Over the past 10 years, truck fleets have made great strides in preventing accidents and improving their safety records. But, fleets that rely entirely on their own internal resources to deal with the aftermath of accidents still may be missing key opportunities to drive costs down, by as much as tens of millions of dollars per year for the industry as a whole.
The main reason is a lack of manpower. No matter what the size of the fleet, handling accidents is often a part-time job, just one of many tasks the fleet management department has to deal with to keep the fleet running efficiently. This precludes time-pressed fleet managers from closely managing the timeliness and cost-effectiveness of repairs or researching cost-saving alternatives. A lack of expertise in effective recovery of damages from at-fault third-party drivers also leads to millions of dollars left on the table.
But, in addition to those reasons, there is another: scale. Only the largest fleets can achieve the scale that a nationwide third-party accident management company can. The range, scope, and volume that the best and largest outsourcing companies achieve create the following advantages:
1. A managed, nationwide network of high-quality repair shops.
When accidents occur far from collision repair shops fleet managers know and trust, they are faced with a dilemma. Either they take their chances with a shop near the accident scene, or they incur high costs to tow the vehicle to a trusted shop.
The best accident management firms, on the other hand, offer a coast-to-coast network of carefully screened truck collision repair centers, so drivers are never very far away from a high-quality shop. This keeps towing costs down, while assuring the quality of the repair.
2. Priority service for reduced downtime.
Accident management companies are known entities to their network providers, who count on them for repeat business. These companies also have a large trained and experienced staff whose only job is to monitor and expedite repairs and reduce cycle time and associated expenses. These include those for storage and replacement rental vehicles.
3. Audited repair estimates for the most cost-efficient repairs.
Look for a provider with a staff of licensed physical damage appraisers who audit every repair estimate. They can achieve average savings of up to 10 percent or more through such means as repairing instead of replacing damaged parts, using certified aftermarket or used parts where practical instead of OEM parts, confirming repairs that don’t affect the safe operation of the vehicle and can be avoided, and finding ways to reduce labor charges.
4. Higher rates of recovery from at-fault, third-party drivers.
This is an area where many trucking firms admit they need to do a better job, but are limited by time and expertise. But, of all the potential benefits of accident management outsourcing, this is the one with the greatest potential reward, especially since many don’t charge for their services unless or until they collect.
The best accident management companies employ a staff that specializes in subrogation — the recovery of the cost of damages to fleet vehicles by at-fault third-party drivers. Look for companies with a history of launching recovery claims for more than 25 percent of the claims they handle, and a recovery rate of more than 90 percent of the dollars they target in less than 60 days.
5. Greater visibility of accident costs and trends.
Accident management companies routinely provide a variety of standard and customized online statistical reports that improve fleet managers’ visibility of accident trends and expenses. This makes it easier to diagnose underlying causes and problems, and to develop strategies and tactics for containing future costs.
6. Leveraging fleet management department resources for improved efficiency.
Accidents are highly disruptive to fleet operations, and managing them is just one of many jobs that fleet management departments are tasked with. Outsourcing is a way to off-load the administrative burden so personnel are free to do other tasks, in addition to achieving greater control and efficiency in the accident management process itself.
Today, a growing number of truck fleets now outsource their accident management activities, because it has proven to deliver value-added benefits to sedan and mixed vehicle fleets for close to 30 years. It has such huge potential that every truck fleet should evaluate it as a possible alternative to handling their accident response activities entirely on their own.