The Insider: What goes on tour…
As summer draws to a close, I reflect on another season of company drivers taking touring holidays abroad, and bringing their cars safely home again.
In principle, we don’t have a problem with our cars going abroad. The trouble is, so many drivers plan to take the car abroad and think only to ask at the last minute whether this is allowed, and what they need to do. And, of course, there are occasions when it’s a business trip arranged at very short notice and they want to leave tomorrow.
Drivers must apply to the lease company for a VE103, and take an insurance certificate with them, and pay for overseas breakdown cover. Then there are the headlight deflectors, hi-viz jackets, warning triangle, spare bulb set, spare pairs of glasses, spare keys and this year’s new speciality, the two breathalyser kits required for France.
Notwithstanding the necessity to get the lease company to perform at short notice, I can also sense the driver’s eyes glazing over as I mention the list of other items they need – oh yes, at their cost. And the added detail, such as no sat navs with camera detectors built in please, a reminder that the hi-viz jackets need to be in the seating compartment of the car and not the boot, and that the breathalyser kits need to be based on French law not the UK’s more lenient standard, is all just too much for them to take in.
The caravanners appear to be more organised, understanding that our insurance covers the car and third party towing risks, but not the caravan nor its contents. They know they need to arrange their own breakdown cover for the caravan too but even this is no longer simple, as some companies are refusing to cover vans longer than seven metres. And seven metres is a fairly average length in this day and age.
Whe all this stuff is in order, things are just fine. It’s when things don’t go according to plan that the problems start. And we’ve had our fair share of those over the years.
There was the car written off in an accident, fortunately with no damage to any of the people involved. The lease company sent a breakdown service to recover the bits to the UK, but there were some interesting discussions between them and the insurer about who paid for that.
Another chap took the sump off his car when he ran over a boulder. The breakdown service paid for a hire car for the remainder of his holiday, which was really great.
But they wouldn’t let him bring the hire car back to the UK. Given he and his family were renting a self-catering villa and had taken the proverbial kitchen sink with them, he was puzzling over how to get all his family and belongings home via train from Calais.
Eventually I suggested he pay a friend to drive a large car from the UK to Calais to meet him, which worked just fine. Another driver had a head-on collision with a local when he inadvertently forgot to drive on the right, putting someone in hospital, and resulting in a drawn out court case and insurance claim.
There have been the odd on the spot fines for speeding – one of which was inexplicably reimbursed to the offender six months later, but as yet, nothing has been impounded for any contraband offences or other naughtiness. I daresay there have been a few close shaves on roundabouts too, given the French preponderance for driving all the way around the outside lane regardless of which exit they want. Such a strange habit.
Like any well-run fleet, our company policy is clear on what drivers need to do and be aware of when they go abroad, and it’s published prominently on the company intranet. But as ever, it’s getting drivers to look at the intranet and act upon it which is the most difficult bit. I’m sure I’ve said that before. Any ideas anyone?