For many modern businesses, vehicles are more than simply a means of getting from point A to point B.
From the tradie using their ute to move from job to job or the aged care worker checking on elderly clients in their homes, to the logistics company making deliveries or the salesperson attending client meetings, vehicles are an extension of their workplace and an essential tool to ensure that people and products get to their customers quickly, safely and cost-effectively.
Yet the reality of business, as in life, is that things can and do go wrong.
Breakdowns occur more often than you think
In 2017 alone, the NRMA answered 1.2 million calls for assistance. That equates to an average of 3,311 every day.
And of those breakdowns, over 60,000 were vehicles owned by, or being used for, business. That’s a breakdown of a business vehicle every 9 minutes.
The most common reason help is requested is to deal with a flat battery, accounting for around a quarter of all callouts. Wheel and tyre problems are next, followed by electrical faults and lockouts.
In fact, the NRMA was called on to rescue a staggering 3,767 babies and pets in 2016 that were locked in a vehicle.
Potential losses and impacts
Many people have suffered the inconvenience of a flat tyre or mechanical breakdown of their vehicle, with screaming kids in the back or a load of warming groceries in the boot.
For businesses, though, such events can have a substantial impact on the bottom line, through:
- Lost earnings:Missing appointments or failing to make deliveries can lose a business sales and customers.
- Reparation costs:A business may be forced to issue refunds or compensate customers for any loss or inconvenience they, in turn, have experienced.
- Product losses: Imagine a refrigerated truck broken down, with its entire cargo of perishable goods written off, or other products left to sustain damage in extreme temperatures.
- Reputational damage:Customers today expect fast delivery times, and a failure to meet these expectations can leave customers disgruntled and posting negative reviews.
- Health and safety: In most cases, the driver of the vehicle will be a company employee, meaning the business has a responsibility to ensure their health and safety while out on the road. Breaking down in an unsafe area, exposed to the elements and left without food or water can have serious safety implications.
- Security: An abandoned vehicle, particularly one left stocked with goods, can be a highly attractive target for thieves and vandals.
- Loss of productivity:With a vehicle and an employee or crew out of action, a business’ output can be severely strained.
Preparing for the unexpected
Of course, prevention is better than cure, which involves minimising the risk of a vehicle breakdown and also having strategies in place to reduce the impacts, should they occur.
Consider the following points to make sure your vehicles are in top condition and your business is well-prepared should disaster strike:
- Keep the vehicle maintained: The best means of reducing the risk of a breakdown is to keep all vehicles well-maintained and regularly serviced. Professional fleet servicing options can take care of this for you. Also, ensure your staff play their part by keeping the vehicle’s fuel tank full, tyre pressure in check, and have them report any defects for inspection before they have the chance to cause bigger problems. Plus, don’t leave vehicles idle for long periods of time – start them up regularly to ensure the battery has enough charge.
- Invest in roadside assistance: Just as you insure your vehicle against damage or theft, roadside assistance acts as an insurance policy against the vehicle breaking down. Having roadside assistance in place is cheaper than lodging a callout on-demand, helps you better protect your cashflow and gives you and your business peace of mind. Plus, when used for business purposes, it is tax deductible.
- Have back-up options: If your business is big enough, consider having a replacement vehicle on standby that can be easily put into action to replace any vehicle that becomes temporarily unusable. You might also consider a replacement driver who can take over the job.
- Keep staff informed:Ensure all staff know what to do and who to call in the event that something goes wrong. It is a good idea to keep the phone numbers for your roadside assistance provider, the company office and emergency services somewhere accessible in the vehicle, or even saved on the employee’s mobile phone. Make sure that employees out on the road know to keep themselves safe first and foremost, but also ensure the business is notified of any problems and their whereabouts.
- Be prepared: In addition to having important numbers on hand, it is a good idea to have an emergency kit in the vehicle and include important safety items, such as a high-viz vest, a torch and a reflective safety cone or warning triangle.
Minimise the damage if you do suffer a breakdown
It is important to remember that a breakdown presents even bigger risks to the vehicle, its occupants and other road users.
With this in mind, NSW Transport has a 10-step checklist for what to do should your vehicle breakdown. It suggests:
- Always activate your hazard lights
- If you can, pull over in a safe spot, such as a breakdown lane or a hard shoulder
- Park as far away from moving traffic as possible
- If visibility is poor, activate your parking lights
- Stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt fastened, and call for roadside assistance
- If you do have to get out of the vehicle, check for traffic before doing so
- Leave the vehicle from the safest side, away from traffic
- Only attempt to change a flat tyre if it is safe to do so
- Avoid crossing the road, if possible
- Stand clear of the road: if there is a safety barrier, stand behind it
To find out how to keep your business covered – and for a limited time– earn eight Qantas Points for every dollar spent – contact NRMA Roadside Assistance or call 1300 991 286 . As Australia’s largest motoring club with over 97 years’ experience, the NRMA has you and your business in safe hands.