The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has resulted in restrictions on movement and ‘social distancing’ measures which will cause businesses significant challenges in the coming months. There are several concerns and considerations for businesses with vehicles and drivers – whether company cars and vans, passenger transport, or trucks.
The virus can live on hard surfaces for hours or even days, depending on the type of surface, so where vehicles are being used by different drivers or for carrying passengers it is important to minimise the risk of infection.
A disinfecting agent, such as ones containing isopropyl alcohol, should be safe to use to wipe down the hard surfaces in most vehicles. It’s important to pay attention to ‘high touch’ areas, including steering wheel, gear lever, door handles, mirror, cupholders and all switches. Alcohol is usually also safe to use on imitation leather. If the vehicle has leather seats, a solution of soap and water can be used.
Once the vehicle interior is clean, make sure that every person sanitises their hands before getting in to stop the risk of further infection.
There have been warnings circulating around the web about COVID-19 being spread through petrol pumps. Health experts have stated that petrol pumps offer no greater risk than other surfaces, though people are recommended to use gloves and to clean their hands after using them.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced that vehicle owners will be granted a six-month exemption from MOT testing. All cars, vans and motorcycles will be exempt from needing a test from 30th March. Garages will remain open for essential work and owners are reminded that vehicles must be kept in a safe and roadworthy condition.
MOT tests for lorries, buses and trailers are currently suspended for three months from 21st March. In most cases, the vehicle or trailer will automatically be issued a three-month exemption and owners do not need to do anything further. It is important that vehicles are maintained and kept in a safe, roadworthy condition, and operate within the terms of operators’ licence conditions.
Driving tests in England, Scotland and Wales have been suspended for up to three months from 21st March, except for people whose work is critical to the COVID-19 response. Workers in sectors such as health and social care, education and childcare, key public services, food and necessary goods, transport and other critical sectors will be able to book an emergency test.
Drivers’ hours rules relaxed
The Department for Transport (DfT) has relaxed the drivers’ hours regulations to help with re-supply of essential items.
DfT had originally agreed to a temporary and limited relaxation of the enforcement of EU drivers’ hours rules in England, Scotland and Wales for the delivery of food, personal care items and over the counter pharmaceuticals. The relaxation has now been extended to apply to all haulage operations in all sectors from 23rd March until 21st April.
The DfT has stressed that driver safety must not be compromised, and that no driver should be expected to drive if tired. Employers remain responsible for the health and safety of employees and other road users.
Vehicles not being used on the road
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Scaled back or suspended operations may cause businesses to consider laying up vehicles for a while. If so, the following general guidance may be useful, which should be used in conjunction with vehicle manufacturer advice.
If you own a vehicle that you no longer want to drive on a public road, you can declare your vehicle ‘off road’ by making a Statutory Off-Road Notification (SORN). A SORN informs the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) that you are registering the vehicle as off the road. The vehicle cannot be driven or parked on a public road when it has been declared as SORN.
Where to store?
Consider where you will keep the vehicle/s. A garage or locked building is obviously ideal to store a vehicle, to provide protection from the elements and theft. One of the problems with storing vehicles is deterioration due to the effects of atmospheric moisture. For metals, this deterioration takes the form of rust and corrosion. As the humidity of the air increases so does the rate of corrosion of metals through increased condensation and oxidisation.
Safety and security
The choice of storage has implications for the physical security of stored vehicles. Locked buildings can help with security, and offer some protection against theft, arson or damage, but can also increase the significance of fire risks and safety issues connected with the density of storage. Also consider any risk of flooding due to inclement weather. Take all relevant risk factors into consideration and utilise CCTV if you have it.
Getting back on the road
When Government advice says it’s safe to do so, things to consider for bringing vehicles out of storage include:
• Ensure appropriate insurance, MOT and vehicle tax are in place
• Check under the bonnet for any evidence of pests/rodents and look for chewed belts, hoses and wires
• Check all fluid levels before you start the engine to make sure there have been no leaks and that they are at the recommended levels
• If the battery cable has been disconnected, make sure that you reconnect it and that the battery terminals are clean
• Check the windscreen wipers to see if the rubber is cracked or brittle
• Check the tyre pressures and inflate to the recommended specification
• Check the brakes as rust may have built up, which, in most cases, should go away after you drive the vehicle for a short time
• Wash the vehicle to remove any dirt that may have accumulated.
Please check your own policy for specifics or contact us for more information. Thanks again to our insurer partners for their continued support and advice.
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