful grey fleet provision are those that make it an integral part of training for new and existing staff. Ideally, if a new starter is expected to drive their own vehicle for work purposes, expectations, processes and responsibilities – both for business and employee – should be laid out during the induction process.

Driving for work policies and grey fleets

Some businesses include guidelines regarding grey fleet vehicle usage in key company literature, such as new starter handbooks or driving for work policies. Indeed, for any organisation that expects some degree of business driving from its employees, a driving for work policy is essential. 

While many businesses may already have a driving for work policy within their health and safety policy, it is crucial to ensure it is reflective of any significant changes to the fleet structure (such as a shift towards more grey fleet vehicles) and contains all of the relevant information which may be required by employees.

According to our research, just under a quarter of the businesses surveyed (22%) do not have a driving for work policy in place. Implementing an effective driving for work framework is essential for managing risk and safeguarding employees – a vital consideration when you consider there are around 200 road deaths or serious injuries per year directly involving somebody driving in the line of work. 

For businesses looking to create or update their driving for work policies, there are a number of resources available online which provide best-practice guidance. These include the Department for Transport’s ‘Driving For Work’ hub and information from Highways England.

How important is effective grey fleet management?

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly hastened the rise of the grey fleet, engendering significant changes in business driving over the past year. But in such a challenging period, when businesses have had to radically change ways of working, just how critical a consideration is the grey fleet? 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the insights gleaned from our survey suggest that implementing an effective grey fleet strategy has grown in importance for businesses since the start of lockdown. 

Of the organisations surveyed:

  • 29% regarded the implementation of effective grey fleet protocols as a high priority issue.
  • A further 37% viewed it as an issue of at least moderate primacy. 

Looking at the report in closer detail, it is clear that UK fleet operators believe the shift towards the grey fleet is now irreversible and should be viewed as a more urgent priority. Indeed, of those surveyed, nearly half (48%) believe that a grey fleet should be a higher priority for British businesses. 

Such figures indicate a clear appetite among fleet professionals for a managed move towards the grey fleet model. But how sustained is this change?

How might the importance of the grey fleet change due to the pandemic?

As the UK looks ahead to a future where the Coronavirus is more effectively contained, what challenges – and opportunities – lie ahead for businesses looking to roll-out the grey fleet? Respondents to our survey identified four clear areas that they believe are likely to have the biggest impact on grey fleet take-up in life beyond the pandemic. 

40% of businesses asked believe that the rise of hybrid-working is here to stay and will have a significant impact on how fleets are structured. Linked to this, a further 42% indicated that financial decisions – such as belt tightening in the wake of a challenging 18 months – could see businesses selling company vehicles in favour of a more expansive grey fleet offering. This shift does seem likely. 

With more workers than ever before working from home and government guidance still advising a mix of office and home-based working, the instances of employees using their own vehicles for work – either through necessity or choice – will surely increase in years to come. 

The impact of low and zero emission zones

Our survey found that the biggest perceived impact on the roll-out of grey fleet across the next decade will be the emergence of low or zero emission zones across UK cities.

59% of respondents identified low carbon emission zones as the single biggest challenge facing grey fleet sector.

21% of respondents believe the introduction of sustainability-focused legislation will have the most profound impact on the sector.

From London and Bath, to Birmingham and Greater Manchester, the past decade has seen major urban areas nationwide roll-out so-called clean air zones – designated roadway on which older or diesel-fuelled vehicles must pay a hefty fee to use. 

While some businesses have committed to full or partial electrification of their fleet in recent years, it is much harder to ensure compliance with clean air zones when employees are using their own vehicles. That’s why a clear, previously mentioned, driving for work policy is critical to ensure drivers and businesses aren’t left open to costly repercussions.

How can Trakm8 help businesses manage their grey fleets?

With the shift towards grey fleets seemingly irrevocable, the thoughts of fleet managers nationwide will be turning to the solutions available to help best manage that transition. 

For many, that solution will be found in technology. This is corroborated by our report findings, in which the vast majority of respondents (85%) said intuitive vehicle technology will play some role in their grey fleet roll-out strategy. 

The good news is that vehicle technology specialists have long anticipated the move towards the grey fleet and have pioneered systems to manage this change most effectively. 

Trakm8’s Connect 200 Grey Fleet Vehicle Tracking Device

Here at Trakm8, our Connect 200 device has been designed with flexibility in mind, making it the ideal telematics solution for fleets having to adapt to new ways of working.

Providing 100% compatibility and requiring just a 12v aux socket for full connectivity, the solution is able to provide unparalleled levels of support for the grey fleet market. It can be:

  • Easily removed and reinstalled for business travel only (the device’s button can be pressed to designate journey types); or
  • Switched easily between vehicles. 

Alongside its adaptability, the Connect 200 can also help bolster driver safety – always a critical concern for fleet managers. The system comes with real time vehicle tracking via Trakm8’s Insight Portal and iOS/Android apps. 

This can provide a driver behaviour score on a number of key metrics, including:

  • Acceleration
  • Braking
  • Cornering
  • Speeding

The data accumulated here can then be used by fleet managers to identify training opportunities for their drivers, reducing the risk of accidents and vehicle downtime.
We have a large range of fleet management software available that suits all types of fleets as well as grey – check out our guide to the best fleet management software for more support on what your fleet needs.

Managing grey fleets during COVID-19 with Trakm8

The rise of the grey fleet, while long anticipated by many in the sector, was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. As this report has demonstrated, many businesses were well placed to meet this change; testament to the adaptability and resourcefulness for which the fleet sector is rightly renowned.

As we look ahead to life beyond the pandemic, it is clear that the grey fleet is here to stay. The findings from this report are a source of significant encouragement that many businesses are considering now how to best manage this change. 

The role of technology in leading this change should not be underestimated. At Trakm8, we are privileged to sit at the very heart of the fleet supply chain, proving our sector leading expertise and solutions to fleets of all sizes – from 10 vehicle SMEs to mammoth 500+ vehicle powerhouses. 

This, coupled with our expertise in developing fleet-focused telematics solutions, affords us unique insight into the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in terms of fleet. At Trakm8, we have made continued investment into our grey fleet telematics solutions for businesses and are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with them as they manage this transition, whatever scale that might be.

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