Living in Belgium for a few years, I have discovered quite some special things about this small country. Enormous amount of company cars is one of them. If you are an employee who is receiving a company car, then indeed you are probably enjoying the below advantages: Financials for the gasoline, car insurance, car maintenance and so on. However, if we look at a bigger picture beyond personal benefits, the concept of company cars actually has a lot of pitfalls. I am going to share my opinions based on my own observations and experiences.
1. Parking issue
A company which provides a car for every employee also has to solve an eternal issue: The parking problem. The underground parking is never enough, company has to be very creative to find other parking solutions like registering a residence card for employees so that they can park on the street for free. However, if there is a team building activity after work, it will be really difficult to solve this issue.
I found that since I drive to work I need to do extra sport to keep fit. Another issue is, unconsciously we are getting lazier, sometimes people drive 5 minutes to the center for dinner; once I witnessed a colleague drove 2 minutes to buy cigarette. Crazy.
3. Driver’s privacy
Company tends to print the company name and logo on the company cars so that the employees can promote the company while driving around. It makes perfect sense.
However, as an employee I wouldn’t feel comfortable if a stranger knows immediately where I work by looking at my car, or with a bit of googling knows more or less my position in the company, hence salary range.
4. Congestion on the road
In the morning, on normal conditions, from 6:30 – 10:30, the traffic jam on all the roads towards Brussels or Antwerp is inevitable, not to say when there’s accidents or when bad weather. If we fit the same amount of people in a bus, or even fit 2 persons in a car, our road condition will be much better.
5. We never think of car pool any more!
In my opinion, time and money is the two biggest motivations for people to car pool. If we have a private car, we might consider reduce the fuel cost; if on the highway we have a ‘car pool specific lane’ like in USA, we might want to save some time by car pool. However, full of company cars and no more space for creating another lane in Belgium limits the motivation.
Last weekend we had a brunch at a friend’s place in Limburg(A province in Belgium). We were 3 driving from Leuven and 1 driving from Brussels, another 1 driving from Antwerp, all to the same direction(Anteater – Brussels – Leuven – Limburg). When we arrived, I saw all our cars parked outside(Luckily we all found parking spot), and I asked “Guys, we came from the same direction, why didn’t we think of car pooling at all?” We looked at each other also surprised that it didn’t came to our minds at all, could not give a valid answer and eventually we shrugged: “Maybe because everyone has a company car?”
This is a true story and the immediate inspiration for me to write this blog. My thoughts circled in my mind: if we drive 1 hour all the way to somewhere so that we can socialize with our friends, why don’t we share a ride and already start socializing on the road?
We all agreed next time we will car pool if we go brunch again.
Back when I did not have a company car, I often got a ride from colleagues to the station or home, sharing a ride brings the interaction with your colleagues, you always learn something from other people. Now if a colleague offers me a ride, I have to respond “Then you need to give a ride to my car too 😉 ”
Indeed we don’t need to worry about waiting for a bus in the rain, nor finding yourself a seat on the full train, nor fixing the time for car pooling with other people. Instead we just jump in the car alone and hit the road. However, if you look around while driving, 9 out of 10 cars are without any passengers, and immediately we found half of them are company cars. Sometimes I cannot help but wondering, while the company/social benefits bring us advantages, who is responsible for the environment damage we are causing? Do we want to see cloudy skies like in Beijing today?
I also want to introduce one of the documentaries about the pollution called “Under the Dome” in China made by a Chinese journalist:
Today during lunch, talking about the company car issue and the environment with colleagues got me almost sad. Luckily someone brought some light to this topic. “Most of the issues would be solved in the near future. When we have self driving cars, where connected cars are not a properties but services. One car will drive you to work and another nearest car will drop you home.”
I am looking forward to it.