Pothole damage to fleet vehicles has become a frequent repair item, especially in late winter months when melting snow and thawing pavement opens up new cracks and damage to roadways, fleet management companies told AutomotiveFleet.com.
Pothole damage to fleet vehicles likely mirrors pothole damage to non-fleet vehicles. Pothole damage to vehicles is costing drivers an average of $3 billion per year, according to a new AAA study.
"We know anecdotally that pothole damage is a frequent repair in the winter months," said Bill Byrnes, vice president contact center operations with Donlen. "We would suspect that pothole damage for fleets would be the same as the general vehicle population. We do know that pothole damage is usually manifested by wheel replacement."
In January, Donlen processed 200 wheel damage purchase orders, which is relatively low when compared to all of the purchase orders processed in the month, Byrnes said.
Pothole damage is more pervasive in fleets that operate in snowbelt states such as Michigan, New York, Ohio, Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and northern Indiana, said Bill Jones, director of product management for Element Fleet Management.
"It's an issue across the U.S., but we see higher incidents of potholes due to freezing and thawing cycle in the snowbelt," Jones said.
The AAA study found that American drivers report paying an average of $300 to repair pothole-related vehicle damage.
Pothole damage can be costly because damage can extend beyond just the wheel of the vehicle, said Dan Shive, vice president of risk management services for LeasePlan USA.
"Damage caused by potholes is actually collision-related — not mechanical," Shive said. "Even if it involves just a tire or rim, there could always be more undercarriage damage that drivers don't see. This can be an issue for fleet vehicles, as damage is usually considered preventable in nature."
However, fleets can take steps to limit the impact of pothole damage on operating costs, Jones added. Drivers can be coached on how to approach a pothole or other poor road conditions.
"Maintain vehicle condition and proper tire inflation," Jones said. "Safely try to avoid deteriorating road conditions. If you should hit a pothole, when safe, visually inspect the tire, wheel, vehicle for obvious damage. If in doubt, or if there's a new noise/sound/vibration or the vehicle steering 'pulls,' have the vehicle inspected by a qualified technician as soon as possible."