Minimize liability risks when handing over company cars

4. Oct 2022 | By Malena Gaertner

All the important tips that you, as fleet manager, should bear in mind when a new company car is handed over to the driver

The handover of the vehicles

The vehicle handover should be carried out in accordance with a number of rules: anyone who merely hands over the key without a detailed briefing on the new vehicle is already acting negligently and runs the risk of problems arising in the event of an accident or damage. It is one of the essential rights and duties of those responsible for the fleet to brief the employee on all details before handing over the new vehicle. Also included in this context is the duty to provide information and clarification, which should take place immediately before the vehicle is handed over.

A special position is occupied by the so-called pool vehicles, i.e. those vehicles that are used by a larger community of drivers. The instruction should initially take the form of a basic instruction and then be repeated at regular intervals, i.e. for example annually. It is also important that the basic instruction or the regularly repeated standard instructions are recorded.

Driving license and documents

The Road Traffic Act clearly states that it is the task of fleet management to ensure that drivers have the proper documents. The law refers to the "verification of driving fitness". In addition to checking the valid documents, this also includes checking the health suitability of the drivers.

Accident prevention regulation

The accident prevention regulations must also be part of the basic instruction in any case. This is always of great importance if the vehicle has special equipment features, such as a trailer coupling. The importance of instruction in special vehicle equipment features is due to the fact that the handling and nature of the latter can vary immensely from vehicle to vehicle.

The briefing

Even if it sounded like a standard phrase at first, it is irreplaceable to instruct drivers on emergency equipment, i.e. to explain to them where, for example, first-aid materials and warning triangle are located. The operation of special technical components that are part of an individual vehicle type equipment package must also be explained to drivers in detail.

Fleet manager must ensure the maintenance of vehicles

Regularly checking brakes and other safety-related components is not enough on its own. Fleet management must advise drivers to test the vehicle's safety-related functions themselves. These include, for example, light and tire pressure. Above all, the tire pressure should be checked again and again before long journeys and the tire should be checked for visible damage. It is a good idea for the fleet management to create a service booklet for the drivers, in which all the important explanations and information are listed. If, for example, the service books provided by a leasing company are already being used in the company, it may make sense to expand the information with your own internal company regulations. As part of the obligation to wear safety vests, which has now been introduced almost everywhere in Europe or will be introduced in the near future, drivers must be informed in which cases the safety vest must be worn. The fleet management must also inform the driver about appropriate load securing. The driver and holder are equally responsible for the appropriate securing of cargo. How to proceed in the event of an accident should also be discussed as part of the education. Above all, the priority to comply with the information channels is of great importance. In order to arrange the handover correctly on a bureaucratic level, a handover protocol should be handed out, which the driver must carefully fill out.