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Driver education key to preventing end-of-contract disputes, says ACFO

So says ACFO as it looks to work with the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) to achieve greater consistency in the application of damage charges when company cars and vans are defleeted.

The subject came under the spotlight at the recent ACFO seminar entitled ‘The End is Nigh’, where the industry discussed the BVRLA’s regularly updated The Industry Fair Wear and Tear Standard’, which has been adopted by most of its leasing company members as the definitive guide to an acceptable condition for vehicles to be returned on defleet. 

However, ACFO deputy chairman Caroline Sandall called for a greater consistency from leasing companies in the application of charges. She suggested that in many cases, vehicle drivers did not recognise’ damage’, particularly in relation to stone chips and alloy wheel scuffs, even though they resulted in a charge being levied. 

Some leasing companies use a matrix to assess vehicle damage charges and others use actual charges, although repairs may not be carried out prior to a vehicle being sold. 

Her call to action followed a plea from Ian Hughes, commercial director at contract hire specialist Zenith, for ACFO to work with the BVRLA on behalf of fleets to create “a modern solution” embracing mobile phone apps and other technologies to ensure drivers better understood fair wear and tear guidance and provide fleets “with a more workable solution”. 

In response, Jim McNally, chairman of the BVRLA’s Residual Value and Remarketing Committee, and head of asset risk at leasing provider Alphabet, highlighted that sometimes fleet operators were not aware or understood the cost to repair vehicle damage or that the cost to replace a lost car key could amount to “several hundred pounds” and added: “As an industry we need to make drivers more aware of what is included within fair wear and tear and what isn’t.” 

Zenith’s Ian Hughes added: “Driver communication is key. We have a common interest in what is a deeply emotive topic. During the fleet life of a vehicle there are a number of opportunities to assess it and get feedback, but there are too many times where that is compressed into the last four months of a contract. 

“It is essential that drivers meet leasing company representatives at the time of vehicle collection for face-to-face discussions on vehicle condition assessment. Too often the keys are simply left at reception for collection.” 

He concluded: There needs to be pro-activity in management of vehicles and that means mid-life notification of damage, pre-return inspections. 

“Fleet managers and ourselves should perhaps carry out random condition checks in company car parks; employee workshops could be held to explain policy and procedures and an annual appraisal of vehicle condition should be part of an employee’s annual review. 

“Currently there is very little evidence of pro-activity on an on-going basis about vehicle damage and there needs to be an increased emphasis particularly on the lead up to the end of contract.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.