Are company car drivers still the road-burning stereotype?

Surveys: it must be that time of year again.

And it’s always easy to take a pop at the company car driver or the paid-for fleet car.

One survey I read suggested that drivers of BMWs and Audis are ‘arrogant’ and ‘rude’, and their drivers are considered the most unloved on the road. While top of the unloved ‘driver types’ were sales executives.

Get the picture? I think so. Now, I know there will always be the occasional BMW bearing down on you fast in the outside lane of the motorway; or an Audi hurrying past that’s clearly late for a meeting.

That’s life on the UK motorways – and they are not the only car drivers guilty of such behaviour.

But people like a demon to vilify. And the company car driver is a popular target.

People like a demon to vilify, and the company car driver is a popular target.

It used to be sales reps in Sierras and Cavaliers “always in a tearing hurry”.

Now the demon image, it seems, has moved upmarket.

Is there some car envy in the loathing meted out to BMW and Audi drivers? Quite possibly.

Is there any truth in these observations? Like any other stereotype, there’s always a grain of it lurking somewhere. And while those Sierra and Cavalier types might have given rise to the stereotype in the past, I think it’s an outdated image.

I could tell you that fleets are now much more conscious of driver welfare and have a health and safety duty of care to their drivers which includes hours at the wheel – so they must allow sufficient time between meetings so as not to speed (they do).

I could tell you that fleets have driver training schemes to manage driver risk and improve driving standards (they do).

But the overriding factor that’s put the brakes on the ‘racing driver sales exec’ is this: Fuel cost.

Driving at 80mph uses as much as 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph. Just think: you could save a quarter of a tank of fuel by slowing down 10mph – that would be equivalent to £16 on my last fill up.

And it’s likely to get more expensive. With the current strife in the Middle East, the Petrol Retailers’ Association is warning us a 5p per litre rise is on the cards following the increase in crude prices.

Given most company car drivers are reimbursed for their business fuel at 15p per mile (for a 1.6 to 2.0-litre diesel) under the HMRC’s latest Advisory Fuel Rates for use from September 2013, you can see why company car drivers might not be quite the villains of the outside lane of popular folklore.

So I think it’s time to change and update the popular driving hate figure – because it’s not the company car driver any more…