Why drivers don't make good inspectors
Where we think many companies go wrong, is that they advise their drivers to wash their cars and look them over, and expect them to be able to effectively find and assess damage. Although we do think that having the drivers do this while they have the car is useful to help them become more aware of the condition of their vehicles, we have recognised that there are a number of things which prevent the drivers getting an accurate picture of the state of the car.
1. If drivers know that they are going to have to pay for damage they find, then they psychologically don't want to find damage... so they don't. They tend to have a quick look around and tell themselves that it looks okay. How long can an inspection take? most people would think only about 5-10 minutes, so that is all the time they allocate. An experienced BVRLA inspector will take 20-40 minutes inspecting a car depending on the amount of damage. It's highly unlikely that your drivers will take as much care.
2. As above, because they have a vested interest in there being no chargeable damage, they tend to be biased towards their opinion of what is fair wear and tear, as opposed to what is actually the BVRLA standard. (Professional inspectors are trained by the BVRLA as to what constitutes fair wear and tear, where to find it, and the various methods of repair).
3. Drivers usually have to fit in doing the inspection around their work and social life. As a result, they are often rushed to do it and when they finally do find the time, weather conditions may not be conducive to an effective inspection. A car cannot be effectively inspected in rain or poor light. It is also essential to park the car in a place where you have plenty of space around the car.
4. To avoid missing damage, it is essential that the car is cleaned (and dried) properly -- all too often we see cars that have been through a car wash which has missed whole areas, and it is rare for them to properly clean wheels, sills and valances, but these are precisely the kind of places that damage occurs.
|A Renault which was brought to us, it looks clean enough from a distance especially as it had brand new wheels on it. But upon closer inspection the car was quite dirty.|
|The car had been cleaned 2 days previous but had been caught in the rain on the way to us. This is not clean enough to inspect a car. There are three dents in the above photo, you can just about see the one on the door, but not the two on the sill, these are obscured by dirt, but can clearly be seen on the photo below.|
The photo above shows a classic example. The customer who brought the car to us had thought he had done everything right... he had cleaned the car and inspected it and found very little damage. It was only once we had properly cleaned the car that damage like that shown became apparent. Since the car had been cleaned it had been caught in a shower on the way to us and was covered in a fine layer of road grime, this was enough to obscure dents and scratches because typically you find them because they interrupt the reflections on the car (You can only see the dents on the sill on the picture above because they disrupt the reflection of a white line, you cannot however see the dent which is below the door handle).
As we point out in our previous article, the whole business of lease return often leads to a great deal of arguing between drivers, fleet managers and the lease company -- now you can see why. Had this driver not brought the car to us for inspection, he would have sent it back, and then upon receiving a bill for £90 for dents to the sill, he would likely have claimed that he had washed the car, inspected, and swear blind those dents were not there. As likely as not, he would be absolutely furious and would then jump to the conclusion that the lease company was trying to rip him off.
The photos above shows a car which has just been through a car wash, this is fairly typical but only really evident on this photo because it is on a white car and because the camera is so low down. The photo below shows the front end of the same car, although this is a particularly bad example, these areas are rarely cleaned properly either by car washes or when cleaned by hand. The vast majority of damage we ever find on a car is below knee height, and you really need to get down on your knees to find it. Little wonder that drivers often miss most of the damage. Part of the knack to being able to inspect a car effectively is knowing exactly where to look... not only does this mean that drivers are not looking in the places which are obscured by dirt, the lease company's inspectors will looking and find damage despite the dirt! This is why we include a special valet as part of our inspection, this way there are no mistakes. At Clean Image, the member of staff who will inspect the car is the person who will clean it, because they will often find much of the damage while cleaning. This is also why we recommend that people clean their own cars by hand, not just at the end, but throughout the period of their lease.
|The customer, although having inspected their own car, failed to see any damage here. When you stand back, this car looks clean, you certainly wouldn't look at it and think the car is desperate for a wash, but there is more than enough dirt to hide damage.|
|Only now that the car is completely clean will a closer look reveal the 18" long scuff. There was other damage on the car that was also obscured, a full list is to be found here.|
|Lee shows the driver the scuff. He hadn't noticed it, his initial reaction was to say that somebody must have reversed into him and that it wasn't down to him. This is human nature to pass the blame, but regardless of who hit who, this vehicle is his responsibility and this would have been found by 99% of professional lease inspectors, even with the dirt on the car.|