Tim Cattlin takes a look at what operators can do to reduce insurance premiums and the cost of claims – both in terms of finances and vehicle downtime.
Van insurance premiums have climbed to unprecedented levels in recent times and, for most owners, represent the single most expensive aspect of operating a light commercial vehicle.
According to Neil Grimshaw, director at independent broker Ravenhall Risk Solutions, the cost of claims is the main driver for premium inflation, while he adds that “there are many factors which drive this – increasing repair costs from a parts and labour perspective and also the more complex nature of systems on vehicles lead to what used to be low-cost, low-impact claims becoming more costly”.
He continues: “Compare front bumper damage on a vehicle 20 years ago to the complexity of a repair these days, with body colouring, internal systems for crash protection and aids like parking sensors.
“Also, personal injury claims have seen the cost of even relatively minor claims increase in a significant manner over the last 15 years.”
Grimshaw doesn’t feel that the added safety features in today’s vehicles is significantly reducing the number of claims. “Statistically, we have a similar number of accidents per head of traffic population, so whilst these systems increase safety, they don’t necessarily lead to fewer accidents,” he explains.
Meanwhile, Mark Gabriel, head of van insurance at Admiral, cites other reasons for rising premiums: “We’re seeing high levels of claims from customers for theft of belongings from vans and theft of the vehicles themselves, which has driven insurance prices up.
“In addition, the government decision to change the Ogden rate [which sets pay-outs for major personal injury claims] in March this year has also increased the cost of bodily injury and affected the price of premiums.”
There has been speculation in the media that some van manufacturers have been left behind when it comes to van security and that criminals are taking advantage of these weaknesses, leading to an increase in expensive claims. While acknowledging the role manufacturers have to play Gabriel also stresses the basics that the operator needs to bear in mind.
“Vehicle manufacturers do need to stay one step ahead and digital security risks in particular will become more prevalent as the complexity of technology in vehicles increases,” he begins.
“In an ideal world the driver should never leave their tools or equipment in the vehicle unattended, but we appreciate that’s not always an option. If you are going to keep tools in your vehicle it’s best to get a lockable tool box, which can be secured to the vehicle. It won’t stop the thieves damaging your vehicle to gain access, but it will save your tools and the cost of replacing them. Fitting deadlocks, slam locks or lock protection plates can also help to prevent thieves from gaining access to your vehicle.”
Grimshaw also feels that the onus is on the operator: “The biggest issues are key security and van break-ins. We have all seen plenty of pictures of vans which have had doors peeled to gain entry. Retrospective locks, additional security and thought-through overnight parking are key ingredients to prevent this type of crime.
“Key security is another big issue. It may seem silly even mentioning it, but ensuring that whilst vehicles are unattended the keys are safely stored, not left on a site in a pocket or in a tool box, or even in the vehicle, will reduce the exposure to thefts. It is amazing how many claims we see which could be easily prevented with increased diligence for key security.
“Then, at night, keep keys stored safely, in a suitable location to prevent proximity keys being hacked, and vehicles stored safely to reduce the ease of theft. Thieves will look for easy targets and will move on should yours be more tricky than the next.”