Many types of bus and motorcoach claims, including – but not limited to – bus fires, are often preventable. And while company management reflexively looks to the vehicle’s driver as the major responsible party in most accidents, the scope of any comprehensive internal investigation regarding claim causation needs to include the maintenance department. With its inclusion in the review, management can identify other contributing factors and, proactively take the necessary steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Whether it’s called Enterprise Risk Management or just plain common sense, involving maintenance managers in the ‘big picture’ of a wide variety of management and operational decisions is critical to reducing claims and saving money on your operational costs…and insurance premiums.
Is your company’s maintenance management team regularly involved in a serious claim’s review process? Does your maintenance department have a seat at the table during company management meetings so they can contribute to key decisions about your company’s growth and sales?
If you just said to yourself: “Why would I do that?” then you might want to reconsider how your maintenance staff can contribute to your company’s success and reputation by: regularly reviewing all company policies and procedures; auditing all parts inventory and vendor contracts; providing monthly reports of same to all department managers; and meeting regularly with managers from all departments to identify how vehicle preventive maintenance and ready-for-the-road availability reduces breakdowns, claims and the resulting customer fallout.
“Strategic and tactical decisions are most effective when critical information is eagerly shared.”
Is your maintenance manager involved when considering purchasing or leasing new vehicles? Do you include your maintenance manager in your decision-making process by asking if the new equipment being considered will require additional tools, diagnostic software, technician training and parts inventory? Do you rely on your maintenance manager to evaluate the reliability, stability and operating history of the vehicle model being considered? Do you rely on them for simple issues such as maintenance schedules, parking, suitability for the wash bay or even your garage? The danger of not involving your maintenance manager in these vehicle acquisition decisions could easily create additional risk exposure, costs and accident potential that will negatively impact your passengers, staff and company.
Is anybody in senior management listening when maintenance managers identify troubling DVIRs, preventative maintenance, vehicle/parts recalls and other defect issues?
Unquestionably, proactive maintenance managers who are valued and listened to by company management can contribute to reducing risk exposure and potential claim-triggering issues. And, by tracking their contributions, they will clearly demonstrate their input to your company’s overall success by enhancing customer service through fewer costly breakdowns and crashes.
As business management gurus have been preaching for years, the most successful companies in any industry are strong proponents of open and frequent communication between all contributors to the efficient delivery of that company’s product or service. The bus and motorcoach industry is no exception to that time-tested rule.
It’s no accident that strategic and tactical decisions are most effective when critical information is eagerly shared, allowing your dispatch team to match the most appropriate vehicle, most qualified driver and the safest route when making a sales decision. Simply “selling” a trip based on a list of available vehicles may not take into consideration the overall usage and maintenance schedule for those vehicles. While there is generally sufficient time to assign the appropriate vehicle to the trip, you might want to consider using the opposite approach. Maintenance data might be very useful to your sales staff to better link a customer to a trip, and can help identify the proper price point for that trip.
As you know, operations and dispatch are often caught in the middle of what is booked and what is available. How many times has your operations staff been ‘under the gun’ when a vehicle ‘sold’ for a trip is unavailable because of preventive maintenance or emergency repair? The pressure is then on maintenance to provide a vehicle that might not be fully prepared for use, thus increasing the accident or mechanical breakdown exposure on that trip.
A bus fire or a serious mechanical issue can occur at any time on any trip… even during a short haul. Providing regularly updated maintenance schedules to operations and dispatch staff can create better team communication, and lead to a higher trip completion rate.
If you haven’t done so recently, take a long, hard look at your business model and ask yourself if you are maximizing the skills, experience and expertise of all contributors to your company’s success. When maintenance managers’ input is valued at the same level as operations, dispatch and drivers, you greatly enhance a more well-rounded approach to greater company success in the future.
Robert A. Crescenzo is vice president of safety and loss control at the Lancer Insurance Group headquartered in Long Beach, NY. Since 1985, Lancer has been one of the nation’s leading insurers of the passenger transportation industry.