A day in the life: Vehicle inspector
Dealing with drivers is a constant challenge for BCA vehicle inspector Andy Kendall, especially when it comes to signing for a repair estimate that may reach thousands of pounds.
Kendall has been with BCA for more than 16 years, originally starting his career in the bodyshop and then progressing to a vehicle inspector’s role.
He is one of BCA’s 45 field inspectors in the UK, who travel around the country assessing fleet vehicles either on-site or at one of BCA’s auction centres.
Their job is to estimate the total cost to restore and repair a vehicle which is being defleeted, either for the leasing company to use as a guide when setting recharges or for fleets prior to sending vehicles off to auction.
All inspectors have a ready-made office in the boot of their car which includes a printer, hand-held devices and camera.
The inspection process
The inspectors use a grading process to assess a vehicle’s body and trim, with grade one being the best condition and grade five indicating that substantial repair work needs to be carried out.
“The whole thing about vehicles going into a bodyshop is time,” says Kendall.
“Time is money in terms of company vehicles, and the grading helps highlight to potential buyers how much work would be needed.
“This is invaluable so our clients know what it is going to cost them to be able to sell the vehicle.”
The companies that commission BCA’s inspectors may also have requirements and standards they expect the vehicles to be returned in with their own damage checklist with different associated costs.
There will be slightly different views on wear and tear and damage between leasing companies and manufacturers. On the flip side, some may not charge for things others will.
For example, leasing companies differ on whether they issue a fine when a vehicle’s service history is missing.
During a vehicle inspection, all damage is photographed and uploaded into BCA’s reporting system.
Natural light has to be present to be able to carry out the inspection correctly and all drivers are instructed to clean their vehicles beforehand.
If the inspector turns up and the car or van is too dirty, they can refuse to perform the inspection with the charge still payable by the company.
“Dealing with the driver is a particular challenge and getting a signature from them, especially when they are faced with a particularly high bill, can sometimes be difficult,” says Kendall.
“People will deny they have had an accident and say that damage has happened without their knowledge.”
Repair damage promptly and properly
Repair early and professionally is a key message the inspectors try and get through to drivers, stressing the extra costs associated with badly carried out smart repairs or damage that goes untreated.
“Quite often we do come across smart repairs that are not always done well, which then ends up being counter-productive because the client ends up paying more to get the work re-done,” says Kendall.
“The key thing for us in the broader scheme of things is the message to get repairs done early rather than later. In our experience, damage left untreated ends up costing more in the long run and causes more damage when left.”
Wheels, tyres and bumpers are the most common damages, while incidents of air vents damaged by phone holders are becoming more frequent.
Communication is key
“Our role is to deliver a transparent audit trail for the client’s asset so they can see the condition of the vehicle when it came from fleet and decide on how to cost the vehicles back,” says Kendall.
To keep vehicle recharges down, he urges fleet operators to keep communicating to drivers the importance of reporting damage and keeping vehicles in a good condition.
“It is down to good fleet management, monthly checks and good communication to keep the vehicles in good condition,” he said.
“Not having a blame culture is also a good thing, as this can make it easier for drivers to report any damage rather than avoid doing it.”