Put simply, ‘grey fleet’ is the term for private vehicles put to business use. This happens in many industries and occupations, but is most common in courier work, where employees often work locally and to a flexible schedule. Making deliveries is no longer a job for company vans alone, a fact that can certainly feel like a win-win in terms of convenience and low taxation. However, as with any business-critical operation, there are risks to take into account when relying on this new way of working.
Flying Under the Radar
The very nature of grey fleets makes them difficult to keep tabs on, and therefore less easy to regulate or manage. The main objection to their widespread use is the environmental impact: industrial transportation systems can seem far more efficient, as they can be planned far more carefully than the informal journeys and ad-hoccourier work carried out in privately owned vehicles. However, it could be that this objection doesn’t account for a key feature of grey fleet journeys that sets them apart from larger scale logistical operations. Rather than powering down the motorway with thousands of orders on board, employees using their own vehicles can take care of locales that are by nature less efficient to serve, like rural areas. In this sense, they are vital for reaching your maximum customer base, and could actually have an equivalent or less severe impact on the environment than company vehicles doing the same job.
Time to Switch Gears
Making greater use of grey fleet vehicles could be worthwhile for businesses looking to spend less on the upkeep of their company-owned vehicles. Managed properly, they can allow a business to make big savings on operational costs, while enabling a more flexible style of courier workfor employees. Before making a move in this direction, it is important to assess the risks involved, and consider implementing ways to make the practice more transparent. For example, it’s possible to use Sat Navs to provide information on employee mileage and time spent on the job.
Grey Fleet Goes Green
Rather than impacting the environment negatively, using private vehicles can be more fuel efficient overall, as they tend to be newer. With individual cars often being replaced more frequently than company delivery vans, the average age of vehicles on the road is often lower, meaning greater fuel efficiency and less pollution.
Another way that this can cut overall fuel consumption in courier workis through the reduction in miles spent travelling to a depot. Company-owned delivery vans have to be collected from a location that may be miles away from the employee’s home, which results in many extra fuel miles every day. With a grey fleet, their journey to work is the three steps out to the garage.
A Rosy Future for Grey Fleet
Where courier workin particular is concerned, adopting more grey fleets is a natural progression for employers in the logistics business. With greater car ownership than ever, private vehicles present the opportunity to have a reliable fleet with minimal maintenance, reaching an unprecedented spread of geographies. Smart implementation is key for this to be sustainable: to support employees, the environment and ultimately customers at home.
Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Over 5,000 transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.