When employees are allowed personal use of company vehicles, approximately 30 percent of fleets permit only the employee behind the wheel. However, more than 58 percent of companies allow spouses to drive fleet vehicles, according to the 2008 Automotive Fleet "Personal Use Survey."

inVentiv Commercial Services, a provider of sales, marketing, analytical, and compliance solutions for pharmaceutical and biotech industries, is one fleet that permits spouses personal use.

"We permit legal spouses or approved domestic partners use of a company vehicle, provided their MVR record is in alignment with our hiring standards for all sales reps," said Warren Dudek, fleet and travel manager for inVentiv Commercial Services.

inVentiv's 2,500-unit fleet is 75-percent sedans for Sunbelt regions and 25-percent 4x4 for Snowbelt areas. The company utilizes the Detroit Three manufacturers for its vehicles.

Changing Personal Use Policy

Since 2006, inVentiv was able to keep its personal usage rate flat. In 2008 however, increased operating costs such as depreciation, maintenance, fuel, and insurance led the company to increase biweekly personal use deductions from $46 to $60.

In addition, inVentiv started charging an additional fee of $10 via payroll deduction for spousal personal use of company vehicles in July 2008. This policy includes domestic partners, "but they must meet our 'litmus test' for partners to quality," noted Dudek.

"Should any unauthorized driver use the vehicle, excluding another company employee with driving privileges, the company employee driver will be held accountable for any costs associated with damaging it," said Dudek. "In addition, if there is an emergency situation with our driver that requires immediate medical attention, we permit use of the vehicle by an unauthorized driver to transit the employee to receive emergency care."

Eligibility includes passing an HR review of the employee's MVR to ensure it meets the company's hiring criteria prior to a job offer. Fleet reviews spousal MVR records to make certain they also meet these standards.

"Fleet is very diligent in letting sales reps know spouses or domestic partners are not permitted use of a company vehicle until they have an approval letter from fleet authorizing spousal use. We annually check all MVRs, including spouses," said Dudek.

Challenging Change

Dudek's primary challenge involved communicating the personal use charge increase to the sales force and obtaining their signatures of approval on company letterhead. An online program was developed requiring all reps and executives pre-register using their company IDs and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers to enter the site.

"We were diligent to ensure reps and executives received correct documentation with the correct payroll deduction," explained Dudek. "We accomplished our task and implemented the payroll deduction for two tiers beginning with the July 18, 2008, payroll three weeks after initiating this project."

Dudek had a 30-day window to complete the project. Multiple departments were involved in the endeavor, including HR, information technology, fleet, and payroll.

"Each department was instrumental in the flawless rollout of this program. The program also aligned with our green initiative moving to a paperless process online," said Dudek.

inVentiv operates a two-tier program:
■ Tier I: Sales reps are charged $60 with an additional $10 fee for those enrolling a spouse/partner.
■ Tier II: Executives pay $46 (without fuel), including $10 surcharge for spouse/partner if requested.

Revenue Offsets Costs

Offering spousal use of a company vehicle is a perk for any employee. "The additional revenue collected by inVentiv via payroll deduction offsets increased costs associated with the use of the vehicle," said Dudek. "We were able to roll out this program to the sales fleet without disruption, which was very important."

According to Dudek, employees understood fleet expenses had increased dramatically - most notably fuel - and were willing to make the sacrifice by increasing the deduction from their paycheck.

Dudek noted the process "can be implemented including multiple tiers of payroll deduction and runs with little maintenance once established on your portal."