A fleet manager’s role is wide and numerous and can involve anything from making sure that your cars are all in the right place at the right time to dealing with misuse and damages. Unfortunately, the first half of that equation is usually a lot easier than the second, as dealing with damages can be one of the most difficult parts of any fleet manager’s job. So how can you deal with vehicle damages, make your staff aware of your policies and ensure you have a system in place that works for you?
A Good Insurance Policy
Motor fleet insurance is, of course, mandatory, but there’s a difference between an insurance policy and a good insurance policy. Unfortunately, fleet insurance policies aren’t universal: a policy that suits one business won’t suit another, so you need to be sure you’re aware of your policy’s specifics before you sign on the dotted line.
How you deal with damages will largely stem from your insurance policy: if you have comprehensive cover, it’s likely you’ll be able to absolve staff from almost all costs and risks. However, third party cover can leave you with a loss, meaning you will have to manage this risk.
Are your Drivers Responsible?
Even with comprehensive vehicle cover, there are usually a few exclusions which mean that you’re liable for the cost of damages and repairs. If a driver has an accident while over the legal alcohol limit for example, or is found to have deliberately damaged a fleet vehicle, they may have to suffer the cost of repairs themselves.
Likewise, if your policy states that drivers are only permitted to drive vehicles for business purposes you will need to recover any damages which occur outside of company hours. Most fleet managers find it convenient to align driver responsibility with the limitations of an insurance policy: if it’s not covered, it’s the driver’s responsibility.
Making Your Policies Clear
Whatever your policy is, you need to be sure that your staff understand it and won’t be able to claim that they were unaware they were liable for certain costs. Therefore, before you allow any staff member access to a car you should ask them to review your policies and express that they have understood them, usually by signing a contract.
Crucially, this gives your drivers a chance to upgrade their insurance if they require. Many people now take out personal liability insurance or will have some form of business cover through their private motor insurance. Whatever your policy is, make sure that employees don’t expect everything to be covered.
Of course, accidents do happen, and every now and again it’s just a case of bad luck. However, when damages occur that don’t seem to be accidental or are through gross negligence, as a fleet manager you have responsibility to take the matter higher if needs be.
Misuse of a fleet vehicle is a serious offence, and if suspicious damages occur it’s your responsibility to report it. In the case of malicious or highly irresponsible damages you may wish to report the offence to the manager of the employee in question. It’s not your responsibility to make any decisions thereafter, but it could be important evidence if the employee has a track record of disciplinary problems.
Reclaiming and Repairing Damages
Even if the problem of attributing responsibility for damages is solved, you may still be left with a car that is off the road. Again, your insurance policy can be your saviour here, and things like breakdown cover and courtesy car protection are also essential if your fleet needs to be up and running at all times.
Of course, you shouldn’t forget the cash implications of damages, and even though you may be able to cut down on the overall costs of damages through the right insurance policy, you may still need to pay for up-front repairs. Don’t leave yourself short, and make sure you have a good pool of reserves to tap into when things get tight.
Dealing with damages is one of the hardest parts of a fleet manager’s job, but it’s also something that becomes easier with time. If you have a very clear policy to begin with, you won’t end up having to work out the right course of action on a case-by-case basis. Keep your insurer informed and have a plan of action ready to go when, inevitably, damages do occur.
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