On the face of it running the company motor fleet sounds like an easy job - its just a few cars and a bit of paperwork - how hard can that be? However when you throw in a few egos, recent changes to the law in respect of company fleets and suddenly
managing the motor fleet is the biggest poison chalice on offer.
So where to start? The most logical place is with the cars. Insurers will want to know the make, model and registration of each vehicle. If the fleet has vans, trucks or HGVs then you’ll also need to know the plated weight for each of them. Many vehicles will be fitted with alarms or an immobiliser and these features will reduce your premium. If you have added extra security or safety features such as trackers or telemetry then you’ll qualify for extra discounts. Some insurers now provide dashboard cameras, which can record the journey and qualify the fleet owner for extra discounts. Sign writing can reduce your premiums, as this type of van is less likely to be stolen. Do you want the policy to cover trailers and other plant items? Remember that these items can increase the total weight of a vehicle and require drivers to take additional tests to be eligible to drive whilst these are attached. Some insurers will require your drivers to be have one or two years qualified experience in driving heavier vehicles before they will cover them.
Consider is where the vehicles are going to be kept at night. Are you going to allow some or all of the vehicles to be taken home or will they be kept at your premises? There are risks with each option. A client of mine had a brand new fleet of 21 shiny new Vauxhalls delivered, which they locked overnight in their yard. The next morning the sales force arrived to find 21 vehicles propped up on bricks. Sourcing 84 new wheels was a logistical nightmare and the sales team were grounded for a couple of days whilst the local dealer waited for stock to be delivered.
If staff are allowed to take vehicles home you need to think about what use they get out of business hours. Do you allow your staff to use the vehicle for personal journeys? And if so does the acceptable use extend to family members? You need to keep control of and understand who is driving your vehicles and the best way to do this is to obtain a declaration from each driver clearly stating their driving experience and any accidents and convictions they have. Take copies of driving licenses (paper and photocard) and keep these on file. If you are going to allow partners or family members to drive don’t forget to get their details too. Remember that many fleets are restricted to over 25s only or drivers with two or more years UK driving experience.
Think about what your drivers might do with the vehicle outside work - does Joe use your van for his weekend removal business or Friday night disco roadshow? This type of use may invalidate your insurance. Make sure you get regular updates from all of your drivers (at least twice a year) as driving convictions can quickly build up as another of my clients found when after an accident he realised that the driver had lost his license due to ‘totting up’ and was effectively driving whilst banned. When recruiting new staff you should consider at interview stage whether they would be acceptable to your fleet insurer. It is surprising how many businesses employing drivers forget to ask about driving experience, accidents, convictions and claims until the driver begins work.
My favourite was the client who employed an alarm installer and only found out when the new employee turned up for work that he had been banned for driving and spent six months inside for being caught with a man tied up in the boot of his vehicle. Keep insurers updated about changes in vehicles and new drivers. The Motor Insurance Database must be kept up to date and there are penalties for not doing so. Even temporary vehicles must be recorded. If you are buying high spec vehicles bear in mind insurers may require additional security and/or restrict driving to named drivers or those over a certain age.
Many fleet policies have motor certificates that cover ‘any vehicle’. This can be confusing. You are still required to tell insurer and the MID about new vehicles or changes to your fleet. Explain this to employees as they may take a courtesy car from a garage and assume the vehicle is covered without telling insurers.
If you take a vehicle off the road remember that unless it is advised to DVLA as SORN it will still require valid insurance. A fine is imposed for vehicles, which are uninsured, but not SORN. It is a good idea to issue each car with its own information pack to be kept in the glove compartment. This should include a copy (never the original as drivers will lose these!) of the insurance certificate and details of what to do and 33who to contact in the event of an accident. Ideally include an accident information form so your drivers will know what they need to record in the event of an accident and a pen. A disposable camera is also a useful (even if your drivers have camera phones) as it will remind drivers to take photos of the scene of the accident which will be useful if there is a dispute later. Make sure your drivers understand what their duties are. Provide them with a driver’s handbook with all your policies and procedures in. Remind them regularly and get them to sign for receipt. Follow these guidelines and you should have happy company motoring!
Jenny Carter Vaughan is managing director at PI Expert. PI Expert is part of Affinity Select Insurance Services Limited, which was established in February 2003 to provide help and advice to businesses, groups and individuals on insurance, mortgages and membership benefits. The company is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority and also offers a full range of commercial and personal lines of insurance, as well as mortgages and non-investment life products.
For further information about PI Expert’s Insurance services visit: www.piexpert.co.uk
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