The facts around why organisations need to control their grey fleet usage are well documented and have been understood for many years.
That’s why the recent BVRLA report into the subject, which estimates it’s a £5.5 billion issue for UK fleets, came as something of a surprise. If businesses know that there are better options to mileage reimbursement, why is it still endemic?
To recap the arguments, letting employees use their own cars for work is invariably costly because managing all those expense receipts is time-consuming. It can mean employees are driving older, higher-polluting vehicles. There’s evidence that employees make unnecessary trips to boost their income. And it’s a duty of care issue because companies generally have little control over how safe those cars are and whether the drivers have the correct MOT and insurance – even driving licence – to drive them.
So why is the grey fleet still so commonplace? The answer, most likely, will be different for each organisation and involve a complex set of factors.
Whilst collectively the problem may amount to £5.5 billion for UK businesses, it’s a cumulative, incremental cost that can be invisible and easily overlooked. Looking at the impact of grey fleet on a fleet’s cost base, it takes hours to drill through the data to establish the best solution.
Employees will tend to use mileage reimbursement if it’s available. For drivers, using the personal car parked at home certainly can be the easiest option. It can also seem an easy option for the business.
So switching from grey fleet to the alternatives – ‘virtual’ pool cars, car clubs and daily rental vehicles, as well as public transport or even no trip at all – requires a change in behaviour and perceptions. It requires significant employee education and engagement.
In the first instance, it’s vital to show employees why mileage reimbursement, which some may see as a benefit, is not always the best choice. And if the business still wants to offer it as an option, it is critical that it puts controls in place so it knows those personal cars are MOTed, insured and fit for purpose.
The next step is to highlight the benefits of the alternatives. These can include public transport, car clubs for shorter journeys and daily rental for longer trips – perhaps also seeing if some trips can be removed entirely and done via teleconferencing. We’ve done roadshows with some businesses where we show people how car club or daily rental works and therefore encourage employees to buy into the change from day one.
Of course, this must be underpinned by data. Because moving away from the grey fleet can be such a big change, it needs to be supported by hard facts as well as emotions. Employees will want to know that this change will work for them and be easy to live with, but the business should begin by understanding just how big an issue grey fleet actually is – and carefully analysing where, when, how and why its employees travel for work in the first place.
Solving a £5.5 billion challenge is not going to happen overnight, but it can and should be possible. The key is to involve and communicate with employees so that they understand not just how and when the business is changing its business travel policies, but why.
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