By John Wolford, Vice President, Business Process, Quality, and Sourcing, CEI
In the fleet world, time is definitely money. The longer a fleet vehicle is out of service because of an accident, the more it’s costing your organization in lost revenue and productivity or in rental fees for a temporary replacement. That’s why keeping your fleet’s average repair cycle time under control should be a constant priority.
Which raises two questions: how long should collision repairs take, and what can a fleet manager do to make them as short as possible? The answer to the first is, every repair is different, but the time it should take is roughly related to the estimated cost. The answer to the second lies in identifying the most common reasons repairs can take longer than they should or could.
To get a rough feeling for how long your repairs should take, this comment from carinsurance.com, an online retail insurance broker, is useful:
- $1,000 worth of damage normally takes three to five days,
- $2,000 to $4,000 worth of damage normally takes…five to 10 working days,
- $5,000 and above…normally means the car will be at the repair shop 14 or more working days.
Take note: we’re talking about “working days,” not weekend days. So here’s a tip: try to have driveable vehicles taken to the repair shop at the beginning of the week, to avoid or minimize weekend rentals, if and whenever possible.
If your repair times are considerably longer than the figures above suggest, that doesn’t necessarily mean you or your repair providers are failing to do your jobs. But it does suggest that you try to analyze what’s going on to find an explanation, to be sure there isn’t some way to shorten the average.
Here are six factors to watch:
You’re taking too long to authorize repairs. A day or two to review an estimate and issue a purchase order is acceptable, but at CEI we’ve seen delays of up to a week or longer after an estimate has been submitted. This is one of the few causes a fleet can most easily correct.
Your repair shop is dragging its feet. If you’re not a regular customer, or if the shop isn’t accustomed to working with fleet clients, you may not be receiving priority service.
You’re presented with supplements. Supplemental estimates result from damage that isn’t seen by the shop estimator until the vehicle is taken apart and repairs have begun. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but it’s possible to minimize the frequency with which you get supplements by requesting that the estimate isn’t submitted until the vehicle is taken apart – a so- called “tear-down” estimate. The more severe the damage to your vehicle, the more advisable it is to request one of these.
Delays in getting parts. This is quite possible when your vehicle is a new model, because alternatives to OEM parts – like aftermarket or salvage parts – are generally not available. But if this is the reason your shop offers, do what you can to verify it.
Subcontractor scheduling. Some types of repairs often require the shop to subcontract the work. Examples are hail damage that is best done by paintless dent repair specialists, electronics that must be done by a dealer or engine work that requires a mechanic. How quickly these can be done depends on the subcontractor’s availability. As with parts issues, it’s important to verify that this is really the reason for your delay.
Late pickup. To minimize rental expenses, repaired vehicles should be picked up as soon as possible. A frequent cause is a breakdown in communications – between the shop or the fleet department and the driver. If this is your fleet’s problem, fixing it should be a priority.
Staying on top of these details is time-consuming, and might be beyond the capability of a fleet department stretched to its limits. But coping with them is routine for collision management service providers, and another reason to consider taking on one of them as a partner.