A RECENT ENTERPRISE RENT-A-CAR SURVEY suggests that a lack of preparation puts many business travellers at risk when driving abroad – only 40 per cent of respondents said they bothered to brush up on local motoring laws before hitting the road; one-third admitted to not knowing telephone numbers for emergency services; and a worrying one in five said they didn’t know whether speed limits were displayed in km/h or mph.
As with all such polls, it can only be a snapshot, and probably doesn’t reveal a universal truth, but the results do pose wider questions. To what extent can, or should, employers and travel managers assume responsibility for disseminating what many would see as basic, common-sense information? Equally, to what extent should travellers be expected to do their own pre-trip homework?
No road-warrior needs to be told how to use a hotel room keycard (or what to do when it inevitably fails to work) or that airport security queues can be interminably long, so surely they don’t need to be told that French motorists – or most of them – drive on the right? Or do they?
GLOBAL TRAVEL BUYER, financial sector
I WOULD HAVE TO SAY FROM THE OUTSET that I believe corporate travel managers, in general, do have – or should have – ‘education’ as part of their remit, in that it is part of our job to give travellers the best relevant and timely information about their trip and about the destination they are going to. If they have been given that advice, and it is robust and reliable, we have done our job. If a traveller then chooses to ignore that advice and then gets into some kind of trouble, I am afraid that is rather down to them.
We treat our travellers as adults – rightly or wrongly – and consequently we expect them to have a certain amount of awareness of their duty-of-care responsibilities to themselves. Of course, if a traveller is going on a trip to a destination where there is deemed to be a certain level of risk, then that’s a different story – our security team is then involved, and the briefings on the do’s and don’ts in that particular location are much more thorough.
If something does then go wrong, our travellers always have an emergency number for the country they are in, and we can give them on-the-spot advice.
When employees are visiting city centres, we book them into conveniently-located hotels, where we have conducted a full due diligence appraisal, and they then use local taxis or public transport. Car rental becomes necessary when visiting an out-of-the-way location – and then the risk briefings automatically become part of the pre-trip process.
But if they are only going across to France, for example, we would assume that they know the local rules and regulations, and we would expect them to abide by them. If they don’t know what the rules are, and can’t find out for themselves, they can always ask us. If they then disregard that advice and they are stopped for breaking a speed limit, for example, I’m afraid that is down to them. We can’t hold their hands every step of the way, and generally they wouldn’t want us to.
ANTHONY RISSBROOK, chair of the GTMC Surface Transport Group and managing director of Hillgate Travel
THIS WHOLE SUBJECT OPENS UP A CAN OF WORMS around how far individuals should take personal responsibility for their own actions.
Let us not forget that business travellers who rent cars are the same human beings that rent cars when they go on holiday. Each individual has a personal responsibility for making sure they are sufficiently up to speed on the rules of the roads on which they are driving. There is a limit to how much spoon-feeding a business traveller can be given and common sense needs to prevail.
Could the car rental companies be more helpful in providing the relevant information at the car collection points? Yes, we believe they could. They could provide basic information about local emergency numbers and speed limits at the time they are asking travellers to sign the rental agreement.
At the moment they generally only provide details that are specific to the car that they are picking up, like the type of fuel and a number to call if there is a breakdown. They could also ask for a signature from the traveller to evidence the fact that they have been provided with the local information.
Should the TMC [travel management company] be spelling out these details to the traveller at the time of booking? In all honesty, I do not believe so, but we should be reminding the travellers of their need to stick to their corporate travel policy.
We should also be advising our clients to ensure that their travel policies make it clear that their employees do have a personal responsibility for making sure that they are aware of the local regulations – just as they would be if they were renting a car for private leisure purposes.
The TMC does have a role in advising clients to ensure the company has a clear policy on car hire, which includes details of what they can and cannot do when picking up a car and signing the rental agreement. The most common issue that TMCs and car hire companies face is becoming involved in disputes about the charges incurred by travellers renting a car who end up signing up for more than their company has booked for them. We need to all work together to ensure that we can minimise these ‘he said/she said’ disputes about car hire.
Only a strict and policed travel policy that is enforced will prevent these disputes occurring. It is all about making sure the employee is aware of what they can and cannot sign for. The TMC can advise the traveller of the policy, but only the corporate client can ensure that there are consequences for not sticking to that policy.
ROB INGRAM, director of business rental for Europe, Enterprise Rent-A-Car
BUSINESS TRAVELLERS TEND TO BE VERY EXPERIENCED at driving abroad and our research found less than one in five were driving abroad for the first time. However, whether you’re driving for the first or the hundredth time, it’s vital to prepare for the drive, especially by checking on local driving rules. The research shows that some travellers could make foreign driving trips safer by investing more time preparing for overseas driving – and decrease the likelihood of falling foul of the local driving laws.
While three-quarters of drivers (79 per cent) say they plan to travel abroad and hire a car, many take their own vehicle. Whichever option they choose, people need to make sure they’re comfortable not just with the car they hire, but also with the traffic laws of their destination and its unfamiliar road markings and signs.