By John Wolford, CEI director of client and vendor services
Do you let your drivers decide where they get their vehicles repaired after an accident? If so, you may be opening the door to repair disasters, like:
- Low-quality workmanship.
- Inferior parts.
- Overlooked damage.
- Prolonged downtime.
- Storage costs you could avoid.
- Limited recourse.
Let’s face it – shops often compete for business on the basis of the estimates they write, and this provides an incentive for shops to low-ball their estimates. In these cases, one of several things may follow: an amendment to the estimate – known in the industry as a “supplement” that raises the bill, or skimping on parts or workmanship to maximize the shop’s profit.
Then, ask yourself this question: how many of your drivers are experts on evaluating crash damage and identifying the appropriate repairs? Insured motorists have their carrier to fall back on, but if your fleet is self-insured, other than your driver you are at the mercy of the shop.
Another problem is how long it can take to repair a vehicle. Extended repair times are one of the areas that collision repair shops are often criticized for, and it means either higher rental replacement vehicle costs or more driver and vehicle downtime, which for commercial fleets is money.
Now let’s say that the shop’s estimate indicates the vehicle should be totaled. Do you take the shop’s word for it? Your driver’s? And if the decision is to declare a total loss, your bill will probably reflect “storage” charges, which can run from $50 to $100 day.
Finally, when the driver is acting on his own, what recourse does he, she or, for that matter, you have when problems arise? If the shop doesn’t guarantee its work, and if it only receives occasional business from your driver or your fleet, chances are corrective action and your satisfaction are going to be difficult to achieve.
What’s the remedy? It’s preventative action: carefully consider your driver’s ability to decide where to get their vehicles repaired. Instead, create a network of shops that know what your standards are and that depend upon your satisfaction for repeat business and guarantee their work. Then, review all the estimates they generate by someone with experience and expertise in collision repairs to ensure repairs are done to industry standards and at the correct price point.
It’s not easy for fleets to do that, though. One solution is to create a network of independent appraisers to recommend shops and review estimates. An even better solution, though, is to partner with an accident repair management services provider, particularly if your fleet is larger than 500 vehicles and works out of multiple locations. The advantage there is this partner refers business from many more fleets than just your own, and shops are under constant scrutiny; as a result, they receive priority service. The best providers also review every estimate for quality, safety and price, guarantee repairs for as long as you own or lease the vehicle, no matter where in the country they may need remedial repairs, and get shops to agree not to charge storage fees when a vehicle is declared a total loss and no repairs are done.
It’s important not only to rely on the kind of network that accident management companies provide, but that you communicate your policy to drivers so they know in advance they have to use your network and that they know why. If they’re interested in not getting caught up in resolving complaints or in driving an unsafe vehicle, chances are good they’ll comply with your rule.