The traditional definition of a private fleet is a fleet of vehicles owned by a company to conduct business. When supply chain folks hear the term they tend to think of a fleet of large trucks with trailers hauling goods from the manufacturer’s distribution center (DC) to the retailer’s DC. But other types of fleets exist as well: smaller trucks used to install new products for project-based supply chains; maintenance vans used by technicians to repair capital equipment at customer sites; and merchandisers– the part of the supply chain focused on ensuring that a manufacturer’s promoted goods are moved from the back of a store to the shelf – often move about in car fleets.
In most parts of the world, companies are liable for the performance of their private fleet—i.e., if a company truck crashes into a car and the truck driver is found negligent, then the company can be sued. However, when it comes to transportation, the United Kingdom (UK) takes the legal concept of “Duty of Care” further than anywhere else in the world.
According to Wikepedia, “In tort law, a duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on an individual [or firm] requiring that they adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing any acts that could foreseably harm others.” In the UK, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations of 1992 (updated in 1999) requires that a company carry out assessments regarding the health and safety of all employees while at work, as well as the safety of others that may be affected by its employees’ work activities. Driving any vehicle on company business, regardless of ownership, is subject to the legislation and the vehicle is considered a bona-fide place of work for the duration of any journey undertaken for company business. This means that even if an employee is driving a car they own, if it is being used to conduct company business, the company would be at risk in the event of a Duty of Care breach. The Corporate Manslaughter Bill targets firms (not individuals) for deaths occurring in the workplace where Duty of Care was not evident. No sympathy will be given, even if a company is forced out of business as a result an incident in this area.
This legislation is expanding the definition of what constitutes a company fleet. This will have the greatest effect on the merchandising supply chain where merchandisers typically drive their own vehicles. So, in the UK, even if a company employee is driving their own vehicle, the company needs to ensure that these vehicles are roadworthy—i.e., tires have enough tread depth, the vehicles are serviced regularly, transportation certificates are current, windshield fluid is not empty, and so forth.
When it comes to environmental, safety and health issues, European regulation tends to be the most stringent in the world. It would not be surprising if these laws become standard across the European Union (EU). Eventually, however, EU-style regulations could find their way to the US, Canada, and Japan.
This is creating an opportunity for companies that provide GPS/telematics or fleet maintenance solutions for fleets. However, a holistic solution to these regulations needs to be broader than just maintenance or GPS. It needs to include proof of insurance; the ability to show that warning signs were not ignored concerning a driver’s health and fitness to drive (e.g., fatigue caused by too many hours behind the wheel, alcohol or drug use, worsening eyesight, etc.); proof that written guidelines were issued to all employees that spelled out exactly what the company expects of employees when driving on company business; the ability to show that employees were only assigned vehicles that they were certified to operate. The total solution would be web-enabled, workflow-driven, and include GPS, telematics, and fleet maintenance functionality.
GPS/telematics data can enable better routing and better maintenance. But when I’ve looked at routing and fleet maintenance solutions, most are not very far along in being able to leverage GPS/telematics data. While the UK style legislation might not appear in the U.S. for more than a decade, if it led to better synergies between these different applications, it would be a very beneficial development.