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The grey fleet

By Chris Webber

Many of you may be wondering what the “grey fleet” is, even though most organizations have one. Sometimes the grey fleet is comprised of one employee; sometimes it can run into thousands of employees. The grey fleet, simply put, consists of those people who conduct business on behalf of organizations using their personal vehicle.

They represent hundreds of thousands of people in British Columbia alone, many of whom unknowingly put themselves and the company they work for a huge risk.

So, it poses the questions: How many businesses have protocols in place to mitigate the risk and verify the very same people who are actively working on their behalf to increase sales, margins and the bottom line are actually protecting themselves, their families and the company — and are not potentially adding to a company’s expense line or harming the brand image?

Visiting clients, attending team meeting or having other reasons to meet someone invariably means using a vehicle of some sort. Typically, it involves travelling on highways or going across town into areas where employees may not always be familiar. Each time we do this we are of course putting ourselves at risk.

Our risk is compounded when we’re not sure where we’re going, as we either estimate our intended arrival, refer to a map, dashboard GPS or smartphone GPS, while at the same time driving on very busy roads and trying to avoid other people who are often doing the same thing. Our risk increases significantly, if while trying to ensure we follow our GPS directions, we answer our cellphone, send, receive or read text/email messages, adjust the radio station, put make-up on, shave, eat a sandwich or one of a thousand other distractions open to us. Most, if not all, of these behaviours are not only risky, they are illegal.

Why we do this? Especially when we see images on TV of the consequences of drivers distracted by such things and the carnage which results. The stress and trauma, for all those involved and their family and friends are simply not worth it.

Moreover, when a member of the Grey Fleet has an accident, while executing their business duties, aside from the potential permanent loss of a team member and the traumatic experience for the individuals involved, as leaders, we are now short a key member of staff. This means you either have to hire someone else, which itself can be costly and cumbersome or, alternatively, you may need to ask other team members to cover the shifts and duties of the injured person. This adds stress and pressure to the team as a whole.

The stress that is felt by fellow team members should not be underestimated, especially when teams work closely together and performance relies on the tight bonds they have formed.

In addition, we have to consider who was responsible for the accident and how that can impact your company, both criminally and financially. For example, if an employee is driving and texting at the same time, while conducting business, the company will potentially be liable and could be sued, especially if the leadership of the organization was aware that conducting business while driving was a known, common practice and either it allowed to continue or actively encouraged it. In other words, if your due diligence is found wanting, the consequences can be grave for you and your company. 

As leaders we have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to our team to ensure we mitigate the team members’ risk and the company’s risk by instituting and employing practices and procedures which demonstrate not only that our due diligence is complete, but that we have demonstrated true leadership by ensuring the health, safety and well-being of our team are our primary core values. If your grey fleet is putting you and your business at risk, and you know about it, you are responsible for the consequences.

Simply review Bill C-45 and the Criminal Code to understand the consequences of inaction.

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