COVID-19 FAQs

Have any questions?

We are here to help in these uncertain times. Please feel free to let us know your concerns and we will endeavour to put this to our experts.

Business Continuity

A: Some of the fleets we are talking to have developed or evolved robust sanitisation policies to deal with the current situation and are looking to maintain these as a permanent component of their overall health and safety policies. With indications that social distancing could last for another year, and that subsequent waves of infection could require further lockdowns, this seems like a sensible approach.

 

The current crisis has also highlighted the need for resilience which requires a strong financial base and efficient operations. Strong fleet management to control unnecessary costs is therefore essential.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: FTA is working closely with DfT on its Restart and Recover plan for all supply chains.  We have pressed the points that in many areas the supply chain will not know when to restart operations until demand has restored; this means that Government is going to have to be agile in the guidance it provides.

We are also highlighting other regulatory barriers which could cause constraints when the supply chain is under significant pressure (e.g. HGV testing).  Government has provided a range of relaxations for the purposes of maintaining critical supply chains during the grip of the crisis (food, medicine, fuel), the decisions it will need to make during the recovery period will be in respect of economic recovery rather than critical supplies so weighing that up against regulatory safety provisions will be very different.

FTA Policy Team

 

A: Businesses must ensure that they adhere to their current company policies and start to review in line with new risks associated with COVID-19, for instance the sanitisation of vehicles. This would typically be a matter of carrying on with existing processes, albeit with reduced staff. Given the wide variety of solutions available today an increasing number of driver checks are automated and can continue to be completed remotely. Any physical checks such as vehicle inspections or driver training can take place with the existing tools and processes available. More and more organisations are turning to systems that enable job sharing including solutions for telematics, licence checking and more holistic fleet management.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: Having access to fleet data remotely if working from home has allowed fleet managers to stay in control of their vehicles and drivers. Plus vehicle checking apps have made it easier to do walkaround checks on essential vehicles without having to pass pieces of paper around among staff.

We’ve also all had to get used to using video conferencing technology to maintain client and supplier relationships and I think that is set to continue after lockdown so we may well see less business miles recorded by company car and grey fleet drivers when we go back to work.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: We’re starting to see fleets think about sanitisation policies as a permanent fixture. Social distancing looks here to stay for the foreseeable future so I think we’ll see more fleets formally integrating this into both their general health and safety policies and their driving for work policies, with additional resources put into induction, training and communication where required.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: From discussions with many organisations, we are starting to see a “new norm” where businesses are becoming increasingly reliant on technology. We are finding that teams working remote from one another are increasingly turning to more connected systems to allow for efficient management of their fleet. For example. we have found that solutions for remote conferencing have been invaluable in sharing data across the team, backed up with more specialised software it is allowing businesses to function close to normal.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

Essential Drivers

A: Check out GOV.UK for Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance on drivers’ hours relaxations and further guidance on the temporary relaxation of enforcement. The guidance says that you can only take advantage of this change if your journeys are essential. Drivers, even in emergencies are not expected to drive more than 11 hours or have less than 9 hours rest each day.

 

It also says the standard drivers’ hours rules are important safety-related rules put in place to improve road safety and the working conditions of drivers and reduce the risk of drivers being involved in fatigue-related accidents. Therefore, these temporary relaxations should only be used where absolutely necessary. The temporary relaxations are designed to support the transport of vital goods, including the supply chains related to medicines, health, fuel, food and other necessities only, and operators should, wherever possible, attempt to recruit additional drivers from other sectors who are out of work or facing being furloughed.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: Initially the relaxation was applied only to very specific sectors, such as the food retail supply chains, then on 23 March the relaxation was applied to the whole industry.  No specific restrictions were applied; the DfT notice stated: “Although the relaxations are not limited to specific sectors or journeys, they should only be used where necessary. Otherwise normal drivers’ hours rules should apply. We believe the relaxations should be used by drivers involved in the carriage of essential goods by road; such as for example, the carriage of medical equipment/supplies (including oxygen and clinical waste); and the delivery of essential food and hygiene items (including animal feed and milk collection).”

FTA Policy Team

A: This is a resource issue – the company would be best advised to allocate dedicated members of staff to ensure that data is captured and standards maintained.

Dr Lisa Dorn, Research Director, Driver Metrics and

Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour, Cranfield University

 

A: We have found that although there is an increasing pressure for some businesses to increase staff numbers adherence to existing protocols should not be circumvented. Fortunately with the aid of technology, including systems for driver training, it is still possible to capture, report and analyse key data for all new starters.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

Non-Essential Drivers

A: We are finding that organisations are increasingly concerned about vehicle sanitisation due to the COVID-19 outbreak. There are lots of resources available to provide guidance on this, for instance you could turn to the RAC who have provided a checklist on this- https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/how-to/how-to-clean-your-car-interior-to-reduce-the-risk-of-spreading-coronavirus/

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

Yes. Furlough is about not working for your employer, but the company car benefit continues to apply as it is based on availability rather than actual usage. Therefore we would not expect employers to make the use of the vehicle illegal, by (say) cancelling the insurance or registering it as SORN etc. and therefore the car should still be available for actual use in line with the Government restrictions.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

A: The recent announcement from HMRC that company cars will not be seen as available for benefit in kind tax purposes where they are ‘virtually’ handed back by returning keys and fobs provides a tax break, or holiday, whilst we are on lock down. However, this means that the car can not and is not used at all for a minimum of 30 consecutive days, during which the employer must formally withdraw the car and the employee must return the keys.

 

Where there is no car benefit there can be no private fuel benefit either, as the fuel benefit attaches to the car.

 

Even if a car benefit is not withdrawn the private fuel benefit can be. This does not need a physical return of the fuel card, but it will need a change of policy and employee agreement.

However, private fuel benefits are based on:

  • A full tax year calculation,
  • Which is then reduced proportionately if the car is unavailable for part of the year, and
  • Can also be reduced if free fuel is withdrawn in a tax year and not reinstated.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

A: Yes. We have linked to the Fleet News story reporting the clarifications, which were explained by the tax experts at MHA, who have also provided expert advice to some of the other questions here.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: Yes. Furloughed employees can engage in training, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

 

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. Where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages and can not claim that ‘top up’ as part of the furlough claim grant.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

 

A: Yes, and we would also recommend live online classroom training and telephone coaching.

Dr Lisa Dorn, Research Director, Driver Metrics and

Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour, Cranfield University

A: This is very unlikely. However, there are very complex rules relating whether a place is a temporary or permanent workplace including s=considerations on duration, necessary attendance and temporary purpose rules etc. for anti-avoidance reasons. This limited ‘enforced’ working at home needs to be considered in the context of the work location over the employment as a whole and also with regard to necessity to undertake work not at the employers premises. In the example there is travel to workplace, which would be ordinary commuting and does not make it possible to automatically class home as a workplace or permanent workplace. There may be additional amounts available for the costs of working from home though.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

A: FleetCheck and Driving for Better Business are currently developing a resource to support drivers and operators in ensuring mothballed vehicles are put back on the road safely. This will be included in the COVID-19 Transport Toolkit as soon as it is finished.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: No, it shouldn’t. Furloughed employees can engage in training, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

 

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time. Where the time spent training attracts a minimum wage entitlement in excess of the furlough payment, employers will need to pay the additional wages and can not claim that ‘top up’ as part of the furlough claim grant.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

A: To be eligible for the grant, when on furlough, an employee cannot undertake work for, or on behalf of, the organisation or any linked or associated organisation. This includes providing services or generating revenue.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

Current Government advice indicates that if a driver has been furloughed they cannot do any work for the employer that furloughed them, this would include checking a vehicle.

FTA Policy Team

A: Personally, I wouldn’t. I don’t underestimate the need for businesses to cut unnecessary costs, however anything you let go now will need to be reinstated the moment you bring your drivers back. I imagine most fleet managers will be busy enough without having to remember to restart licence checks. Remember as well that there has been a massive increase in excessive speeding with traffic levels so low – I think licence checking remains essential.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: As an employer, where you believe that the employee will not be able to use the car for 30 consecutive days due to lock down you should seek the employee’s agreement to the withdrawal of the car and the  ‘virtually’ return of it to you. You will need to show that the employee has returned the keys to the business premises and that you have received them. The employee can then go to their online tax account and amend the benefit provision section to reflect the withdrawal. You will also need to update your internal HR, payroll and benefit in kind records and systems to ensure the correct future P11D benefit in kind reporting and Class 1A NIC calculations are undertaken.

 

There will be a reverse process when the car is ‘reinstated’ and keys returned and the need to update HMRC and employer records for tax and NIC purposes again.

 

You need to think carefully however about the practicalities of this, as well as the health and safety aspects of a vehicle being outside an employee’s home or on their driveway and any potential issues with moving the vehicle in case of emergency or for emergency services access, as well as general maintenance. This may need the support of your fleet management provider and or lease provider to ensure that proper duty of care is applied and unnecessary impacts on the vehicles or services are avoided which may result in additional costs or charges for the business e.g. recovery call outs, flat batteries, flat tyres, seized brakes etc.

Nigel Morris, Tax Director, MHA

Vehicles

A: You need to be prepared and get the vehicles booked in as early as possible, or as soon as your local ATF reopens. Alternatively you could look at mobile technicians although their availability may also be stretched at the current time.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: Some insurance companies are looking at this - the BBC reported that Admiral are giving all their private motorist customers a rebate, and that others were expected to follow suit, in recognition of the lower payouts and therefore lower costs for the insurer. This may be different in fleet with many commercial fleets still operational so you will have to discuss individual circumstances with your insurer.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: Yes. The Driving for Better Business COVID-19 Transport Toolkit contains a link to the Traffic Commissioners' advice for operators who are unable to maintain PMI intervals

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: Many non-essential companies have adapted their businesses to support the national emergency either on a commercial or a voluntary basis. You would need to discuss the specifics with your insurer and ensure they are aware of any change in use.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: Many companies are doing their best to support customers as best they can but every fleet is different. You will need to discuss your individual circumstances with your provider.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

A: Yes they are but you will have to discuss individual circumstances with your own insurer.

Simon Turner, Campaign Manager, Driving for Better Business

A: If you can, at least every couple of weeks, start the engine and run for around 15 mins to get up to operating temperature but don't leave the vehicle unattended. This will provide some charge top up. Move the car to prevent the tyre becoming flattened where it stands, and run the air conditioning too to circulate the gas.

Peter Golding, Managing Director, FleetCheck

Latest: COVID-19 Transport Toolkit