Why courier companies need to take care of their grey fleets

Many courier brands are unaware about the cost and legal responsibilities associated with grey fleet use. Research from Driving for Better Business has previously highlighted that 60% of company directors didn’t even know how many grey fleets they had, and 53% didn’t even think it was their responsibility[1]. Grey fleet vehicles are ones owned and driven by an employee for business purposes. In 2022, the nation’s grey fleet is at record levels, accounting for some 40% of all vehicles on the road – a rising trend among couriers, which needs an improved understanding.

Now, with over 15,695 courier companies delivering parcels in the UK [2], employers are often shockingly unfamiliar with the principal factors of vehicle safety for drivers that own and operate their own vehicles for deliveries. For some home delivery companies, the only requirement is that the vehicles have an MOT and are insured for business use. Although the online shopping market no longer dominates retail sales[3] in the way that it did a year ago, competition for delivery drivers and couriers are fierce[4]. It is now critical that responsible courier companies recognise the fleet industry norms on safety.

Fleet and business car and van registrations have also fallen by a third in April [5], as the semiconductor shortage continues to drag down the market by 32%. This means more courier companies both large and small are having to keep older vehicles for longer, and the same applies for drivers using their own vehicles for delivery work. What this information helps emphasise is that taking care of ageing courier vehicles is now more important than ever.

Penny Stoolman, managing director, Prestige Fleet Servicing, highlights how courier services can reduce both the risk of business downtime and improve internal safety standards when it comes to grey fleet service, maintenance and repairs (SMR).

Totalling approximately 14 million vehicles on the UK’s roads[6], grey fleets are a hidden asset for businesses large and small, including courier and delivery services. However, many are unaware of the equally hidden costs associated with the growing trend and how it impacts their business.

If a courier’s personal vehicle is being used for business, delivery companies may believe that they have opted out of responsibility for that vehicle. However, they must ensure that the vehicle used for delivery parcels is maintained and safe, even if they do not own it. Poorly maintained vehicles are more likely to breakdown, resulting in delivery delays and costly business downtime. Critically, this also leaves delivery drivers widely exposed under the Corporate Manslaughter Act 2007.

With couriers forced to hang onto ageing vehicles for longer than intended due to current new vehicle shortages, there is also a higher risk of VOR (vehicle off-road), due to the unplanned repair and servicing of vehicles, costing firms an estimated £2.4 billion annually[7]. Unanticipated mechanical failures, particularly from older vehicles, can put a serious dent in business profits when it comes to business downtime.

Older vehicles also may not comply with new legislation such as clean air zones (CAZs), leaving delivery companies with additional environmental compliance costs. The good news is that there are a number of key actions you can take to both minimise VOR time and better manage both the risks and costs of grey fleets.

First establish who will manage your grey fleet

If you do not have a dedicated fleet manager in place, then grey fleet management can fall to people such as operations managers or team managers. Whoever has grey fleet responsibility in your business, you need to make sure they are fully equipped with the knowledge they need to effectively manage grey fleet safety. A proactive approach can deliver a number of dividends, including a reduction in fuel consumption, fewer working days lost to injury and a lower administrative burden due to mitigating the risk of investigation in the event of an incident and legal action. Establishing who in your business will manage your grey fleet and allocate responsibility accordingly is the first step to achieving compliance in this area and to reducing VOR.

Source evidence of recent servicing to prove roadworthiness

Ensuring that grey fleet delivery vehicles are roadworthy and that have been recently serviced plays a critical role in reducing the risk of VOR. Courier companies should keep track of the vehicles used by employees for business travel, collating records to ensure compliance in the following areas:

  • Insurance details, including proof of business cover
  • Vehicle maintenance checks
  • Road tax validity
  • Evidence of recent servicing

Courier companies should also apply the same rigour to employees, conducting driver checks on the following:

  • License validity
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Overall health
  • Age and experience
  • Driver behaviours – i.e. penalty points incurred by speeding or mobile phone usage

Encourage Couriers to plan SMR work ahead

Forward booking MOT and servicing work can reap rewards when it comes to reducing VOR time, and utilising forward booking options can play an important role in keeping delivery vehicles on the road for longer. Equally, planning work ahead can help to beat the current parts shortages issue, allowing garages to manage their supply chains effectively – something we are prioritising at Prestige to avoid customer delays.

Pre-scheduled downtime will substantially reduce the risk of VOR to delivery vehicles but managing this across your grey fleet will require some organisation on your part. Recording the dates of when courier’s vehicles have last been serviced and setting reminders to share with employees just before any annual SMR work is due could help improve scheduled work ahead of the due date.

Ensure your couriers are aware of servicing requirements 

Forewarned is forearmed, and keeping abreast of changing guidance is half the battle to achieving legal compliance. New guidance from the Health & Safety Executive (September 2021) requires business fleet policies to give due consideration to the safety of EVs and grey fleet vehicles and how they are driven, ensuring drivers are familiar enough with the new technology to operate, charge and service their vehicles safely.

There is a learning curve associated with EV transition, and ensuring couriers are aware of their new vehicle’s servicing requirements is another weapon in the fight against VOR. Additional driver training may also be a consideration if you are transitioning to EVs.

If you need further guidance on managing your fleet, our team is here to help. Visit https://www.theaa.com/business/prestige-fleet-servicing to find out more.


[1] https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/fleet-management/grey-fleet/grey-fleet-responsibilities

[2] https://www.drivingforbetterbusiness.com/dfbb-publications/grey-fleet-review/

[3] https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/march2022

[4] https://hrnews.co.uk/delivery-sector-hits-speed-bumps-as-a-quarter-of-temporary-drivers-return-to-pre-pandemic-professions/

[5] https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/manufacturer-news/2022/05/05/fleet-and-business-registrations-fall-by-a-third?utm_source=aimtell&utm_medium=push&utm_campaign=campaign-4607426

[6] https://www.drivetech.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/0821-8854-The-Rise-of-the-Grey-Fleet-Whitepaper_v2.pdf

[7] https://www.commercialfleet.org/news/van-news/2019/04/02/van-downtime-costing-business-24bn