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Minimising vehicle downtime

By / 6 years ago / Features / No Comments

In its most recent report, automotive research company Trend Tracker found that an estimated 4.55m car body repairs were carried out in 2012, at an average cost of £1,297 each. As around a third of all road-traffic accidents now involve someone who is driving for work, repairs can represent a significant outlay and create bottlenecks for businesses. So how can you make repairs quicker and more cost-efficient?

Customer convenience

Perhaps as a result of the growing popularity for online shopping and home delivery services, customers now expect a greater level of personal service than ever before. In response to this, there is a growing trend for the industry to offer “at home” consultation and repairs, which for fleets will mean professionals coming to the workplace, or even the employee’s home, to carry out dent and scratch repair work – saving the time and hassle of delivering a vehicle to a repair centre.

One company to offer this service is Nationwide Mobile Repairs, a subsidiary of Nationwide Accident Repair Services. Mobile Repairs has been operational since 2004, and currently operates 57 fully equipped repair vehicles available nationwide.

Work is carried out at customers’ premises or if necessary, at an agreed off-site location, enabling a reduction in cycle times and the use of courtesy services.

Every Mobile Repair van is equipped with over £40,000 of the latest technology including a self-contained capsule that enables vehicles to be fixed in any weather. Nationwide Mobile Repairs guarantees that each mobile technician is trained to exactly the same standards as at its central repair centres, and all repairs carry a lifetime warranty.

Extractors are used to control the environment during a mobile repair, which ensures no airborne particles to contaminate the paint either when spraying or drying.

A mobile repair service can have real benefits for reducing vehicle downtime by enabling fleet drivers to have their car or van repaired whilst they continue to work on other activities. For SMEs running smaller fleets that do not require the more wide-ranging services offered by an accident management specialist, mobile repairs can offer a cost-effective solution to getting assets back out on the road.

“One-stop-shop” services

According to RoSPA, the total cost of an accident can be anything between four to 32 times the cost of a vehicle repair. Loss of productivity, cost of personal injury claims, damaged stock, legal expenses and late deliveries are just a few of the factors that can come into play. Partnering with an accident management specialist can help lessen the burden of dealing with damaged assets and the associated complications, particularly for larger fleets that require repair jobs on a semi-regular basis.

Vehicle solutions provider Motiva launched MotivAssist in March this year – a new accident management scheme that forms on the backbone of the company’s drive to become a “one-stop shop” for customers.

The solution is designed to provide fleet managers with the security of knowing all aspects of vehicle repair and replacement will be dealt with efficiently, with minimum downtime.

‘Road accidents will always happen, but finding the time or resources to manage and resolve issues relating to them can sometimes be near impossible,’ explains Peter Wright of Motiva.

‘MotivAssist will take all of the inconvenience involved away from clients because we’ll organise everything for them and we think it’s an attractive proposition. It’s a comprehensive accident management package which will very much enhance our list of services and our goal to offer a complete range of solutions.’

Wright believes that the new package, which has been developed in partnership with Complete Vehicle Support (CVS), offers a more personal touch, and can help support fleet managers in getting their driver back on the road as quickly as possible.

‘We’ll provide an around-the-clock service that takes care of everything from insurance issues, repair or replacement of vehicles, courtesy cars and delivery,’ says Wright. ‘It will basically minimise disturbance in the day-to-day life of the driver and enable both them and their fleet managers to concentrate on their business.’

Motiva has also pledged to use its own vehicles to keep clients on the move should accidents happen within a 50-mile radius of its Stoke-on-Trent headquarters, helping to reduce replacement vehicle costs.

Centrally managed body shops

For fleets looking to reduce accident repair costs, administration and vehicle loss of use, dealing directly with a centrally managed bodyshop network can also be a cost effective way forward.

Selsia Vehicle Accident Centres deals directly with the repair network to achieve its aim of getting fleet vehicles of every type and size safely repaired and back on the road in the shortest possible time. This targeted approach cuts out some of the more wide-ranging services offered by other specialists, such as credit hire, third-party capture, personal injury or uninsured loss recovery – focusing instead on the vital business of supplying quality repairs.

The company works with a certified network of 87 approved and audited accident repair centres. As well as providing peace of mind about the quality of the work being carried out, other advantages of partnering with firms like Selsia are standardised labour rates, centrally negotiated parts prices, a repair over replace policy and centralised estimate governance.

Vehicle off-road times are kept to a minimum as vehicles are deployed quickly into the approved network of repairers, and progress is chased on the client’s behalf.

‘As you can imagine, we have a very diverse client base with differing requirements. However, one thing that is consistent is their desire for an alternative to traditional accident management companies, as they are seen as adding cost and not value to the supply chain,’ comments Neil Marcus of Selsia.

‘Our clients are simply asking for a reliable network of qualified accident repair centres which can be centrally managed on their behalf, and the Selsia business model is exactly what they are looking for. At Selsia we ensure our network of repairers comply with each and every instruction they receive.’

Certified repairs networks

Checking that a repairer is certified is vital when selecting an accident management solution. Making a wrong choice will not only affect the quality of the repair job, but will also keep a vehicle off the road for longer due to the follow-up work required.

‘Accident Exchange always works with its repairers to reinforce to the customer the importance of manufacturer-approved bodyshops and highlights the pitfalls of having vehicles repaired at non-approved repairers; the invalidation of a warranty is key in this instance,’ explains Liz Fisher of Accident Exchange.

‘Efficiency is absolutely vital too and while Accident Exchange does not have the ultimate decision as to where the vehicle is repaired, we do make recommendations should the client not have a preference. Generally we are advised by the dealership as to which repairer to send the customer to, and we work with the customer, dealer and bodyshop to deal with repairs as efficiently as possible.’

‘When you consider that some of the larger fleets can have up to 50% of their vehicles damaged in accidents in a year, repair costs can really add up,’ adds Nick Williams of the RAC.

‘To ensure a speedy repair, it’s important to get the right system in place. Having a good network of reputable garages and using technology to streamline the process can really mean the difference between a full-blown crisis and a minor inconvenience. At the RAC, we invested £2m in a state-of-the-art IT platform to help manage our customers’ repairs efficiently and cost-effectively.’

Managing accidents in the field

When an employee is involved in a collision on the road, it’s important they gather as much information as possible from the other driver to make the claim as straightforward as it can be. The fleet manager should also report the accident to the insurance broker immediately on the driver’s behalf.

‘We would always advise a customer not to admit liability as this can compromise the ability – via your insurance policy – to get a replacement vehicle free of charge,’ explains Tim Crighton of fleet insurance specialist InsureFLEET.

‘Let the insurers decide who is at fault – if you are eventually found to be at fault, the cost of the replacement vehicle will be added onto the final cost of the claim.’

If a replacement vehicle is required during a repair, ensure it is kept no longer than is strictly necessary, as it will be billed to the insurance company on a daily rate. This could have a bearing on your next insurance premium if you are found to be at fault.

Ideally, information about the incident will have been captured from the vehicle. This should confirm what was happening in front of the vehicle and within the vehicle to clarify whether the collision was a result of driver error, risky driving or was totally unavoidable and caused by a third party. This will help to identify any poor driving behaviours that require coaching and will also help to exonerate the driver if it wasn’t their fault.

‘A dual-facing camera working in tandem with a proven driver coaching programme can tick all of these boxes,’ advises Paul Jones of Lytx Europe.

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Katie Beck

Katie joined Fleet World in 2012 as an editorial intern, following the completion of an English and American Literature BA from the University of East Anglia. She accepted a full-time position as an editorial assistant at the end of the internship period, and was promoted to the role of features editor in 2014. She works across the magazine and website portfolio, and administrates the social media channels.