Shortage of skills threatens road safety – and the future of bodyshops Jeremy Rochfort, National Sales Manager, Autoglass®
A recent article in Fleet Point referenced comments from Graham O’Neill, the CEO of ACIS, on how bodyshops are evolving to meet the growing number of EV vehicles on the roads. We agree that bodyshops need to adapt to the changing marketplace, especially with regards to Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). But they need more support to do so.
Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) have become an increasingly common feature in new models hitting our roads. Features such as Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) have grown in popularity as their important safety benefits have been recognised by vehicle manufacturers. In fact, the European Commission has introduced mandates for these technologies which will see AEB compulsory in new vehicles by 2024 and Emergency Lane Keeping in new vehicles by 2022. These features play an important role in alerting drivers to potential hazards on the road to minimise road accidents.
With the rapid introduction of driver-assistance technologies to the UK car market, bodyshops face increasing pressure to provide the skills and expertise needed to ensure that these technologies can operate efficiently and safely. Following any vehicle body repair work, any camera or sensor which has been impacted needs to be recalibrated to ensure it is accurate and relaying the correct signals to the driver, failure to calibrate correctly, or not calibrating at all, will result in the sensors still working but not focusing on the correct areas. Recalibration before the car is returned to the driver is therefore essential in these situations.
The issue is that many bodyshops do not have the skills or technology to perform these recalibrations themselves. An Autoglass® review of industry data revealed that over a quarter (28.7%) of UK body repair businesses have turned down jobs due to the technology and repair techniques required and 35.3% of businesses worry that a lack of skilled labour is the greatest threat to their business.
Instead, the vehicles are often referred to dealers where each require different hardware, software and instructions for their ADAS. This can make the process extremely time consuming for the bodyshop, which is not ideal when fleets need to get their vehicles back on the road as soon as possible
Although many players within this space like Thatcham are working hard to drive awareness and codes of practice for ADAS calibration, a more concentrated effort is required from the industry and even from government to bridge the skills gap. As safety features such as AEB and LDW are scheduled to become mandatory for new vehicles, it is essential that body repair businesses are supported by the industry now to ensure they are able to maintain these technologies. This is especially true given how difficult it has become to attract and retain skilled staff, as fewer young people enter the industry and specialist training becomes increasingly expensive.
Working with the needs of bodyshops in mind, we launched the Total Calibration solution last year. This now provides the body repair industry with a complete solution for ADAS diagnostics, coding and calibration to help alleviate the pressure on their businesses. This offering improves the bodyshop’s customer journey by reducing key-to-key time and removes the need to purchase expensive calibration equipment.
By providing direct access to original equipment manufacturer data, we have been able to innovate a solution for bodyshops which makes it easier than ever to get fleet vehicles safely back on the road as quickly as possible.
The rapid adoption of ADAS features presents both opportunity and challenge for the body repair market. While these features play a vital role in increasing driver safety on the road, it is important that as an industry we recognise the need to support technicians and equip them with the skills and competencies needed to perform the repairs on ADAS-enabled vehicles. More innovation is needed but bridging the skills gap is just as important to ensure safer roads.