Utilising a grey fleet can be particularly useful if your drivers have a low mileage count and they can be an effective way to reduce leasing fees. But what are grey fleets and, if you manage one, what should you be aware of? We explore how to get the most out of your fleet and highlight the challenges and benefits you can expect to encounter should you decide to set one up.
What is a grey fleet?
A grey fleet is one where the employees or contractors use their own vehicles for work or business purposes. Regardless of whether they outright own or lease them, if they aren't using vehicles owned by you or your business, they're classified as a grey fleet. Drivers in a grey fleet are still reimbursed on a pence per-mile basis when using their private vehicles for business purposes. If an employee uses a vehicle under a cash allowance scheme, that's also considered part of a grey fleet.
Some examples of grey fleets include courier services that need drivers to cover final mile delivery or businesses where employees are required to visit multiple premises, such as salespeople. A grey fleet would benefit businesses where drivers make fewer journeys and travel small distances on company time, in particular, as there are fewer risks when vehicles are on the road for less time. However, for larger fleets that travel great distances, the risks increase and managing a large grey fleet can come with complications.
The benefits of a grey fleet
So long as you can keep the vehicles maintained and in working order, grey fleet management is an excellent way for employees to continue using their own vehicles for business purposes. Reimbursement of fuel costs for employees travelling outside of their commute is often cheaper than the upfront costs that come with purchasing or leasing business vehicles, ultimately saving money for your business. With a grey fleet, it's also easier to expand your fleet at a fraction of the cost, especially if it's short term. However, it's essential to monitor personal vehicle use and keep a close eye on your fleet's mileage and vehicle maintenance claims. After analysing how your grey fleet cars are performing, you may find that it's beneficial and more cost-effective to invest in a company-led fleet.
What to look out for when managing a grey fleet
When you're in charge of a grey fleet, legal and insurance implications have to be kept in mind. Although employees are using their own vehicles, they're still entitled to a duty of care when asked to operate on behalf of the organisation. This means that employers must do all they can to ensure drivers are travelling safely when working, regardless of the vehicle they're in.
From a legal perspective, vehicles in a grey fleet need to be managed just as closely as company vehicles. This means that your employees shouldn't be driving vehicles that are unsafe or unfit for use. With the average age of grey fleet vehicles at 7.2 years, some of the cars in your grey fleet will inevitably lack some of the safety features of newer cars. This could make them more prone to breakdowns or maintenance issues, so it’s important to ensure that they’re being checked regularly. By not having a comprehensive overview of the vehicles in your fleet, you may be unwittingly putting your staff at risk.
As a manager of grey fleets, it can be highly beneficial to implement a policy that grants you a closer look at the vehicles in your fleet. This should involve regular compliance and maintenance checks to create a process that results in only safe and roadworthy vehicles being used for business purposes.
Risk management in your grey fleet
Risk management plays a significant role in managing a grey fleet and should not be neglected by fleet managers. Under the Corporate Manslaughter Act (2007), companies run the risk of prosecution if one of their drivers dies on work-related journeys. By having a risk management process, businesses can ensure that their drivers are safe on the roads and prevent accidents from happening. One of the best ways to provide a safer experience for you, your employees, and the business is to apply robust policies and processes that can be actioned easily and effectively. You must be able to show an audit trail that demonstrates you've taken reasonable steps to keep your employees safe. Not taking the necessary steps to keep your employees safe can make it harder to earn contracts, especially if they involve the public sector, with tender processes increasingly likely to require proof of duty of care.
Auditing your fleet
In a similar vein, being unaware of the working conditions of the vehicles in your fleet leaves you in the dark when it comes to building an accurate picture of your grey fleet's true financial cost, its environmental impact, and the health and safety issues that could arise. With figures suggesting there are 10.5 million grey fleet vehicles on the road, fleet managers can sometimes struggle to identify the number of vehicles in their fleet with costs hidden in delegated budgets instead of a central fleet budget. Being able to track and measure your fleet is key to helping it function as best as it can and will help to save you money.
The hidden cost of a grey fleet
In 2016, the 12 billion miles travelled by grey fleets were revealed to have cost around £5.5 billion in mileage claims and expenses. So, while private vehicles can be cost-effective and practical for short ad-hoc journeys, a robust approach to management is needed to keep mileage claims accurate and auditable, as HMRC takes a particular interest in mileage claims and their accuracy. This generally works best if there is a regularly maintained process or structure in place that ensures mileage claims are accurate and prevents drivers from exaggerating journey length, which could be costing the business more money. Technology, such as telematics, can play a large role in reducing these problems and can save you money in the long run.
Another way you can save money on your grey fleet is by utilising our range of fuel cards. They provide fleet managers with important details to improve fuel efficiency and provide accurate and detailed reports on how their money is spent on fuel. We also offer a range of fixed weekly price fuel cards, where your company will be charged a flat fee for every litre of fuel purchased, resulting in huge savings over the course of a year. Contact us here to find out more about how we can help you save money on your fleet.
Karl GurneyKarl has over 14 years of experience in the fuel card industry and has a wealth of knowledge around the servicing and maintenance of fleet vehicles. Outside of work, Karl coaches a junior football team and enjoys spending time with his wife and 2 sons.