10 steps to van accident management

October 15, 2012

Maintenance and Repair - Effective van accident management
By Steve Thompson, Managing Director, Nationwide Network Services

If you’re the manager of a fleet which consists of, or contains, commercial vehicles, then this is the essential ten step guide to reviewing your accident and repair management.

Step 1

A consideration of vehicle financing is undoubtedly the stringent set of return standards at the end of the contract period, which often reflect those laid out by the BVRLA for ‘Fair Wear and Tear’. If the vehicle is returned and it does not meet the standards laid out in the contract, then the operator will be liable for the remedial charges – which, from our experience at Nationwide, will often be more expensive than if the operator organises the repair work itself before the vehicle is returned.

The BVRLA recommends that fleet managers appraise their vehicles ten to twelve weeks before the return date in order to have time to arrange for any damage to be repaired with minimum disruption and off-road time. This gives ample opportunity to get an acceptable quote and avoid issues of parts delays.  

For a fleet manager, a vehicle inspection can often be time consuming and difficult and, unless they are professionally trained, may require a second pair of eyes to be fully objective.  To ensure consistency, Nationwide offers professional de-fleet checks as part of service agreements where required.  The cost of these professional estimates can be included in the on-going service contract or deducted from any resulting remedial work.  A professional estimator will advise what repair work is required to ensure every vehicle meets the standards set by the finance company, and also ascertains what damage would be covered by fair wear and tear, or which would be uneconomical to repair. A professional estimate means that only essential work is carried out, and the fleet manager will have a qualified report in case the return standards are disputed by the finance provider.

Every day a commercial vehicle is off the road costs money.  So, at the end of a lease or contract hire contract, it is always critical to take a commercial vehicle through the de-fleet process as quickly as possible. For many of our fleet customers at Nationwide, we arrange the hand-over of the de-fleeted vehicle back to the finance provider directly from our local repair centre as soon as the work is completed; removing the stress, inconvenience and cost of transporting the vehicle backwards and forwards completely. It is definitely worth requesting this service as part of your accident management support.

Step 2 – Disposing of owned commercial vehicles

For organisations which own their vehicles, low mileage, clean vans perform much better at auction and have stronger residual values.  Mileage is often something which organisations can do very little about within the constraints of normal business requirements, although even small changes on a daily basis, such as route planning, can have a dramatic impact on mileage and fuel consumption over the life of the vehicle. However, the condition of the bodywork, regardless of age or mileage, can materially impact the value achieved whatever the disposal channel.  Ken Brown, Editor of CAP Red Book LCV and Motorhomes, explains “You would be amazed at the number of vans I see at auctions that haven’t even been cleaned. I’ve seen dirty vans with little or no body panel damage go for less money than cleaned and polished vans that are actually in what we would class as ‘CAP Below Average’ condition in terms of body panel damage. Auctions are emotive places and, since it often takes less than a minute for a van to be exhibited and sold, buyers have very little time to make up their minds. A van that has been prepared for sale will always stand out from the crowd and send a signal to the potential buyer that it’s been well maintained and looked after so it must be worth more.”

This is because the standard of bodywork often gives an impression of the overall level of the maintenance of the vehicles and how hard a life it has had, and therefore can be critical in achieving optimum return. Many of the customers of used vehicle sales outlets, such as auction houses, tend to be independent business owners trying to buy good quality commercial vehicles and these buyers are looking for vans which look like they have plenty of life left in them. 

Therefore, every fleet operator needs to access the financial feasibility of refurbishment, even for vehicles which have been used as work horses during their working life, before the vehicles are sold on. Heavy use, age and mileage will eventually render a vehicle beyond economic viability to fully refurbish. However, it is always worth getting a professional estimate as repair costs may be significantly lower than expected, particularly as repair technology and innovation develops rapidly. The cost of cosmetic work is also often completely recoverable. Even if a full refurbishment does not make sense, there are usually small jobs which would add real value at resale.

A used commercial buyer may allow up to £500 or £600 for a cracked windscreen however this could be repaired for free if you have fully comprehensive insurance or for a small fee if you have a glass partner. The same can be said for tyres and items such as lights, mirrors and plastic mouldings – all of which could be replaced quickly and easily before resale.

Ken Brown of CAP says that “Metallic pain often achieves a premium residual value when the paint is in good condition. However, metallic paint can be notoriously difficult to match when even a small paint repair is needed. It is often necessary re-spray the whole side of a vehicle to achieve an acceptable finish. Professional buyers know this only too well and they will often factor in the cost of repainting the whole side of a vehicle even if there is only a relatively minor amount of damage on a single panel. This can have a dramatic effect on the value of a vehicle at auction.”

It is also worth looking at the condition of the interior. Broken trim and ripped seats will give the impression of a hard life, impacting on the residual value by far more than the cost of the parts alone. Trim parts are readily available and are often surprisingly inexpensive to replace on many commercial vehicles.

For fleets which maintain the bodywork of their vehicles to a high standard and return them to market in consistently good condition there can be unexpected benefits. Some large van operators, particularly utility companies, have built strong reputations for disposing of good quality second hand vehicles.  The fact that these vehicles have been well cared for makes them immediately desirable on the second hand market, and this element of trust can add pounds to the residual value.

This is reflected by the fact that CAP is consistently recording that high quality used vans are regularly achieving above expected prices, whilst some less desirable vehicles are simply not selling at all.  This coincides with a higher proportion of damaged vehicles appearing on the used car market, generally felt to be due to the longer contract and ownership periods the industry is witnessing because of the ongoing economic situation.  Although there have been an increasing number of newer vehicles appearing on the market from companies which have folded or from individuals who have defaulted on their repayments, there have been fewer batches of daily rental vehicles flooding the market. This scarcity of vehicles in market clean condition has pushed up prices for commercial vehicles which fit the bill. CAP is quick to stress that each van should be treated on its own merits and obviously the mechanical condition needs to be weighed up alongside the cosmetic appearance, but in a market short of good quality vehicles, it is a golden opportunity for fleet operators to make sure that de-fleeted vehicles are presented to the highest possible standard.

A good accident and repair management provider will be happy to work with a fleet manager to identify the best strategy for your fleet and evaluate vehicles on a case-by-case basis.

Step 3 – Regular checks during vehicle life

Whether you are disposing of vans yourself or returning them to a contract hire or leasing provider it makes sense to check your vehicles regularly to avoid expensive repair bills at the end of the life cycle. However, all fleets, whether you have 3 or 1000 vans, should have processes in place to monitor the condition of vehicle regularly.

This care and attention also reinforces to drivers that the organisation expects vehicles to be kept in good condition.  Small dents and paint issues can be rectified quickly and simply by high quality mobile repair providers, such as our market-leading Nationwide Mobile Repair service which ensures that any repairs are carried out to body shop standards. Damage and wear and tear should be recorded, as should servicing requirements and mileage – all of which can help to identify drivers who offer the most risk.

Within the Freight Transport Association (FTA)’s Van Excellence Code, van operators are encouraged to perform a daily vehicle defect check (or when a vehicle passes into the use of a new driver if different users within a day) and to ensurethat vehicles are maintained in accordance with an appropriate and agreed programme by competent providers”. It is proven that a dedicated driver is more likely to report damage to a vehicle, compared to drivers who drive multiple vehicles.

Step 4 – Branding, rebranding and wrapping

Whether you have one van which covers your local area, or thousands of commercial vehicles which travel across the globe, the appearance of your vehicles can offer a valuable marketing opportunity during their life on the road because of the huge number of people who see them.  If a van is damaged or dented, how does this reflect on your business and the pride taken in the services you offer?

However, for branded vehicles, it is worth considering which areas of the vehicle are most likely to get knocked and scraped before the graphics are being commissioned. Avoiding decaling those particular areas prone to damage can help avoid expensive rebranding costs if the vehicle is involved in an accident. If you don’t have access to this information, speak to your vehicle buyer or to a Nationwide Repair Centre for a professional opinion.

Vinyl wrapping is a very exciting development of recent years. It is a brilliant way to get your branding and message in front of the millions of drivers who use our roads every year, particularly if your branding has a key colour which isn’t a standard paint option. Wrapping your vehicles will invariably be cheaper than a full re-spray and, when it comes to reselling the vehicle, you should be able to remove the wrap to reveal the protected paintwork underneath. With wraps designed to last between one day and five years, wrapping can offer a flexible approach to creating consistent, impressive branding.

However, in practice, this doesn’t always work economically.  Fleets which go to the expense of vehicle wrapping often also aim to keep their vehicles in good condition. However, if one of these vans needs a bodywork repair, the vinyl has to be removed and then a new one replaced after the work is complete – potentially adding considerable cost to the repair.  Fleet managers should be careful to check with their insurers that the replacement of wraps is covered within their policy.  Even in cases where traditional large lettering has been applied, there are few potential buyers who would pay Cap Clean for a van with the shadow of the last owner’s branding on the side and this could pose a problem for the person whose job it is to de-fleet it.

However, if an organisation is going through a rebranding exercise with an existing fleet, wrapping can prove a viable solution to a complete livery change.  At Nationwide, we recently worked with a well known utility company to rebrand their entire fleet over a three month period.  The whole process was managed centrally and we liaised with individual drivers to organise the rebranding work at the most convenient time and location for them.  If you are planning a large rebranding exercise it is worth discussing the logistics of the operation with your repairer or accident management provider to ensure that the rebranding work takes place seamlessly around your driver network with minimal disruption.

It is also worth investigating the impact of the colour of your vehicles on your remarketing regardless of the branding strategy. For example, although good quality black vehicles and metallic paint can achieve a premium price at resale, in practice the residual value of black paint can often be less because it shows up every dent and scratch and damaged metallic paint is considered to expensive to repair.

Step 5 – Consider professional accident management

As insurance premiums continue to rise, professional accident management providers can minimise repair costs, organise non-insurance work, and help to protect future insurance premiums. More and more large fleets are outsourcing their accident management as they realise that this can be an area for significant efficiencies, improvements and cost savings. 

The first step to an effective accident management programme is to have clear focus on your objectives and should  include:

  • Keeping drivers on the road
  • Organising replacement vehicles
  • Protecting future insurance premiums
  • Administering self-insurance or higher excess levels
  • Reducing administrative burden
  • Creating savings through outsourcing
  • Maximising residual values
  • Specific help, such as first notification of loss (FNOL) or claims expediting
  • Safe guarding against expensive third party personal injury claims (Third Party Capture)
  • Uninsured Loss Recovery ULR
  • Consolidating and upgrading management information and operating data to identify areas of risk and potential savings
  • Improving safety records
  • Standardising service across the UK
  • Defining critical repair times (particularly important for contractual utility and service vehicles)
  • Including mobile repairs as part of a flexible repair strategy

For busy fleet departments, accident management companies can offer genuine savings in areas such as fleet administration, particularly where there are claims to be expedited and managed from the first notification of loss (FNOL).

A professional accident management provider will be able to project your accident management and repair costs for the year ahead based on your historic figures, and then demonstrate the predicted savings.

All of these service providers should back up their support with real-time, flexible online reporting which allows you to track claims, repairs, costs and estimates as well as analysing risk and areas for improvements.

For companies which self-insure or have high excess levels, a professional third party capture service can save thousands of pounds for companies which experience fault-accidents.  This is simply because they contact the other driver and offer assistance ideally before the third party has had chance to start progressing an expensive body injury claim with their insurance provider or another claims handler. In addition, these self-insured companies would also benefits from FNOL services, so that drivers can contact someone 24/7 to report damage to a vehicle.  A professional accident management provider will be able to evaluate the damage immediately, including ascertaining whether the repair is below the excess level, assist the driver and arrange a prompt repair accordingly. This avoids unnecessary and costly delays while the driver waits to speak to the fleet manager and saves time, money and stress.

Step 6 – Look for nationwide repair coverage and flexible repair options

Always make sure that the geographic area covered by your repair provider reflects the spread of your fleet. If you have a national fleet, or if your drivers travel across the country, it is critical that your accident management provider has a network of bodyshops covering the UK.  Not only is this invaluable for accident repair work, when it comes to de-fleeting your vehicles all estimating and remedial work can be handled locally near the driver to avoid undue expense and driver inconvenience.

Nationwide offers market-leading mobile repairs across the country and has LCV repair facilities at every repair centre. Plus we have a complete UK network of HGV specialists.

Fleet managers are increasingly looking for flexible repair options, such as mobile bodywork repairs, from the accident management providers to help reduce costs and off-road times.  Even auction houses are increasingly using mobile repairs to repair vans so that the sale of the vehicle is not held up. Mobile repairs have moved ahead significantly in recent years and are capable of offering much more than just smart repairs – even quite big repairs can now be handled in less than one day by companies such as Nationwide Mobile Repairs, and are to the same standard as those carried out in a bodyshop.  These can be invaluable for van fleets as they can dramatically reduce the time a vehicle is off the road.

Step 7 – Aim to reduce risk through information, policy and telematics

The ultimate aim of any accident management strategy should be to have zero accidents. No accidents mean far fewer repair costs, less administrative burden, lower insurance costs and, most importantly, no injuries or fatalities.  Effective safety schemes in the work place can have dramatic effects and be far reaching.

A safety scheme can include a range of policies. Younger drivers are statistically more likely to have accidents so many fleets, of both passenger and commercial vehicles, insist upon minimum ages for drivers. In addition, a clear set of standards should be laid out within the human resources policy documentation about mobile phone usage, the implication of driving offences, and attitudes to driving to ensure that the company’s expectations are clear.  Some fleets offer free eye-tests to drivers, or make them compulsory as part of regular audits alongside driving licence checks, and others have bad-weather policies containing clear guidelines about reducing non-essential travel in very poor driving conditions.

Once the standards are in place, comprehensive reporting is critical for effectively tracking this risk and monitoring the results of the measures you have in place. You may be surprised at the information available to you.

Commercial vehicle fleets have led the way in terms of telematics, to the extent that the vast majority of operators already use telematics to a track vehicles, plan deliveries and record vehicle data. However, telematics can also be an invaluable source of driver analysis and risk information. Telematic systems can indicate which drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident by monitoring driving styles.

Step 8 – Have a clear level of standards and support in place with your repair provider

As every company is different, so are their requirements.  One organisation may require all of the vehicles to be immaculate and are happy to pay for guaranteed courtesy vehicles and out-of-hours express repairs. Others may happily keep vehicles on the road with minor damage and only take a vehicle to a bodyshop if absolutely necessary.  Some companies may prefer a mobile repairer to come to one particular site to estimate repairs for many different vehicles at once, whilst another organisation will prefer to encourage relationships with repair centres within a chain so that damage can be rectified locally but with consistent pricing. In addition, different applications have different life spans. An ambulance or a van with a platform fitted, such as a cherry picker or toilets and washing facilities, may be operated for over five years. Some of these vehicles are an expensive conversion but are used very little so they incur minimal accident management; however, they may require ‘body-off, body on’ services at the start and end of the vehicle life.

Regardless of the type of fleet you operate, you should have a clear set of standards in place for your organisation. If your policy is to keep vehicles pristine then make sure this is written down, if you expect all damage to be reported then make sure drivers are aware of this. Likewise, ensure that the service level agreement in place with any fleet support, accident management companies or repairers is clear and is designed to fit your demands exactly. Do not be afraid to ask for bespoke levels of support within your service level agreement as most companies will be happy to provide you with a clear quotation for services which go above and beyond their standard service offering.

Step 9 – Quality of repair

Whatever the repair options available to you, whether mobile or fixed site, always look for the British Standard approval PAS 125. This will give you peace of mind that repairs are carried out to the highest standard and with the appropriate equipment and expertise.

Surprisingly only 1/3 of all bodyshops in the UK are PAS 125 accredited.

If a sub-standard repair is carried out on a fleet vehicle you could end up paying twice: once for the repair itself and again when you come to defleet the vehicle; either because the contract hire and leasing company demands that you pay for remedial work, or at resale because a buyer knocks off the estimated cost of rectifying the shoddy repair from the offer price.

When considering mobile repairs for your commercial vehicles, always make sure that the service provider has a relationship with a fixed-site bodyshop so that you have confidence that, should the repairer arrive on site and realise that the damage is unsuitable for mobile repair, they will refer the vehicle to a repair centre rather than attempt unsuitable work.

Step 10 – Courtesy vehicles

Because vans are used for so many different purposes, many with bespoke racking or fixtures, it would be uneconomical for most repairers to have a range of courtesy vehicles, including everything from an LCV to a HGV, to cover every option. Therefore, most fleets accept the need to hire replacement vehicles if and when a vehicle goes in for repair. However, if a claim is non-fault then the third party should cover the cost of rental of a suitable van.

If you require a specific courtesy vehicle, your accident management provider may be able to give you preferential or favourable rates so it is worth checking with them to see whether they can help you with this

Summary:

Nationwide is the UK’s leading automotive group. With 64 repair centres, which all have LCV capabilities, plus 27 HGV bodyshops, and a fleet of Nationwide Mobile Repair and Motorglass engineers across the UK, Nationwide offers insurers, rental companies, and fleet managers the most extensive, integrated repair coverage in the UK.

Nationwide handles approximately 275,000 accident notifications every year across the group, many of which are dealt with directly through Nationwide Network Services, Nationwide’s accident management division, one of the few automotive accident management providers which can triage repairs at the point of FNOL between fixed site and mobile repairs, plus can seamlessly manage cross-referrals between each division at every point of the repair process using its bespoke, integrated IT platform.  All of this helps to ensure consistent and comprehensive reporting and keeps the key to key time for each and every repair to a minimum, saving the customer time and money. 

For more information about Nationwide’s accident management services for commercial van fleets, please contact: 

01606 562352 E: info@nationwiderepairs.co.uk W: www.nationwiderepairs.co.uk