Care needed for private cars used on business

Julie Boyd, Midlands regional chairman for fleet operator trade association ACFO: Contrary to popular belief, offering a cash allowance scheme rather than a traditional company car does not mean that employers can absolve themselves of responsibility while an employee is driving on business.

Employees who drive privately-owned cars on business must be subject to the same controls and policies, checks and management inputs as are applied to company car drivers.

But often, employers have no control over the type or condition of the vehicle, let alone carry out checks on whether the vehicle is, in fact, correctly insured for business use.

This has proven to be a real issue for employers because under the terms of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) organisations have a legal responsibility to make sure the vehicle is safe for use. This obligation is not influenced by ownership and therefore remains with the employer even if the driver owns the vehicle concerned.

Additionally, the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act, which comes into force on 6 April 2008, will make it easier to prosecute employers whose activities result in someone’s death.

It is therefore essential to have a clear policy covering the use of vehicles on business. Employers should, at the very least, check the suitability of the vehicle for the type of work being undertaken, regularly check that the car is mechanically sound, roadworthy and correctly insured for business use, and that driving licences have been validated.

Once these points of reference within the policy have been agreed, it is important to ensure a process is put in place to record this information and take any necessary remedial action. It is essential that any system used has the functionality to enable regular updates.

Employers should also ensure that these points of reference within the policy document are enforced stating what disciplinary action will be taken if drivers breach any areas.

Julie Boyd is Midlands regional chairman for fleet operator trade association ACFO