07 September 2020
The spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new problems to overcome in the fleet and business motoring sector, with new working practices introduced for vehicle delivery and pick-up, rental and remarketing.
It can be confusing as the Government shifts policy and issues new advice to reflect the current situation, so we have put together a guide to industry best practice to help ensure your employees are kept safe when they are having vehicles delivered to their home or workplace, need to use a rental firm, or are having cars and vans collected by logistics agents for servicing or defleeting.
Leasing company Leaseplan has issued a step-by-step guide  on how to complete a thorough vehicle clean before being handed over. Its key tips are:
- Wear gloves and a mask when cleaning the car.
- Take out mats and vacuum car.
- Soak mats/carpet well with water and soap.
- Scrub interior fabrics with small amounts of water and soap.
- Clean frequently touched interior areas with an alcohol based disinfectant.
- Clean the exterior with soap and water.
- Put used gloves in the bin and cloths, sponges and clothes in the wash.
Vehicle delivery and handover
If employees are taking delivery of a vehicle, or handing one back at the end of a lease, there are certain protocols to adhere to too help ensure their safety, and that of the delivery or pick-up driver.
The Government has stated that any business must have undertaken a risk assessment for all operations. If you are concerned that a supplier you are working with has not, ask them to provide evidence of their procedures and processes.
The Government says: “Failure to complete a risk assessment which takes account of Covid-19, or completing a risk assessment but failing to put in place sufficient measures to manage the risk of COVID-19, could constitute a breach of health and safety law.” 
The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, Vehicle Remarketing Association, Finance & Leasing Association and National Association of Motor Auctions, representing the vast majority of businesses working in this logistical environment, have worked together to create detailed best practice plans .
Philip Nothard, vice chair at the VRA, explained: “It made sense to all work together to provide a unified and authoritative approach in this area, rather than all the industry bodies releasing competing and perhaps even potentially contradictory guidance, creating a degree of confusion.
“We’ve worked hard to access the expertise that exists in each of the four trade bodies to provide best practice advice that has genuine relevance for businesses that are coming out of lockdown and want to do their very best to protect employees and customers.”
The guide is aimed at their members, not end-user fleets, but for businesses running vehicles it provides a checklist you should be asking suppliers to meet. So when discussing vehicle delivery or pick-up, here are some questions you can ask:
- Have your staff been briefed on policies and risk assessment?
- Do your agents understand requirements for vehicle movements and social distancing at the location the vehicle is being delivered to?
- During their travel, have you provided guidance for agents provided on accessing toilets, accommodation, refuelling and breakdown services in a way that reduces risk of infection?
- Will you brief my employees on the contactless collections process prior to visit and issue this information in writing?
The guidance also states: “Ensure that there has been clear communication with the customer prior to the vehicle being collected or delivered. This should include advising how the driver will conduct themselves in a way that presents no risk and understanding whether the customer or anyone living with the customer has self-isolated because they have coronavirus symptoms.”
Examples of good practice in this area include:
- The driver calling the customer by phone initially, rather than approaching the door.
- The customer and driver must stay two metres apart where possible, and where not possible should remain one metre apart, and use risk mitigation provisions such as face coverings and hand sanitiser.
- If any discussions regarding damage need to take place, this should also be done following social distancing guidelines and areas of small damage must be looked at by one party at a time.
- The customer and the delivery agent should hand wash and sanitise before meeting.
- The collection agent will expect the customer to place the keys and all paperwork in the vehicle (preferably in an envelope) only when they have arrived to make the pick-up.
- For vehicles being delivered, the delivery agent should leave the keys and all paperwork (preferably in an envelope) in the vehicle with the door open in the presence of the customer.
- The keys should be wiped with hand sanitiser or wipes before being picked up by either party.
- If the customer is required to sign a hand-held device, collection or delivery report, or rental agreement then pens and devices should be sanitised prior to being placed for the customer. The driver should then move two metres away, where possible, to give the customer a chance to sign. The device or pen should be sanitised after signature as well.
The use of electronic signatures
The Government recommends maximising the use of electronic paperwork where possible, and reviewing procedures to enable safe exchange of paper copies where needed, for example, required transport documents.
During the pandemic electronic signatures are increasingly being used during all vehicle movements, and the Law Commission  has confirmed these are binding on both parties and have the same standing as an ink and paper signature.
As with most high foot traffic retail operations, rentals firms have had to put distancing procedures in place at their depots, demarcating where to queue, how to keep one metre-plus apart, limiting the number of customers in a building at any one time and the number of available desks and terminals.
Along with rigorous sanitisation procedures before and after every rental, the BVRLA says in its guidance to rental firms  that if a vehicle comes back from a customer who advises they, or somebody they live with, has Covid-19 the vehicle should be isolated, where possible, for 72 hours as the risk of contamination is believed to reduce significantly over time. After this period a deep clean should be undertaken.