Driving abroad is about much more than just working out how to drive on the opposite side of the road and understanding road signs, for a company car driver there is a lot of preparation required and research to undertake. Fleet managers should have formal procedures in place to prepare for company cars being driven abroad, and to help establish a list of actions and background research to help with this process, we have put together a checklist of foreign travel tips:
1. Vehicle on-hire certificate
If the company vehicle is rented or leased, then you need to notify the leasing company that the vehicle will be driven outside the UK and seek permission to do this, although the possibility that this will happen is usually prior stipulated and agreed in any lease agreement. Before driving in Europe you will need to apply for a VE103 vehicle on-hire certificate, this replaces the standard V5 vehicle registration document, and it is a legal requirement to produce this when asked, so keep it in the car at all times or risk an on-the-spot fine. It can also take several weeks to arrange the issuing of this certificate, so plan it well in advance, most lease companies advise applying at least two weeks prior to travel.
2. Low-emission zones
You should research the destination city and any locations along the route for any local restrictions such as low-emission zones. There are 20 cities in Germany and France which have low-emission zones and require motorists to display a sticker stating the emission levels of their vehicle. In Germany you can purchase these in hotels and garages, but in France they are online only, so again you should arrange this many weeks in advance. There is a possible on-the-spot fine for not displaying this.
3. International Driving Permit
There are 140 countries where it is required to have an international drivers' permit in conjunction with a normal drivers’ licence, although in most European countries this isn’t necessary if you have a full UK drivers’ licence. A fine or having the car impounded is a possibility if a driver cannot show this permit in the countries where it is required. To apply for a permit you need a full drivers’ licence, be over 18 and a resident in either Great Britain or Northern Ireland.
4. Winter driving restrictions
Some parts of Europe have much more challenging road conditions than the UK, and in Germany, Austria and Switzerland there is a requirement to have special winter tyres. These are made from a specific rubber compound and increase grip and reduce braking distances. In some other countries there is a requirement to put snow chains over wheels. You should research the rules for the country being visited and prepare accordingly.
5. Import duty
Check whether it is a requirement to pay import duty for driving in the country or countries being visited. In some countries you don’t have to pay this if the stay in the country is for less than 12 months.
6. Safety and roadworthiness
Because of the difficult terrain possibly encountered in some countries, it should be ensured that a vehicle is serviced and tyre pressure, water and oil levels regularly checked. You should also research things like which traffic light systems are in place, what the speed limits are and whether there are any restrictions or driving zones in the cities being visited.
Make sure that travel and vehicle insurance covers the driver for the trip it is intended to make, and arrange any changes that are necessary in good time.
8. Private and business use
If a vehicle is being used for both business and private motoring while outside the UK, then this should be previously agreed with the employer and stated in a contract of employment. In some countries the police can ask the driver to prove this, so it is a good idea for the driver to take their contract of employment or anything stating this agreement with them.
As with all compliance issues, a fleet manager should have documented procedures in place to ensure permits, licences, servicing and insurance are all in order before a company car is used abroad, and particularly where this is a regular occurrence.