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Time to look at incident management, AA tells fleets

Date: 06 June 2022   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Trends such as increasing economic challenges and continuing new vehicle supply problems have increased the importance of fleet incident management.

That's according to the AA, which has published a new 'yellow paper' on the subject, entitled 'Incident management: The end-to-end experience'.

The topic draws together areas such as SMR, insurance, duty of care responsibilities, and roadside recovery.

Speaking during a webinar held to mark the publication of the paper, AA president Edmund King explained some of the potential benefits of incident management for fleets.

He said: "You can control all your fleet-related costs, significantly reduce vehicle downtime, help to minimise business disruption, help to maximise driver and vehicle productivity, and also protect the vehicle resale values through quality-assured and guaranteed repairs. 

"It's also beneficial to save time on administration, things like documentation and accounting."

Explaining why now was the right time to be talking about incident management, King highlighted a range of issues.

He said: "Why is it important now to be talking about incident management? Well, I think as we all know as we look around us, with the economic and social challenges that we are all facing, things like record inflation, we all know about diesel prices, gas prices, shortage of components and pressure that's putting on the industry, both for repairs of vehicles and also buying new vehicles. And on top of that we are all on track to try to help to decarbonise transport. 

"So, with all these factors, really there has never been a better time to try to streamline fleet management, to help mitigate against those factors."

Also speaking on the webinar, AA business services director Gavin Franks explained more about the effects of the current vehicle supply crisis on SMR.

He said: "We've seen a big challenge around availability of vehicles, so fleets that would normally be replacing their vehicles aren't able to do so. It means they are keeping their vehicles for longer, and therefore the average age of those vehicles extends. 

"With that increased age in the vehicle fleet, what that inevitably brings is higher maintenance and repair costs, and increased downtime, creating a lot of pressure on fleets. 

"And, when vehicles do need to be repaired, whether that's a mechanical repair or a bodyshop repair, we know there is also a general shortage of parts and spares, so that means vehicles are staying in workshops for longer, creating even more pressure in terms of capacity, and also increasing the cost and increasing the downtime of those vehicles."

Franks added that as well as directly affecting fleets, vehicle supply problems were also affecting their incident-related dealings with car hire companies.

He said: "When vehicles aren't available, the natural place to go is a courtesy vehicle, but equally we know that the car hire industry has been under massive pressure. They haven't been able to source new vehicles, so they are now having to go to the extreme of sourcing second-hand vehicles to try and keep their stock up, and again the longer length of vehicles being in workshops is creating even more pressure and the average car hire time is extending as well. 

"When you roll all of that together, what we are seeing is a snowball effect, and that's creating increased costs, increased downtime, and increased frustration. But where there is a challenge, people start to look at doing things in a different way, and that's what we believe incident management can bring."

Among the elements of incident management picked out in the AA's yellow paper is accident management, which it says is currently in focus as drivers are facing a time of particular vulnerability, with some returning to the road after years of Covid-19 restrictions and working from home.

The paper quotes AA head of accident management David Bartlett, who states: "As the automotive industry undergoes transformational change with the transition to electric vehicles, the rise of vehicle connectivity and autonomous technology, we're feeling the effects of this in the accident management world. With the evolution of vehicle technology, we're seeing the impact of this on repair costs, methods and availability of parts and repair personnel.

"Where once the process of accident management had a formula to it, today there's more fluidity as response teams must work to find the right partners to meet the exact needs of the vehicle technology. And with this, there's a greater risk that a customer could fall between the gaps of accident manager and recovery team, repair centre and so forth.

"Knowledge is therefore key and it's essential to have the right supply chain in place."

Another topic picked out by the paper is insurance. Stating that premiums have continued to rise in line with the increasing repair cost of modern vehicles, the paper continues: "It's vital that all employees and fleet drivers understand not to admit responsibility to protect themselves and the business from liability until the accident has been properly assessed. 

"All drivers must understand how they're covered, what information they need to collect and who to call following an incident."

The paper also picks out the potential benefits of driver training.

It states: "It's widely recognised that 95% of crashes are due to human error, rather than mechanical failure or natural disasters. 

"Preventative measures can go a long way in reducing the financial and productivity burden of incidents by ensuring that drivers are well-informed and safety-conscious behind the wheel. 

"Not only can training help to avoid accidents, but driver coaching can also decrease running costs by altering behaviour to minimise SMR requirements, fuel consumption and tyre wear."

Concluding the paper, Franks states: "Each year, ineffective and disjointed fleet management is costing UK organisations millions. 

"In essence, incident management is about decisive and effective implementation of preventative and reactive measures to reduce fleet costs and downtime. 

"Understanding which areas fit within the incident management scope and the ways in which they affect one another is central to addressing the fleet management challenges today and, more importantly, beyond."