Whilst waiting on a laser scanner to do its magic, thoughts turned to what me next car blog should be about. Sticking with a work theme, having had experience of both using my own vehicles for work journeys and using pool cars, thoughts then turned to a comparison of the advantages and disadvantages to both. Hence, I’ve decided to write a short summary along those lines (which will no doubt end up longer than first intended).
Using Your Own Vehicle
Largely, it seems the norm that most businesses will mandate the use of personal vehicles for work journeys, particularly in most surveying sectors, with maybe only 1 or 2 pool cars for staff several staff members to share. Therefore, I’ll address this first.
Starting with the downsides, it does move a lot of the cost burden from the employer to the employee. Aside from physically having to have a car on road, the employee will now have to obligation to ensure car is presentable at all times, as well as pay extra for business insurance, and fuel due to higher mileages covered. The higher mileages will also lead to higher depreciation, meaning the cost of the replacement vehicle will indirectly be more expensive. Mileage allowances (and occasional car allowances if offered) will cover some of this cost, but given the high, arguably excessive prices of fuel (particularly diesel) and both new and second hand cars, employees are unlikely to recover the additional cost burden. Unless you happen to drive a small economical hatchback (e.g. Kia Cee’d or Ford Focus size and under), if you use your car for work use, you’re highly likely to be running at a loss.
On the plus side, using your own vehicle has advantages. Under current UK legislation, it is the drivers responsibility to ensure the vehicle you are driving is taxed, insured, and roadworthy. You should theoretically know when the car last had an MOT and/or service, and when it was taxed and insured if you’re using your own car (I’d be worried if you didn’t), and therefore you will know if you’re driving within the law. Same for things like fuel, screen wash, and tyre pressures, you’ll know when these were last topped up. I’ll come on to this a bit further on, but I’ve jumped in to pool cars before where the previous user has left the fuel level on the reserve, and the screen wash complete empty.
The other key advantage is that you know how the car operates. Most car models are fairly unique. They’ll handle corners differently, and accelerate and decelerate at different rates. Controls such as indicators, lights, wipers, demisters etc., are likely to be in different places. If you’re in your own vehicle, you’ll likely be familiar with how the operates and handles, and you will be better informed at how to drive safely (judging safe braking distances for example). This reduces the chance of having an accident.
Moving on to pool cars, in many cases, the pros and cons are reversed. All vehicle and maintenance costs are in effect ‘someone else’s problem’, although the arranging of maintenance, topping up fluid levels etc. may be delegated to the users of the vehicle.
That said, some individuals within the organisation may take a ‘it’s someone elses problem approach’ when using pool cars. From personal experience, I’ve jumped into pool cars on multiple occasions to find the low fuel warning light on, bad considering that there’s a fuel card in the drivers door pocket, but even worse when an onsite diesel tank was available. On at least one occasion the screen wash was completely empty, and I even had a time when the car had been badly washed, and the windows were left smeared with mud. It’s just shear laziness, poor maintenance standards, and really not helpful if you have an appointment to attend. Aside from the fact it was usually mean that ended up to fill the fuel tank back up (something which I didn’t mind if I’d actually been using the pool car a lot). I lost count of how many times I returned the pool car in a better condition to which I found it.
As mentioned previously, vehicle familiarity is a good thing, and is safer. This is something less likely to be found with pool cars, although other factors such as a standardised fleet, repeat use, and training can mitigate this impact.
I will, however, throw in another pool car advantage. Ironically, the same former employer with certain lazy individuals, did have a very nice pool car fleet, which included two nicely specced Skoda Yetis, an Isuzu D-max (which much to my disappointment was transferred to another department), and a Toyota Hilux (the latter two both pickups). These gave me experience driving different vehicles, and certainly made the jump from the tiny Suzuki Alto to the Kia Cee’d a lot easier.
There are pros and cons both ways. Personal preference, no doubt influenced by my passion for cars, leans towards using my own vehicle. However, for some the additional cost will lead to a preference for pool cars. Given current prices, I’m sure employers will want to reduce pool car fleets.
I don’t think there is a clear winner. Ultimately, business factors are likely to win out, but the best method of transportation is something likely to be unique to the individual organisation.