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How to Avoid HR Headaches When Confronting Employees Who Abuse Company Vehicles

February 24, 2014

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If an employee threw trash all over the office floor, scratched the paint off the walls, broke the light bulbs, left holes and dents in the walls, and skipped routine maintenance on the copier until it overheated and broke, no manager would tolerate this abuse.

Yet, that is exactly what some fleet managers do tolerate when drivers abuse their company-provided vehicles.

One approach to resolving vehicle abuse is to make the condition of a vehicle part of an employee’s annual job review. Anecdotal evidence suggests this approach results in better-maintained vehicles. For instance, one company does an annual vehicle condition report with each driver. This company not only pays for the vehicle reconditioning expense, but also the salary expense for the inspection. The company found, on average, the vehicles regularly inspected by managers, who prepare written condition reports, were in better condition than other vehicles at the end of service.

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Other companies, however, decide not to adopt this policy. One reason is that managers dislike doing the inspections, making the process an administrative nightmare. Also, many employees are field workers, who may live hundreds of miles from office locations and their managers. The employee would have to drive in for inspections, logging travel time for the appraisal. Many companies opt instead for a diverse and attractive selector to entice drivers to buy the vehicle at end of service, which encourages employees to take better care of their assigned vehicles.

However, if your company decides to add vehicle condition to an employee’s job review, there are several issues you need to discuss with your human resources department, including:

  • Research if Policy Violates State Law: Some state labor laws may prohibit the use of vehicle condition reports to measure employee performance. In addition, you run into possible HR problems if the policy isn’t applied equally to everyone. You cannot give the appearance that the policy is being applied selectively to some employees and not others. As with all disciplinary action, you need to be prepared to impose it for everyone from the CEO on down. Some nationally dispersed fleets include a provision in their fleet policy guidelines stating that drivers are financially liable for damage to their company-provided vehicle if it was caused by negligence. However, this practice is illegal in some states.
  • Be Consistent in Vehicle Evaluations: It is necessary to develop consistency in vehicle evaluations between reviewers. The reality is, some managers will be knowledgeable, looking at the vehicle carefully, while others will simply say that it is normal wear-and-tear by the fleet application. Special attention should be given if vehicles are transferred to other drivers. In these situations, it is hard to pinpoint who failed to maintain the vehicle.
  • Regularly Issue Condition Reports: To avoid problems from becoming bigger problems, managers must perform condition reports on a regular basis and be consistent in the evaluations for all employees.
  • Danger of Employee Circumvention of Policy: Employees will attempt to circumvent accident reporting procedures and obtain out-of-network repairs to avoid being cited for company vehicle abuse during their employment review. 
  • Increased Administrative Workload: Increased workload is one of the drawbacks. This monitoring system requires drivers and managers to complete a vehicle condition report each time a vehicle is transferred to another employee. Likewise, it will require more administrative involvement by the fleet department in resolving disputes between employees and managers over vehicle condition.
  • Possibility of Management Abuse: Ensure managers do not corrupt the system by using it as a tool to terminate employees.

Withdrawal of the Company Vehicle Privilege

Each of your drivers and their managers should know the rules governing the use of a company vehicle. Not only should your drivers be aware of these rules, but they must also understand what actions will be taken for non-compliance. In extreme situations, you will be responsible to withdraw the privilege of using a company vehicle from blatantly abusive drivers. But, it is important to work closely with HR when implementing this policy.

Let me know what you think.  

mike.antich@bobit.com

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Author Bio

Mike Antich

Editor and Associate Publisher

Mike Antich has been covering the fleet management and vehicle remarketing markets for more than 20 years. During this period, Mike has written or edited more than 4,600 articles on the subjects of fleet management, manufacturer fleet activities, the fleet leasing industry, and vehicle remarketing. He was inducted in the Fleet Hall of Fame in 2010.

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