Safety law to trigger increase in car hire

18 October 2006
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19 October 2006

Travel buyers are being tipped to turn to car hire as pressure mounts for companies to ensure employees are driving roadworthy vehicles. The Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill, published on 21 July, will increase the liability of senior management for work-related accidents involving employees, including those incurred while driving on company business.

Allowing employees to use private vehicles for work creates significant challenges. According to a survey of small and medium enterprises by car hire company Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 63 per cent of employees driving a private vehicle for business fail to tell their insurer they are using it for work purposes, while 10 per cent have no insurance at all. Two-thirds said they have never been asked by employers to carry out safety checks.

While fleet managers are picking up on the duty of care issue (SM, 7 September), they do not always take responsibility for use of private vehicles or car hire, creating a potential gap in coverage which might need to be filled by travel buyers.

Jacqui Cahill, EMEA car product manager for Carlson Wagonlit Travel, believes in any case that companies will turn to car hire because reputable rental firms use new vehicles and apply stringent standards of maintenance and document checking.

"It makes it easier to ensure travellers are driving a vehicle fit for use and reduces the cost of pool cars," said Cahill. "Duty of care will be more of a factor in future and we will see an increase in car rental."

Law firm Norton Rose is advising companies to review their arrangements for drivers in light of the impending legislation. "At face value, there is no difference in a company's obligation to employees but the Bill has heightened the risk of sanctions," said Richard Blann, a senior associate in the firm's dispute resolution department. "We are encouraging clients to take this as an opportunity to review their systems. When they look into it, there can be gaps in the documentation."

Blann points out that duty of care outside the workplace "does tend to be a forgotten area", yet according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Accidents, only deep-sea fishing and coal mining are greater occupational risks than driving 25,000 miles per year for business.

SMoct2006

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