Avoidable car faults cause almost 15,000 days in downtime for fleet drivers

Article date: 8 July 2010

The number of breakdowns caused by fleet driver error is falling, but the severity of these avoidable faults is causing longer periods of downtime, according to RAC’s latest Vehicle Fault Analysis (VFA) data2.

Driver-induced faults prompted almost 100,000 call outs, with figures indicating that fleet drivers caused at least 14,818 working days1 of downtime - or around 40 years - for the top five fleet driver induced faults in 2009.

Although pre-empting or deterring driver faults is becoming more common in fleet vehicles, simple issues such as a driver’s lack of familiarity with the vehicle, or a failure to conduct basic maintenance checks, are causing expensive and time-consuming repair bills.

Sean Connolly, repair improvement manager at RAC, said: “Despite fleets fitting clever technology such as tyre pressure and battery management monitoring systems and electrical cut-off devices, our data on fleet customer call-outs shows 30% of all fleet breakdowns are due to potentially avoidable faults.

“This results in fleet downtime, as well as extra costs for replacement or hire cars, missed appointments and, potentially, business interruption. There can be no doubt that the financial impact of losing fleet vehicles to businesses can be significant.”

The top three reasons for a call-out are wheel-related, including punctures, general tyre faults and lack of replacement tyres. This is followed by misfuelling, running out of petrol or diesel, and flat batteries caused by internal or external lights being left on.

An increasing number of automotive manufacturers are removing the spare wheel in an effort to reduce CO2 emissions through weight-saving. If a tyre then runs flat and there isn’t a spare wheel to hand, it can take the vehicle off the road for longer.

Fleet managers should consider the benefits of fuel efficiency gained by no spare wheel against the increased downtime that not providing a spare could cause.

Connolly said: “Having no spare wheel can turn a breakdown we can repair quickly at the roadside into a much longer resolution for the driver. Last year we attended more than 8,000 call-outs where there was no spare wheel. If the vehicle has to be towed to a tyre retailer or garage, it will generally take up to half a day to get the vehicle back on the road with a new tyre.

“Misfuelling is the next biggest fault category with over 8,000 misfuels amongst fleet drivers in 2009. This isn’t just costing fleet drivers the price of a drain and a lost tank of petrol or diesel - it is having a serious impact on lost time as well.”

Diesel contamination can cause severe damage if the driver starts the engine and petrol runs through into the system. Fleet managers will be well aware it can cost thousands of pounds to repair modern diesel engines.

Connolly added: “Familiarity with the car, clear labelling and fuel contamination prevention devices such as RAC’s FuelSure will all help reduce downtime. Running out of fuel is another easily preventable fault, yet RAC attended almost 9,000 incidents in 2009.

“These are avoidable faults which cost fleets time and money, and fleet managers need to ask themselves how much of these costs are avoidable. A familiarity with the car and basic maintenance checks will go a long way to keeping fleets running smoothly and efficiently.”


RAC Press office contact:
Vicki Burn on 01603 684224/ 07800 692909, Lucy Haughey on 01603 688891/07800 690149 or Patrick Chester at Staniforth on 0161 919 8011

Notes to editors:


1 Total downtime = 7,189 + 4,111+ 376 + 1,124 + 2,018 = 14,818 working days:

Punctures (time to purchase replacement tyre not included)

Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 57,513

57,513 (8 = 7,189) lost working days

Tyres – No spare

Estimated downtime = half a working day to attend garage

Total call outs = 8,223

4,111 lost working days

Batteries (Internal and External lights)

Time taken to attend and repair vehicle (estimation) = one hour

Total call outs = 3,010

3,010 (8 = 376) lost working days

Out of fuel (Petrol and Diesel)

Estimated downtime = one hour

Total call outs = 8,997

8,997 (8 = 1,124 days)

Diesel contamination

Estimated downtime = two hours including drainage of fuel tank 

Total call outs = 8,072

8,072 (4 = 2,018) lost working days

A working day is calculated as 8 hours.

2 Based on RAC’s 2009 data.

Top 20 Fleet customer induced call outs


Fault Description


Puncture - Wheel Change




Puncture – No spare


Fuel - Diesel Contaminated


Fuel - Petrol Out Of


Fuel - Diesel Out Of


Battery Flat - Internal Lights


Battery Flat - External Lights


Fuel - Petrol Contaminated


Valves - Tyre


Clutch - Assembly


Lights - Boot/Interior


Light Switch


Motor Cycle - Tyre


Steering Lock


Body Parts - External


Ignition Switch


Immobiliser Fob/Blip Remote


Engine Oil


Inertia Switch

About RAC
With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organisations, providing services for both private and business motorists.  Whether it's roadside assistance, insurance, vehicle inspections and checks, legal services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs.

RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer satisfaction by J D Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the last four years and the top-named service organisation in the July 2009 and January 2010 UK Customer Satisfaction Index from the Institute of Customer Service.

RAC Insurance has also been awarded the Best Overall Vehicle Insurance Provider 2009/10 by themoneypages.com

RAC is part of Aviva, the world's fifth largest* insurance group, serving 53 million customers across Europe, North America and Asia Pacific.

RAC's news releases and a selection of images are available from the internet press centre at www.rac.co.uk/press-centre/

* based on gross worldwide premiums at 31 December 2008.


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