Feature: Why it’s important that fleets choose the right accident management service

05 July 2018

No matter the size of your fleet, managing the aftermath of an accident can be complex and time-consuming.

The practice is a recognised industry, with a wealth of companies offering outsourcing.

By outsourcing the task to experts, fleets can save money and reduce vehicle downtime, as well as contribute to making the business safer and more compliant.

Even for the growing band of in-house professionals for whom fleet is a supplementary responsibility – many businesses now mix it with HR, finance or other roles – the most important element of selecting an accident management specialist is to ask the right questions.

“One of the things I always find quite surprising is the number of companies that go out to a blind tender and effectively appoint somebody based on what they’re telling you on a piece of paper,” said Nick Williams, managing director of RAC accident management, “if you’re outsourcing, is it because you want a wider network to work with? Is it cost control? Is it downtime? Is it employee safety?

“Rather than go to the market carte blanche, go with a defined set of goals. If I were running a fleet of 1,000 Caddy vans, I’d want to know what your experience is in that marketplace. I’d want to give you an example of maybe three different accident scenarios, and I’d want you to tell me how you’re going to deal with that, engineer it and price it.”

Williams isn’t the only one to champion homework before choosing an accident management provider. Marc Lafferty, chief revenue officer at EDAM Group, is also an advocate of scrutiny. “Make sure you understand what your priorities are in terms of the service you want delivered to your drivers, and what you’re prepared to pay for that. Don’t just take a service at face value; check and check and make sure that the driver experience is going to be right, and don’t forget that, when this [an accident] happens, it is a very distressing and difficult situation for your drivers and, really, they want the best possible care at that point. It’s probably not one to cut corners on.

Lafferty believes drivers are among the most important elements, as they’re ultimately the ones experiencing the service. “At the forefront of my mind would be the experience my driver got when something went wrong, and that can cover a multitude of things: how quickly someone’s going to get in touch with them [and] how empathetic are they going to be? How quickly will they get the right vehicle to them, in the right place, so they’re on the road again? How effectively will they arrange for that vehicle to be repaired and how easy will it be to swap those [vehicles] back again?”

If a fleet elects to handle its accident management in-house then it’s important that the manager has sufficient expertise to dissect the claim, as Dave Bartlett head of accident management at the AA, explains: “If a driver has a brand new vehicle and they do £10,000 worth of damage to – potentially enough to make it a write-off – when that in-house person is presented with an estimate from a repairer, does that individual have the true skill set to look at that estimate and say ‘no, we’re not replacing that part, that part must be repaired’ or ‘that part is structural so it has to be replaced [not repaired]’.

“We know that vehicles are becoming more technical. If you don’t have those types of [specialist] individuals assessing your incidents, if you don’t have the supply chain in place where they can repair that vehicle properly, then all you’re going to do is incur cost to yourselves as an enterprise.”

Good suppliers will consider the minutiae of vehicle downtime and the practicalities of getting them back on the road, as says FMG’s commercial director, Harvey Stead, expalins “A commercial vehicle might be fully repaired, but the decals are going to take three days longer than we were initially told.,Rather than have it sat in the workshop for three days, you get it back on road, then go and fit the decals at their [the driver’s] place of work once they’ve arrived – and you’ve saved three days’ hire costs.”

Many leasing companies, particularly the larger ones, will throw in accident management either for free or for a relatively low cost, but the size and nature of the fleet will dictate the initial conversation. The RAC’s Williams explains: “What they [contract hire firms] are very good at is what they call a vanilla solution, which is typically for the smaller end of the fleet market – anything under kind of 500 vehicles – where, more often than not, that vanilla solution does fit what they want.

“They tend to be comprehensively insured fleets, so you’re typically working with the insurer to get claims authorised. Costs are controlled quite well and, invariably, the leasing company will have some sort of mobility solution in place for replacing vehicles, so the downtime is quite well controlled.

“If it strays over that magic 500 number, they tend to do something a little bit more personalised, because they tend to be the bigger, workhorse or branded fleets. I don’t think there are that many leasing companies out there any more who do that kind of one-size-fits-all solution. They’re not frightened of actually bespoking something as well.”

The accident management industry is polarising in terms of the specific products it offers, so the good news is fleets don’t necessarily have to take a comprehensive package if they only want certain elements. “What we’ve tried to do, and what a lot of the market is doing now, is almost segment every aspect of accident management, and kind of have each one as a standalone, modular service,” says Williams.

“We’ve got clients that we do the FNOL [first notification of loss] for, but we then put it [the claim] into a network that they have an agreement with. Some want us to manage it through the process, others are happy to take that on themselves and then we do the back-end administration for them. So you can almost pick and choose what you want out of the service.”