Euro 6 trucks that end up in a smash are turning out to be a lot more expensive to put back together than their predecessors, so says Glyn Heathcock, Managing Director of accident repair centre Perrys of Gobowen.
The Oswestry, Shropshire-based firm is a Renault Trucks dealership and an approved Mercedes-Benz repairer.
“There’s a lot more bracketry to be replaced if the vehicle is involved in a front-end collision, and it can add from £3,000 to £4,000 to the repair cost,” Heathcock says. “Furthermore, if a Euro 6 model’s exhaust system is damaged by a side-swipe then you can be looking at as much as £9,000 to get it put right.”
Breaking a windscreen is likely to be pricier too because of the way in which ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance Systems) sensors and cameras are mounted inside it. They enable safety devices such as AEBS – Autonomous Emergency Braking System – to operate.
If they are not recalibrated properly then the devices may not function correctly. Recognising the problem, Thatcham Research has issued a recalibration voluntary code of practice.
Drivers are increasingly putting their confidence in ADAS says Thatcham Chief Technology Officer, Andrew Miller. “It is therefore of vital importance that they can retain that confidence following any sort of repair,” he observes.
“The voluntary code provides the added assurance of a best-practice approach in order to make certain that the vehicle is returned to its owner with exactly the same level of safety protection that it had when it came in for repair,” he states.
The Right Equipment
Another development that is pushing up truck repair costs is the increased risk that the chassis will twist in an accident, says Heathcock. They are lighter than they used to be because of the need to bring down un-laden weight in order to cut fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, but unfortunately that also means that they are at greater risk of bending under stress, he explains.
If that happens, then at least Perrys has the equipment required to put the damage right. Its facilities include a Josam chassis straightening jig.
Other Josam equipment on hand includes a pair of heat inductors plus two cab jigs. In addition, it can deploy a TruckCam digital wheel-alignment system and a GYS spot welder.
The company also boasts paint mixing systems from PPG, Spies Hecker and Sikkens.
Part of the Car-O-Liner group and based in Sweden, Josam is a major supplier of truck and trailer repair equipment, with customers in such far-flung countries as Costa Rica and Israel. Its stand at the recent IAA Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany focused on induction heating, wheel alignment and lane departure warning system calibration equipment.
The Brexit Effect
Something that may drive up repair costs is the decline in the value of sterling in the wake of the vote in favour of Brexit and the likely impact it will have on the price of replacement parts.
No increases have been posted as yet however, say Heathcock and Fran Johnson, Bodyshop Manager at Market Weighton, East Yorkshire-based Britcom International.
“Furthermore, the annual across-the-board paint price increase we’ve just seen has only been 1.9%,” Johnson says. “We were expecting it to be a lot higher.”
As well as offering repair and refinishing facilities – it operates a PPG Nexa EHS two-pack paint-mixing system and two spray booths – Britcom sells used trucks both in the UK and overseas. It is the Renault Trucks distributor for Kenya and the country’s MAN TopUsed dealer.
“I suspect that a rise in parts prices might be on its way, but it is still a bit early for it to take effect,” Johnson says.
Should parts prices start to escalate then fitting second-hand components where it is possible, practical and safe to do so may become a more popular choice. A number of franchised dealers now run substantial recycled parts operations, with Scania dealers Keltruck and TruckEast well at the fore.
The savings to be made by going the recycled parts route can be substantial says Johnson, and it is a path that many customers already choose.
“We had a damaged Mercedes in recently that needed its entire cab replaced,” he says. “If fitting a new one had been the only option it would have been so expensive that the truck would have been written off.
“Fortunately we were able to find a second-hand cab and the truck is now back on the road,” he says. “The customer is happy, so is the insurance company and so are we.”
Used parts can only be fitted if the customer agrees to it, stresses Johnson. If insurers are involved, then they must OK it too.
Price is not the only reason why recycled components are favoured. Availability can be the other justification, says Heathcock.
“If you need a new cab then you may have to wait several weeks before it is delivered,” he observes. That means the truck is spending a long time off the highway not earning money.
“If you opt for a used cab instead, then it can be with you a lot more quickly,” he points out, assuming of course that you can locate the one you need.
Fortunately, most new truck and van parts can be obtained easily and rapidly, says Heathcock, although getting hold of body panels for one best-selling van is proving to be a challenge at present, he adds. “And you can always end up in a situation as a repairer where you’ve been able to obtain 19 of the 20 items you need only to find that the 20th is on back order,” he observes.
One way of reducing repair costs is to fit non-genuine parts from reputable sources, says Johnson, although again this has to be with the agreement of the customer and the insurer. “The quality is often as good as that of genuine OE items and in some cases it is the insurer who suggests that non-genuine parts are used,” he says.
In recent times van manufacturers have attempted to make their products easier to repair through the use of multi-piece bumpers, which means that the entire bumper does not have to be replaced if only one section of it is damaged. They have also looked at, for example, positioning and protecting the headlights in such a way that they are less likely to come to grief in a minor bump.
Truck cabs are easier to remove and replace because everything is fly-by-wire nowadays and there is no need to worry about gear linkages. All the repairer has to do is unplug all the electronics then plug them back in again once the job is done.
That said, many bodyshops would argue that the motor industry could still do more to make its products easier to repair.
Although the electronics on commercial vehicles are a lot more sophisticated than they used to be they are not posing too much of a challenge for Perrys from the repair viewpoint, says Heathcock.
The insight gained from being a franchised dealer certainly helps: “the manufacturer connection gives us an advantage,” he observes.
The Bottom Line
In addition, Perrys has invested in a Texa multi-make diagnostics package for vans, trucks and trailers which enables it to handle everything with confidence, not just Renaults and Mercedes’.
Getting a van or truck back on the road is as important for the repairer as it is for the customer because the quicker the job is completed, the quicker payment will arrive.
“It may take two months for a major repair to be finished and you of course send your invoice in once the job is done,” says Heathcock. In the meantime of course, the bodyshop will have had to pay the suppliers of the parts and paint used.
“The insurers pay promptly 90% of the time,” he says. “If you are dealing with an accident management company however then you may have to wait 60 days for settlement, and they will still want a discount on the price of the parts.”