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£5.5bn: The cost of people using own cars for work

Grey fleet cars

•   Biggest ever study reveals true scale of 'grey fleet' vehicles
•   14m 'grey fleet' vehicles older, dirtier & less safe than company cars
•   15% reduction in grey fleet would take 22k cars off the road in pollution terms

The UK's 14 million private vehicles used for business – or 'grey fleet' – is responsible for 3.6 million tonnes in CO2 emissions, and costs employers £5.5 billion a year.
It's 'hiding in plain sight' and threatening health, safety and efforts to tackle climate change if more isn't done to make up for years of being neglected by transport policy. 

Those are the headlines from Getting to grips with grey fleet, a new collaborative report from Energy Saving Trust and the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA).

Old, polluting, and possibly unsafe

The report is the biggest effort ever to quantify the scale and nature of the UK grey fleet, and was certainly needed, as the issues associated with grey fleet go beyond carbon. 

Our researchers found that grey fleet vehicles are some of the oldest – averaging 8.2 years – and least safe vehicles on our roads, while also emitting high levels of air pollutants. 

The UK is under pressure to take serious action on air pollution in order to reduce related deaths and illnesses. 

Incredibly, the report highlights that annual NOx emissions of grey fleet vehicles in the UK are equivalent to twice those of London buses. Actively managing grey fleet can reduce mileage by 15 per cent, which would achieve the equivalent pollution reduction of taking 225,000 cars off the road altogether. 

Time for action

Andrew Benfield from Energy Saving TrustIf the case for businesses and organisations getting to grips with their grey fleet wasn't clear enough, the billions of pounds worth of mileage claims and car allowances make for a big financial incentive. The alternatives include rental cars, car club vehicles and company cars. Andrew Benfield (pictured), EST’s Group Director of Transport, explained more about what companies can do: 

“Bosses should introduce rigorous electronic mileage management systems to reduce ‘mileage inflation’ by employees claiming a mileage allowance, and remove the incentive to drive unnecessary business miles. 

“Car rental should be adopted for any work-related vehicle journey over 55 miles and a vehicle should be leased for employees driving at least 10,000 business miles per year. Employers should also incentivise alternatives to driving such as public transport, cycling and walking.”

Taking on tough targets

With the BVRLA targeting a 50 per cent reduction in grey fleet mileage and costs by 2020, a major push is needed to highlight the alternatives to grey fleet use and spread best practice guidance. The public sector is in the spotlight as a key target of efforts. 

Do you use your car for work? Does your workplace offer you sustainable transport options? Tell us what you think in the comments below, or tweet @energysvgtrust.

Funded by the Department for Transport, we offer free fleet consultancy to SME businesses and public sector organisations. Read the full report: Getting to grips with Grey Fleet.

Gary Hartley's picture
Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.
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Matt Dyer, Managing Director, LeasePlan UK and Vice Chairman, BVRLA comments:

“There is an absolute need for business owners to realise the requirement to manage their grey fleet, both in terms of the true monetary cost to their organisation, through mileage claims and car allowances, but also the significant environmental impact it is having. Grey fleet, in the form of cash allowances, seem on the surface to be a convenient, low-intervention solution. However, few organisations are exercising any significant degree of control over them. Privately owned vehicles can be poorly managed, are older, built to have outdated emissions standards and are without modern safety features, never mind whether there is a valid MOT, business insurance and service records. Companies need to have a central view of mileage and business travel expenses by setting a mileage limit and emissions baseline whilst identifying any driver and vehicle issues. But even without this in place there are more simple measures out there that can be enlisted such as car scheme salary sacrifice, pool cars and daily rental vehicles. These measures and innovative ways of thinking will help staff make better choices.”