Protecting Your Vehicle Service Operation

Operating a vehicle service business brings the potential for many types of losses. Your business may be burglarized or vandalized. A customer may be injured while in your store, or an employee may damage a customer's vehicle. While not every loss is preventable, there are many precautions you can take to protect yourself, your employees and your customers from a loss. The following guidelines can help reduce the number and severity of accidents you might experience in operating your business. As an added benefit, your customers will appreciate the extra precautions you are taking to protect them and their vehicles while in your shop. Having the reputation as an operator of a clean, safe, well-run repair shop improves the prospects of additional business.

Crime and Vandalism

Here are some tips to help prevent these types of losses.

  • At minimum, protect exterior doors with double cylinder dead bolt locks and padlocks in the extension bar of the lock or in the channel of overhead doors. This not only makes it difficult to get into the building, but also difficult to get out should someone break in. (All public exits must be in an unlocked position during business hours.)
  • Close and lock/latch exterior windows when not on the premises.
  • Maintain accurate inventory records for stock including your tools, employees' tools, repair parts, and any other retail items. In the event of a burglary loss, accurate records make it quicker and easier to settle the claim in a fair and equitable manner.
  • Whenever storing customers' cars overnight, store them inside if possible. This is the best way to prevent vandalism.
  • All outside storage areas should be fenced and well-lighted.
  • Establish a key control procedure for securing customer's keys both during the day and at night. Keys that are secured away from the vehicle and in your office are difficult to obtain and will reduce the possibility of vehicles being stolen or vandalized.
  • Consider the installation of a central station monitored burglar alarm system.

Liability

Accidents which injure customers and damage their property through your negligence can be costly, not only financially, but in the pain and suffering they cause. You should do everything possible to eliminate liability hazards at your place of business. Here are some precautions to consider.

  • Establish, and strictly enforce, a rule prohibiting customers in the service area. Not only will this help prevent slip, trip and fall-type accidents, but will also keep customers from distracting employees while at working, helping to prevent additional mistakes or accidents while on the job.
  • Implement a work order system which indicates the repairs requested and requires a customer signature. This will eliminate any disputes regarding which services were requested.
  • Note any additional needed repairs uncovered during the servicing of a vehicle on the repair order. Even if the customer declines to have you perform them, obtain the customer's signature indicating that the repairs were declined. If an accident/loss should occur as a result of these needed, but unwanted repairs, a signed work order will help reduce your liability.
  • All employees should be instructed on how to properly reinstall drain plugs and oil filters, and to check for leaks when the job is complete. Damaged engines are expensive to repair/replace and do not enhance your reputation with customers.
  • Guard dogs and weapons of any type on your premises create a serious liability exposure and should be removed.

Automobile/Fleet Safety

The safe operation of vehicles, both yours and your customers, is important to the success of your business. Accidents reflect negatively on your operations and damage your reputation. Here are several suggestions which will help you prevent accidents and losses.

  • Obtain Motor Vehicle Reports (MVR's) for all employees to determine who will be permitted to drive customer or company vehicles.
  • Establish rules as to when and who is permitted to drive customer or company vehicles.
  • Test drive customer's vehicles in a light traffic area on a predetermined route. This will greatly reduce your exposure to other vehicles and pedestrians. Only responsible employees should be permitted to make these test drives.

We also recommend making a thorough inspection of the building for fire hazards at the close of each business day. Any hazards found on the premises should be corrected before they cause a fire while your building is unattended.

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