25th October 2016

Do you drive a company car? You could be at higher risk of being in an accident or causing vehicle damage.

Back in April, the Department for Transport (DfT) published its latest Road Use Statistics Great Britain 2016 report1, which estimates the proportion of cars on the road that are company-registered as being circa 8%. Compared to privately-owned cars that travel an average of 7,500 miles per year, the DfT calculates that company cars cover significantly more, in the region of 19,500 miles.

Each organisation and its vehicle fleet is different and many small firms in particular don’t have the luxury of a dedicated fleet manager who is a member of the Institute of Car Fleet Managers (ICFM) and has time to regularly brush up on the latest Association of Car Fleet Operators (ACFO) guidance, the role still often resting on the shoulders of someone in HR or finance.

With the advent of additional servicing items such as AdBlue, along with strong encouragement to go ultra-low, and issues like ‘dieselgate’ still proving a headache to address at a time when alternatively-fuelled vehicles are in the ascendancy and even petrol is making a comeback, fleet managers of today are under the cosh somewhat.

Managing a larger fleet of vans, public transport or emergency services vehicles is another kettle of fish entirely, requiring daily visual inspections and regular, rigorous checks; but for businesses and other organisations that provide employees with cars that are mainly used for commuting and simply become a piece of furniture in the office car park, drivers themselves can play an important and helpful role, especially in the autumn and winter months.

Unnecessary breakdown call-outs can be avoided by company car drivers ensuring that there’s ample fuel in their vehicles’ tanks. After all, a fleet manager doesn’t play the role of a chauffeur or butler. The simple task of keeping fuel topped up is particularly pertinent in cold weather, when a vehicle’s fuel consumption typically increases.

Parking isn’t something that the average company car driver will spend much time thinking about, but repeatedly slamming a vehicle up kerbs with an “it’s not mine” mentality can quite easily cause wheel alignment, tyre and suspension issues, which can all result in the car being taken off the road for a period. Where possible, avoiding parking on busy or narrow roads, in notoriously congested car parks or in secluded and perhaps unsafe areas can reduce the likelihood of a vehicle being damaged, whether accidentally or maliciously.

In autumn and winter months, very few people feel inclined to spring out of bed and head out into the cold, but journey times quite often lengthen during these times of the year due to weather conditions, accidents and an increased volume of traffic. Company car drivers can therefore reduce the chance of them arriving at their appointments delayed and, more importantly, lessen the risk of an accident occurring, by setting off that little bit earlier and keeping alternative routes in mind. Pouring recently-boiled kettle water onto a windscreen is a big no-no as it can cause the glass to crack, rendering a vehicle unusable. Company car drivers also do well to remember that it’s against the law to drive with snow on the roof or windows. Stopping distances increase by up to ten times when it’s icy, meaning that a longer gap should be maintained from the vehicle in front.

This is partly where fleet telematics can make a positive impact at all times of the year, encouraging a driving style that is smoother, more efficient and most importantly, safer. Fleet managers can of course, though, provide staff with information and perhaps training on how to handle situations such as aquaplaning, ice, fog, hail and high winds; but ultimate responsibility rests with drivers.

Fleet maintenance can bog operations down on occasion, so company car drivers can help in this regard by paying an interest in their vehicles, for example by giving windscreen wiper blades a quick wipe with a cloth before setting off. This will not only keep the blades in optimum working order and lengthen their life, but will also keep the windscreen cleaner and reduce potentially dangerous glare in low winter sun. Wiping the windscreen on the inside from time to time obviously keeps it clean but also reduces condensation occurring.

A company car’s light bulbs, tyres and even its bodywork are also grateful recipients of brief checks by their drivers, helping keep them in suitable condition and minimising the time they’re off the road. Fleet drivers can also take care to avoid driving over poor surfaces, through potholes and excessively quickly over speed bumps.

At a time when fleet managers are busier than ever, little steps like these can go a long way in keeping the wheels moving and organisations fulfilling their objectives.

Sources:

  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/514912/road-use-statistics.pdf

Trak Global blog, October 2016

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