Fleet driver behaviour is causing around 12,000 days downtime for businesses

Article date: 12 June 2008

Fleet drivers are causing unnecessary breakdowns, increased maintenance and repair costs due to a lack of basic vehicle maintenance, says RAC.

This equates to UK drivers' vehicles being off the road for at least 11,757 days1.

The warning comes following RAC estimating that over 40,000 fleet breakdown call outs could be avoided, if fleet drivers conducted basic maintenance checks of their vehicles and undertook driver training.

Elvin Ravenscroft, tactical development manager for RAC, says: "Our research shows that fleet drivers are causing downtime; add this to the 'hidden' cost of replacement or hire cars, missed appointments, lost business contracts, warranty disputes over vehicle repairs and the impact to businesses can be significant."

RAC's Vehicle Fault Analysis (VFA) for fleet vehicles shows that 17 out of the top 20* reasons for breakdowns could be affected by drivers failing to carry out simple actions.

The data also reveals that fleet drivers are twice as likely to be involved in a road traffic accident (RTA) than the average motorist. If fleet drivers adhered to UK road rules, took adequate breaks to avoid tiredness or considered undergoing training to improve driving skills, the number of fleet call outs to an RTA could be reduced by as much as 50%. 

Ravenscroft adds: "RAC responds to over 16,000 fleet RTAs a year. The cost of which is far reaching for businesses. This includes at least two hours to arrange repair during which the driver is probably off the road (equating to 1333 days of lost time2), a minimum one day for a replacement car at an average of £23 per day, loss of excess and, if the fleet driver is self insured, a bill to pick up for the whole repair cost, which could be between £1,000 - £10,000.    

Reports show that flat batteries rank as the second highest reason for fleet call outs and in 2007, fleet drivers caused 13,222 hours3 of downtime for businesses equating to around a year and a half of lost time. However, data suggests that 33% of call outs could be avoided, as such problems are preventable:

"Fleet vehicles have become like mobile offices with more and more current-hungry gadgets, such as mobile phones, PCs and navigation systems, and drivers seem to think their cars are bottomless pits of energy.

"Forgetting to switch-off interior and exterior lights is a bigger problem with cars today as modern batteries are designed for a high discharge of power when starting the car, but not for a constant, steady power flow as in the case of lights or charging mobile equipment. To tackle this, it's good to run the engine and replenish the charge of the battery or get a garage to fit a larger capacity battery," says Ravenscroft. 

The data also shows that diesel contamination counts for almost a quarter of the top 20 fleet "driver induced" faults, with 9,770 call outs.

The impact of misfuelling is costing fleets needlessly thousands of pounds a year to put right. Not only do fleet managers lose the value of the fuel, but also costly vehicle repairs are involved along with necessity of refuelling. 

Ravenscroft adds: "A likely reason for misfuelling is that fleet drivers are pre-occupied when filling up, thinking about their next meeting, the journey ahead or are rushing to keep their appointments. 

"If a vehicle is misfuelled, the car should not be unlocked and the key should not be put in the ignition. Damage is easily done as some cars now incorporate ‘easy start systems' which begin to pump fuel around the engine as soon as the door is unlocked. Under no circumstances should the engine be started, since it could result in a repair cost of around £200 to have the fuel tank drained and between £3,000 and £6,000 to repair an engine."

Wheel changing appears to be the most prominent problem for RAC, indicating that drivers are nervous about changing tyres. Almost 2,500 hours4 (over 100 days) of downtime could be prevented if fleet drivers conducted regular tyre checks on their vehicles.

Ravenscroft continues: "Frequently, RAC attends vehicles that don't have a spare tyre or where drivers have not repaired a previously punctured tyre. Fleet drivers seem to be unwilling to make an attempt at changing them or are reluctant to have the spare fixed."

"Locking wheel nuts can also pose an additional challenge when changing wheels, especially when the key has been left at home.

"It's imperative to check the condition of tyres since it is now widely recognised that stopping distances can be dramatically reduced if tread is allowed to drop below 3 mm, which could in theory lead to further RTA call outs.

"Fleet managers should not rely on vehicle servicing alone, but ensure that their drivers carry out basic weekly 'forecourt' checks to their vehicles such as engine oil and water levels. Failing to conduct such checks could result in a need for a replacement engine costing the business approximately £3,000 or more, as well as the cost of a replacement car for two days at on average £23 per day, whilst the vehicle is being repaired.

"A work vehicle should be checked every time before use and fleet managers should introduce a driver log book to record all vehicle checks.

"Robust procedures should also be in place to have fleet vehicles independently inspected at least every three months to improve their general condition and to demonstrate mitigation in the event that an accident lands a company in court. However, it's important when companies are purchasing inspections that they identify an independent provider with sufficient knowledge."


RAC Press office contact:
Adam Cracknell on 01603 684 916 / 07800 699 517 or Sam Bramwell at Staniforth 0161 919 8024 / 07738 196667.

Notes to editors:

*Top 20 Fleet call outs

Rank         Fault description                                        
1               Puncture - wheel change                                      
2               Battery flat - other                                                     3               Road traffic accident                                                4               Tyre(s)                                                                    5               Battery - non serviceable                                         6               No fault found                                                          7               Engine                                                                         8               Clutch - assembly                                                     9               Diesel contaminated                                               10             Starter motor                                                               11             Battery flat - interior lights                                      12             Alternator                                                                     13             Ignition coil                                                                 14             ECU - engine management (combined)             15             Battery flat - external lights                                    16             Gearbox - manual                                                      17             Puncture - no spare                                                 18             Turbocharger                                                              19             Lockout-key in seating area                                   20             Sensors - coolant temperature                           


Based on 2007 data

1Total downtime = 1333 days + 104 days + 550 days + 9770 days = 11,757 days


Estimated downtime (estimation) = two hours

Total call outs = 16,000 x 2 = 36000 hours

32000 hours ¸ 24 = 1333 days


Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 13,222

13,222 ¸ 24 = 550 days


Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 2,500

2,500 ¸ 24 = 104 days

Diesel contamination

Estimated downtime = one working day for drainage of fuel tank 

Total call outs = 9770

9770 lost working days

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by JD Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the past two years.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 15%.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at www.racnews.co.uk/

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