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3 Aug 22

Ten tips to better manage your grey fleet

If you think the Grey Fleet is a bunch of pirates out of Game of Thrones, you’re not just wrong – you’re in the wrong business. Every fleet manager should be familiar with the concept, which has gone mainstream since the pandemic. But how exactly do you optimise grey fleet management? Here are 10 essential tips…

Want to be an even better fleet manager? Why not learn from the best at the Fleet Europe Summit 2022, on 16-17 November in Dublin (pictured).

A quick reminder for those too embarrassed to ask: ‘grey fleet’ is the term for employees using their private vehicle for work, a practice typically reimbursed by the employer, and which generates all kinds of obligations – both moral and legal – in terms of duty of care. Grey fleets also complicate the management of fleet and mobility policies towards health and safety, cost savings, and the environment. 

Grey fleets have been trending for years, as a way for corporates to trim their own fleets; and as one element in the wider diversification of corporate mobility options. The pandemic has only boosted grey fleets, as people shied away from shared or pooled vehicles, for fear of infection.

As a quick indication of how widespread grey fleets are: already before the pandemic, 40% of work vehicles in the UK were grey fleet, adding up to 14 million vehicles. Put another way, it was estimated that 62% of private car use was for work-related activity. While grey fleets may not be as widespread elsewhere, it is safe to say the phenomenon is popular throughout Europe, and becoming more so.

Post corona, economic necessity is pushing many companies to opt for grey fleets rather than owned or leased ones. But while the cost driver for grey fleets may be obvious, all the implications that come with the practice are often less so. And that’s important, because those implications come with sets of responsibilities, and sometimes costs of their own. So it’s useful to go over a few key aspects. 

1. Know your grey fleet

Good management starts with good measurement. But grey fleets are harder to count than more traditional ones. For example, grey fleets also include vehicles only occasionally used for work. And also employee vehicles used for work purposes that are rented or leased instead of owned. 

And you should do more than counting. On average, grey fleets are older than standard company fleets. Working with older models has implications for safety and emissions levels, among other things. 

2. No ‘grey’ standards

However, working with an older, more challenging pool of vehicles doesn’t mean your company should lower its standards. You can still restrict certain types and/or ages of vehicle to keep up with overall standards of safety, efficiency and emissions. 

And also… reputation. Because grey fleet or not, the vehicles your employees drive are part of the image projected by your brand. In short, your drivers need to ensure their vehicles are ‘fit for purpose’, but it’s the company who chooses what exactly that ‘fitness for purpose’ is.

3. Develop a tailored policy

Develop as part of your overall fleet and mobility policy a set of guidelines specifically designed for grey fleets. Guidelines that determine when the grey fleet principle can be used, and when it won’t. How the drivers will be supported, and what they must take care of themselves. How they will be reimbursed, and what the limits and alternatives are. And make sure the policy is successfully communicated to all drivers using their own vehicles for work (and to those who may do so in future). 

4. Check documentation

Make reimbursements for grey fleets dependent on obtaining the appropriate driver and vehicle documentation (driver’s license, proof of inspection, maintenance record, insurance, etc.), and on checking these documents regularly – say, once a year. This will help fleet and mobility managers assess the fitness to drive, both of the vehicle and the driver. 

5. Check the alternatives…

Don’t simply reimburse your employees for the kilometers they drive for work. Make sure that grey fleet use is the best fit for the purpose it serves. Other mobility alternatives – public transport, micromobility, a mobility budget – may be safer, faster and/or more cost-effective.

Above a certain mileage, grey fleets may be costlier than leased cars, or even rental cars – largely defeating the purpose of having a grey fleet at all. This is where a telematics solution, to track the movements of the grey fleet and analyse the effectiveness of the journeys, would come in handy. 

6. … and offer them

Grey fleets often risk becoming a ‘default’ solution that continues because it’s convenient, not necessarily because it’s the most effective one. That’s why fleet and mobility managers must go the extra mile to offer those mobility alternatives, if and when they are more effective in terms of cost, time, emissions, and preferably all of the above. 

7. Provide driver training…

In most companies, driving is the most dangerous activity performed by employees. So driver training makes sense in all circumstances. But there are certain safety aspects about grey fleets that demand specific attention in driver training. This stems from the fact that companies require certain driving behaviour from their employees, which they can’t demand in their free time. Since grey fleet drivers use their own vehicle for work, that line can get blurred. 

So it’s important to impress upon grey fleet drivers that company policy on mobile phone use, speeding, taking breaks, managing incidents and accidents, and other aspects of safe and responsible driving, applies to them when driving their own car for work. 

8. … and safety inspections

Fleet and mobility managers should encourage their grey fleet drivers to do their work as vehicle owners and check the condition of their vehicles. They should also do more – provide periodical checkups by certified workshops, in order to ensure the safety of the vehicle, and of the driver. 

9. Check your insurance

Talking about safety leads us to insurance. The primary responsibility for insurance rests with the private owner of the vehicle. But when those vehicles are used for work, employers are liable, and must ensure that their grey fleet is properly insured. Whether this is achieved by amending the private insurance and then compensating the driver, or via a separate insurance at company level, is a point of discussion, and an added complexity of grey fleet management. 

10. Consider fuel monitoring

The very principle of grey fleets makes it difficult to monitor the most essential aspect of grey fleet management: how much fuel (or electricity) is spent, using the private vehicle for company purposes. So it’s crucial to develop an adequate system for measuring (and compensating) the fuel (or electricity use for work. One option is via telematics, another is using fuel (and/or charge) cards. 

  • These 10 tips are not set in stone. They’re a bit different from the list we published last year. That is to say: grey fleet management is not an exact science. 
  • Much depends on the particulars of your company’s circumstances, and those of your drivers, not to mention the legal and fiscal conditions in your various markets. And much can be learned from doing. 
  • But if you want to avoid as much as possible the trial-and-error phase of optimal grey fleet management, why not learn from the experience of others? The best place to do this is the Fleet Europe Summit 2022, on 16-17 November in Dublin. Click here for more information and how to register.
Authored by: Frank Jacobs