Owner liability in the fleet: what fleet managers should bear in mind

Owner liability is an important issue regardless of the size of the vehicle fleet. The owner of a vehicle is liable from the very first vehicle in the fleet. This means that they are not only responsible for the proper maintenance and servicing of the vehicle, but also, for example, for the proper checking of driving licenses and for instructing drivers in accordance with the relevant accident prevention regulations (UVV). But what exactly do fleet managers have to bear in mind when it comes to these obligations and what else is there? We have compiled the most important obligations for you and explain the legal consequences if you do not comply with them.

What does owner liability mean in the vehicle fleet?

Owner liability in the vehicle fleet means that the owner of a vehicle is liable for any damage caused by the vehicle. This is also the case if the owner is not responsible for the damage. Such a form of liability is also This is called strict liability and is legally defined in the Road Traffic Act in §7 para. 1 StVG recorded. This law is intended to ensure that road accident victims or third parties who have been injured are adequately compensated.

“If a person is killed, the body or health of a person is injured or property is damaged during the operation of a motor vehicle, the owner is obliged to compensate the injured party for the resulting damage.”

What exactly are the owner's liability obligations?

The owner’s liability obligations in the vehicle fleet include various legal obligations that the vehicle owner must comply with. These are laid down in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (ASchG), the Accident Prevention Regulations (UVV) and the Road Traffic Act (StVG), among others. We explain which ones are particularly important here.

UVV driver training

All employees must be trained once a year in the safe handling of vehicles and how to behave in the event of accidents as part of driver training. The aim is to minimize accidents and health hazards in road traffic and thus increase the safety of employees and other road users.

Driver training as an e-learning course takes the pressure off you in your day-to-day fleet operations, as the content is already fully prepared and can be accessed immediately. Regardless of whether the drivers are in the office, at home or on the road. the instruction can be carried out flexibly.

Driver's license check

Drivers’ licenses should be checked twice a year. This involves checking whether each employee is in possession of a valid driving license and whether this is sufficient for the respective vehicle class and use in the company. It should also be checked whether there have been any traffic violations or other incidents in the meantime.

Vehicle inspection

A regular vehicle inspection checks whether the vehicle meets the legal requirements and can therefore be used safely on the road .Passenger cars and light commercial vehicles must undergo a general inspection every two years, whereas heavy commercial vehicles must be inspected annually or every two years, depending on the vehicle type.

Visual inspection

During the visual inspection, the driver ensures that the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition before each journey. If defects are found during the visual inspection, these must be rectified immediately. Regular training and instruction can ensure that drivers have the necessary knowledge to carry out a correct visual inspection. The fleet manager is responsible for rectifying technical faults on the vehicle.

Insurance obligation, tax obligation, notification obligation

Compulsory insurance is regulated by law in § 1 of the Compulsory Insurance Act (PflVG). In this context, one of the most important insurances in a vehicle fleet is liability insurance, which provides adequate compensation for third parties in the event of an accident or damage.

The notification obligation involves the immediate reporting of changes in the vehicle fleet to the responsible authorities, such as thevehicle insurance companies or the registration offices. This could be an accident, theft or damage to the vehicle, for example. Changes to the owner data, such as the owner’s address or a change of vehicle owner, must also be reported.

Correct compliance with tax obligations is of great importance for fleet operators in order to avoid possible fines or penalties. In addition to vehicle tax, this also includes sales tax on the purchase or leasing of vehicles and, where applicable, trade tax.

The implementation of keeper liability obligations in the vehicle fleet should not be taken lightly, as there is a risk of severe penalties if they are ignored.

Who is the vehicle owner in the fleet? Who is responsible for compliance with keeper liability obligations?

The owner of the vehicle is responsible for compliance with the owner’s liability obligations in the vehicle fleet. As a rule, this is the management of the respective company, such as the managing director of a GmbH or the management board of an AG. The owner is responsible for ensuring that the vehicles are properly maintained and serviced and that the drivers have the appropriate qualifications. However, the vehicle owner can also transfer these obligations to a specialized person. This is usually the fleet manager, as they are already specialized in other obligations and tasks in the fleet.

It is important to note that the keeper and the vehicle owner, if they are different persons, are clearly distinguished from each other and that the legal obligations, powers of disposal and responsibilities of the keeper in the vehicle fleet nevertheless remain in place.

  • Vehicle owner: The vehicle owner is the person who can determine the use of the motor vehicle.
  • Vehicle driver: The vehicle driver, i.e. the driver, uses the vehicle and has actual control over the steering wheel.

  • Vehicle owner: The vehicle owner is the legal owner of the vehicle.

  • Operator obligations: The owner obligations, such as driver instruction or driver’s license checks, are based on the Road Traffic Act, the accident prevention regulations and the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

  • Owner responsibility: The management is responsible for compliance with the obligations when handing over the vehicles to the relevant personnel.

  • Company responsibility: Company responsibility includes, among other things, compliance with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and taking certain measures to ensure the safety of employees.

  • Driver liability: In the event of an offense or misconduct, the driver of a vehicle is personally responsible.

How is owner liability delegated in the vehicle fleet?

Delegation is the transfer of responsibilities and duties to a third party. The delegation of keeper liability obligations from the management to the fleet manager can take place in various ways:

  1. Written contract: One option is to conclude a written contract between the management and the fleet manager. In this agreement, the owner’s liability obligations and their transfer to the fleet management are recorded.
  2. Verbal agreement: In smaller companies, the delegation of keeper liability obligations can also be made verbally. However, it should be noted that it can be more difficult to prove the exact agreements in the event of a dispute.
  3. Organizational instruction: Another option is to create an organizational instruction that describes the owner’s liability obligations and their transfer to the fleet manager. The tasks and duties can also be specified in these instructions.
  4. Company agreement: In larger companies, a company agreement can also be agreed between the management and the works council, in which the transfer of keeper liability obligations to the fleet manager is regulated.

It should also be noted that the transfer of liability obligations according to § 9 (OWiG) is subject to various conditions. The handover to by a responsible and competent person. It is also important that the transfer of duties is clearly regulated and documented in order to avoid misunderstandings and legal disputes.

What happens if the owner's liability obligations are not met?

Failure to comply with keeper liability and the associated obligations in the vehicle fleet can have various consequences. On the one hand, there is an increased risk of accidents or material damage. In addition, breaches of the owner’s liability obligations can also have legal consequences.

  • The penalties for failing to provide instruction can be up to 10,000 euros.
  • Failure to carry out a driver’s license check can result in a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.
  • If responsibility has been transferred to an unsuitable person, this is a case of supervisory and organizational negligence. In this case, a prison sentence or a fine of up to 1 million euros can be expected.
  • In the event of a breach of the owner’s liability obligations, the insurance cover can be restricted or canceled, which can have considerable financial consequences in the event of a claim.

It is therefore important to carefully observe and comply with the owner’s liability obligations in fleet management in order to ensure both the safety of employees and the legal protection of the company.

Support for owner liability in the vehicle fleet through digital helpers

Owner liability obligations in fleet management are a complex issue. Digital software can be the solution to keeping an eye on everything. You can quickly, easily and conveniently keep track of the most important obligations, from UVV driver training to electronic driver’s license checks. This saves you a lot of time, you no longer have to organize time-consuming appointments and at the same time you have all documents stored in a legally compliant and traceable manner.

Driver training according to UVV

All drivers receive flexible training in the safe handling of vehicles and how to behave in the event of accidents via an e-learning course. The results are stored in a verifiable manner.

The most important facts about keeper liability in the vehicle fleet

Correct and consistent compliance with the owner's liability obligations is necessary from the very first vehicle in the fleet.

The transfer of duties should always be recorded in a legally correct framework and, ideally, in the form of a written contract.

Non-compliance or irregular performance of the obligations may result in severe consequences under criminal law.

Further fleet knowledge

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