Many employers choose to lease their cars and vans with an inclusive maintenance package. It’s a good idea, helping to spread the cost of maintenance and removing managerial issues of having to look for suppliers.

However, just because you have chosen “with maintenance”, you should not assume that your vehicles are actually being maintained.

In smaller businesses especially, there is often a circle of assumptions – employers assume that the driver and leasing company are carrying out maintenance; drivers that it is the responsibility of their employers and the leasing company; and the leasing company that the issue is being tracked by employers and drivers.

This is something that we come across reasonably often and which we have seen a spate of in recent months. The issue is one of confused responsibility. The employer hands over the lease car and the leasing company details to the driver and assumes that they will look after the vehicle. However, the driver is often waiting for the leasing company or the employer to give them prompts and, because of their pressures of their job, will sometimes continue to use a vehicle until something actually goes wrong – even if even the service reminder light is on.

Leasing companies know that the legal responsibility for ensuring that the vehicle is maintained lies with the employer and so their systems are often set up to be reactive rather than proactive – although they would clearly have something to say if a vehicle is returned unmaintained because it will affect its value.

The fact is that managers who do not put systems in place to ensure that vehicles are being properly maintained were leaving themselves open to prosecution. If a serious accident occurs and an improperly maintained vehicle is part of the reason that it happened, then the owners and directors of the business will be at fault and could be given a custodial sentence.

So, just because you buy “with maintenance”, don’t think that you have fulfilled your legal responsibilities. There is no circumventing the need to properly ensure that your vehicles are being kept in a roadworthy condition.