Research has found that many business travellers across Ireland who drive their own cars for work, the so-called ‘grey fleet’, do not always carry out basic safety checks on their vehicles. This, and a range of other findings from the survey, should be of key concern to employers as there are legal responsibilities on employers whose employees use their own cars for work-related travel.
The research which was carried out by Enterprise Rent-A-Car found that 58 per cent of grey fleet drivers do not undertake any regular maintenance checks on their cars. When asked why they did not, nearly a third (32 per cent ) said they expected "the car to tell them if something was wrong"and 27 per cent said "that’s what car services and the NCT are for". One in six (17 per cent ) simply expected modern cars to work.
Even more (39 per cent ) have never checked their tyre tread, almost a third (31 per cent ) have not looked at engine oil levels, and some 35 per cent have never checked if their brake lights are working. Almost a third (32 per cent ) admit they have never even opened the car bonnet.
George O’Connor, managing director of Enterprise Rent-A-Car Ireland, says it is a common practice for businesses in Ireland to 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 work-related trip. It’s very likely this is something that companies are simply not aware of, and equally, they may not be aware of some of the implications for themselves should the driver be involved in an accident due to lack of vehicle maintenance.
“We would advise all businesses with employees who 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 work-related travel. Developing a travel policy is an area where we often work with our business customers, not least because this is our day to day work.
“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 also revealed many grey fleet drivers in Ireland are unsure if the car they use for work contains vital safety equipment. Nearly a half (47 per cent ) do not know if they have a warning triangle, 37 per cent do not know if they have a jack, and 51 per cent are uncertain if their car holds a high-visibility vest or jacket. While not mandatory in Ireland, road safety organisations recommend motorists should ensure they have these basic safety items in their car. A third of grey fleet drivers (33 per cent ) do not currently know if their car has a usable spare tyre.
The survey also looked at how grey fleet drivers behave when they are preparing for a trip of 150km or more. It revealed that 42 per cent do not check they have enough fuel, and more than half (51 per cent ) do not do any basic safety checks on their vehicle. In addition, almost two-thirds (63 per cent ) do not plan for breaks at least every two hours, even though road safety organisations agree that regular breaks on long trips are vital to maintain driver focus and concentration.
“This research highlights that many personal vehicles aren’t always equipped for work-related travel and that employees don’t necessarily have the right equipment in the car if they break down," George O’Connor says. "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 is 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.”