Fleet driver ignorance causing breakdown increase

Article date: 27 October 2006

Fleet drivers are risking breakdowns through ignorance aboutmodern cars and lack of basic maintenance, according to RACresearch.

RAC’s monthly vehicle fault analysis (VFA) reports –supplied to fleets and car manufacturers to help rectify automotiveproblems – have revealed the top “driver-induced”reasons for breakdowns.

While the statistics show some “usual suspects” forbreakdown call-outs, including wheel changing (number one problem)and contamination of diesel engines with petrol (number threeproblem), others illustrate both lack of car knowledge and thequirks of modern vehicle technology.

As Elvin Ravenscroft, technical support manager at RAC, says:“Fleet drivers are often unfamiliar with the vehiclethey’re driving, especially in the case of hire cars, andthey don’t bother to read the hand book.”

The problem of “no fault found” – where a driverhas reported a fault based on a noise or smell and the RAC patrolhas found no fault – has become the second most common driverproblem.

Ravenscroft explains: “One of the regular culprits when wefind no fault with a driver’s car is the remote key fob.These tend to operate on a similar radio frequency to televisionset top boxes and wireless door bells, causing intermittentinterference which stops the driver from disarming the alarm oropening the door remotely.

“Unfortunately, the drivers themselves don’t realisethe fob often contains a manual key that can be used to open thedoor and start the vehicle.”

Fleet calls to RAC because of having no spare tyre is anotherproblem, with drivers leaving a punctured tyre in the boot from aprevious wheel change and failing to have it repaired.

In addition, the advent of modern tyre repair kits – using atyre filling foam dispensed from canisters – have generatedan increase in call outs as the driver either doesn’t want,or doesn’t know how, to operate the canister.

The size of many current fleet vehicles – such as 4x4s - alsoputs drivers off changing tyres themselves. Alloy wheel nutspresent an extra challenge, especially when corrosion sets in andthe wheel gets stuck to the wheel hub. However, this issue can beovercome by suitable anti-seize grease being applied when the caris serviced.

Flat batteries come well within the top 20 driver-related faultsbut, again, the problems are preventable.

Ravenscroft adds: “Forgetting to switch off interior andexterior lights is a bigger problem with cars today as modernbatteries are designed for a high discharge of power when startingthe car, but not for a constant, steady power flow as in the caseof lights. However, as a result of RAC feeding back its data tovehicle manufacturers, they are modifying their vehicles to preventthis happening by incorporating changes into future vehicledesigns.

“Equally, fleet drivers are equipped with more and moreon-board electronic gadgets, such as mobile phones, PCs andnavigation systems, that drain car batteries quickly. To tacklethis, it’s good to run the engine and replenish the chargeafter using mobile equipment or get a garage to fit a largercapacity battery.”

Air conditioning – the staple of the modern car - is alsotricking drivers into thinking there’s a breakdown fault,calling out help when they see a pool of water under the car. Infact, it’s condensed moisture from the AC system drainingfrom the vehicle.

RAC’s VFA reports can provide fault summaries for fleets andmanufacturers based on both driver-induced and mechanical faults.The data covers 400 fault types and identifies the reason forfailure and potential remedies.


RAC Press office contact:

Jon Day on 01603 209287/07800 690555 
Adam Cracknell on 01603 684916/07800 688517
Staniforth: Jon Clements on 0161 919 8022/07989 414486

Notes to editors:

About RAC
With around seven millionmembers, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoringorganizations, providing services for both private and businessmotorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair andreplacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks,legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travelinformation - RAC is able to meet motorists’ needs. RACincorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance andHPI.

Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC'spowerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leadingposition in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part ofAviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one inseven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 14%.

RAC’s news releases and a selection of images are availablefrom the internet press centre at www.racnews.co.uk.

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