If you drive your own car for work (not just to and from work), then it’s part of the grey fleet. The grey fleet includes
- vehicles that are privately owned by employees
- vehicles that are privately rented or borrowed by employees (this includes courtesy cars)
- vehicles on novated leases (where the company leases on your behalf and deducts the cost from your pre-tax salary)
- vehicles where the company reimburses the employee
when they are driven for the purposes for work when it’s not simply driving from your home to your normal place of work (i.e. a depot or office).
For example, if you usually work at an office but then one morning have to drive to the airport, that’s not normal commuting and you are now part of the grey fleet, whether you are reimbursed or not for your travel. The same applies if you drive to a work-related conference or seminar for the day rather than your office.
In any city or large town you’ll see many vehicles with no company signwriting driving around being used for work – it’s very common. Some of these will be company vehicles (not all vehicles are signwritten), but some will be the grey fleet.
This is made more complex by companies giving an allowance for a car rather than owning the car and giving it as part of an employment package.
There is no difference in the eyes of the law whether you are driving a company-owned vehicle or a privately owned vehicle when it comes to the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. It’s very clear: the company has a duty of care to ensure that vehicles used for work are safe.
The risks of the grey fleet
Let’s say that Gary is an employee with a battered old ute and you own a building company. Normally, Gary comes to the depot to pick up gear and then leaves in one of your company utes with his workmate, Bill. One day, Bill doesn’t turn up because he’s sick, and Bill has the ute. You tell Gary to meet you at the building site. On the way, Gary knocks a child off a bike, causing the child serious head injuries. He could have stopped easily if he had maintained his brakes and his tyres weren’t worn below the legal limit. Because Gary is working for you and you have a duty of care to ensure vehicles that are used for work purposes are safe, you are potentially liable for the injuries suffered by the child.
Reimbursing for use
It doesn’t matter whether you are reimbursing the driver for using their own vehicle or not: if they work for you, that vehicle becomes their place of work.
How do you mitigate the risk of the grey fleet?
If you are a driver driving for your boss, you need to make them aware of the legislation so that they can address their own risk.
If you are a boss, then you need to ensure that all your employees that drive have a current driver’s licence (i.e. it’s not expired or been suspended) and that the vehicle they use is safe, legal and have any appropriate insurances. You’ll need to keep a register of approved vehicles and ensure that they are serviced regularly. You can use a fleet management software package for this.
Bosses can place limitations on who drives company vehicles and these should be included in a safe driving policy. Companies can provide pool vehicles for staff when their own vehicle doesn’t meet the standard.
Note: this article is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should consult with a lawyer to assess your risk.