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Vehicle breakdowns hitting SME productivity

Small businesses are risking hours of lost productivity by failing to protect against unexpected breakdowns.

Data from the RAC’s small and medium enterprise (SME) team shows there is a three in 10 chance that one of a small firm’s vehicles will break down every year. What’s more, among all the small businesses with RAC breakdown cover, each is predicted to have an average of two breakdowns in their fleets this year. But for those businesses without pre-arranged breakdown cover in place, the impact in terms of lost time, missed appointments and delayed deliveries could be significant.

The most common RAC SME call-out – accounting for 18% of all breakdown jobs – relates to batteries, whether that’s simply a flat battery or one that’s reached the end of its life.

Tyres are responsible for generating the second biggest volume of call-outs, making up 13% of all breakdowns. And, with many vehicles now not having a spare wheel, a significant number of these will be ‘puncture no spare’ jobs. This would typically be very difficult for a business to get fixed without the support of a breakdown company but every RAC patrol carries a ‘universal spare wheel’ designed to fit the majority of cars and vans on the road.

Clutch problems complete the top three most common SME vehicle breakdowns seen by RAC patrols. These only account for 5% of RAC small business call-outs but they usually require recovery to a garage for repair – an issue that would cost a small business without breakdown cover dear.

Rank Top RAC SME breakdown call-outs %
1 Battery 18%
2 Tyres 13%
3 Clutch 5%
4 Alternator 4%
5 Engine mechanical 3%
>6 Starter motor 3%
7 Fuel – diesel contamination 3%
8 ECU – engine management 2%
9 Road traffic accident 2%
10 Gearbox – manual 2%

Nicky Brown, of the RAC’s small business team, said: “Any downtime for a small business is likely to be extremely costly as it represents a serious loss of productivity, missed appointments or late deliveries. And, the smaller the business is, the worse the problem.

“With 5.4m micro-businesses operating in the UK, the impact of not having breakdown cover in place could mean many hours wasted trying to sort out the problem, whether that’s trying to fix it themselves or making arrangements for someone else to.

“Our analysis of the types of breakdowns our small business customers experience shows vehicles are breaking down all too frequently, no doubt at some very inconvenient times and in some very inconvenient places.

“A flat battery may not seem like the worst problem, but if it happens miles away from home or a garage, and its reached the end of its serviceable life, then it starts to become a much bigger issue. Then there’s the increasingly common ‘puncture no spare’ breakdown which can easily leave you stranded scratching your head.

“The cost of not having a breakdown policy set up for every vehicle a small business has is so much greater than the cost of taking out in the first place. It really is better to be safe than sorry with business vehicle breakdown cover.”

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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