Massive growth in driver-owned home delivery fleets means that they need to start to “align to industry norms on safety over time,” FleetCheck is warning.

Peter Golding, managing director of the fleet software specialist, said the increase in these kinds of vehicle operations during the pandemic was an area that needed attention.

“There have always been some issues with people using their own unsuitable vehicles for business activity but, when this was limited to, for example, a relatively small number of pizza deliveries by teenagers using their old cars, the potential for safety issues was minimal.

“However, we’re now in a situation, partially prompted by the pandemic, where drivers working for home delivery and courier companies are delivering millions of parcels every day, and those courier companies often outsource the entire issue of safety to the driver.

“Making this point is not to target the drivers. These are hardworking people who, especially at the moment, are proving important to keep the economy turning over and, in some cases, are helping to deliver services that are essential during the current crisis.

“However, that does not make the use of inappropriate vehicles right. For some home delivery companies, the only requirement is that the vehicle has an MOT and is insured for business use. I suspect we’ve all got our own horror stories about some of the vehicles that we’ve experienced courier drivers using, such as the 22 year old Volvo estate that I’ve seen.

“However, in a sense, those outlying vehicles are not the core issue. The core issue is that even the better vehicles being used are often not fit for purpose. If you’ve got a hundred parcels to deliver, fleet norms on safety say that you should be using a van with a bulkhead.

“If someone has an accident with all of those parcels unsecured on the back and front seats of their hatchback, the chances of the driver hit hard by something heavy moving at speed is massively increased. Companies employing people and their vehicles on this basis are dancing around what is acceptable in safety terms. Their drivers and other road users deserve better.”

Peter said that the fleet industry should look at ways of ensuring that these businesses start to adopt the same kind of everyday operational measures as other company cars and vans.

“Companies operating on this basis need to start to align to fleet industry norms on safety over time, we believe. These driver-owned vehicles are grey fleet and, as every good fleet manager knows, that means the employer has exactly the same responsibilities as for company-owned vehicles.

“Home delivery and courier companies should, at the very least, be looking at driving licences, maintenance records, insisting on regular walkaround checks and ensuring that vehicles are fit for carrying parcels. These are safety essentials for every fleet.

“Clearly, this is a situation that isn’t going to change overnight, especially given business needs during the pandemic, but should certainly be tackled as we come out of the crisis. These employers have both a legal and moral responsibility. ”