Caroline Falls from Fleet Auto News spoke with Lee Sauerwald, executive manager of corporate services for the Adelaide-based not-for-profit organisation Uniting Communities, about its grey fleet learning curve and subsequent policy development. Sauerwald is also Vice President of the Australasian Fleet Management Association (AfMA) and the South Australian Chapter Chair.
FAN: When did you establish a grey fleet policy for Uniting Communities?
Lee: While we have had some elements of grey fleet policy for many years, the last time we reviewed our motor vehicle policy was within the last 12 months and we completely re-wrote it to include all aspects of our grey fleet.
FAN: What are some of the steps you went through to develop the policy?
Lee: It’s been an iterative process that has involved ongoing education of key staff in the organisation over recent years. This has included involving key staff from work health and safety, human resources, procurement, fleet administration and finance attending fleet-related industry professional development sessions to assist with joint understanding and the development of the policy in consultation.
FAN: How long did it take to set the policy, once you determined you had a need for one?
Lee: Once we had the key staff members educated on grey fleet it didn’t take too long to re-work our existing motor vehicle policy to incorporate the necessary elements of our grey fleet, just some concentrated effort to achieve the task.
FAN: How many vehicles are covered in your grey fleet?
Lee: We have approximately 300 vehicles travelling close to one million kilometres as part of delivering vital services to 20,000 of our clients across the state every year.
FAN: Do you have any lessons to impart to others who may be considering developing a policy?
Lee: Consult. Consult. Consult! Developing a grey fleet policy in isolation will be difficult, so you will need to involve other key staff throughout your organisation. That way you will also have buy-in from other key internal stakeholders.
Importantly, you don’t have to start from scratch. You can start with your existing motor vehicle policy and revisit it with your grey fleet in mind and see what is missing and ensure that you incorporate the necessary aspects of your grey fleet.
And if you become a member of AfMA, you can access AfMA’s Fleet Management Guide on their website, which includes a grey fleet policy on the use of personally owned vehicles for business purposes.
FAN: What are the benefits of having a policy?
Lee: It will be clear to everyone what a grey fleet actually is — which is always a good place to start — as well as their challenges, and, importantly, the expectations of the organisation in effectively managing a grey fleet.
The primary benefit that can flow from your policy is that you will be better placed to effectively manage the risks of your grey fleet.
FAN: What are some of the key issues covered by the policy?
Lee: At a minimum, all grey fleet vehicles must be adequately maintained to remain safe, reliable and roadworthy at all times. All grey fleet drivers are made aware of their responsibilities to comply with policy requirements for grey fleet vehicles and are required to sign a grey fleet agreement.
Our grey fleet policy and signed agreement covers driver’s license conditions, vehicle registration and insurance requirements, rules of the road, driver distraction, visual inspections, accident response, illegal drug use, infringement notices, vehicle roadworthiness and everything in between.
If our grey fleet is used outside of these agreement conditions, it becomes a disciplinary matter which may result in termination of employment.
FAN: Has it led to, or could it lead to, a bigger or smaller grey fleet in your organisation?
Lee: Your grey fleet policy could lead to either a bigger or smaller grey fleet or even eliminate it entirely. It all depends upon your risk assessment of your grey fleet and how you choose to respond to and manage those risks.
Some organisations are happy to manage the risks of a grey fleet while others decide not to run one at all. We have determined that provided we can effectively manage the risks of our grey fleet we will continue to operate one to assist with our community service delivery.
FAN: When did you first become aware of the term grey fleet?
Lee: Over the last five years. The term is not widely understood in Australia but is more prevalent overseas, particularly in the United Kingdom. However, industry associations like AfMA promote all aspects of fleet management including the management of your grey fleet. There seems to be increasing awareness of grey fleets in Australia, but it still has a long way to go.
FAN: Are there a lot of other organisations that could benefit from understanding their own grey fleet?
Lee: Definitely. It is estimated that grey fleet use is two-three times greater than company fleet use, so you will probably be hard pressed to find many organisations that don’t have an element of grey fleet.
The concern is that some organisations aren’t even aware that they have some of their employees operating grey fleets. You only need somebody to be collecting the business mail in their own personal car to be operating a grey fleet.
You can’t afford to ignore your grey fleet as it quite often will carry higher risks than your company fleet as you don’t usually have the same level of control over it. So if you haven’t yet taken action on our grey fleet there is no time like the present.