Impact of Pileups
The actual cost of direct damages from in-tunnel collisions involves more than just money. Wherever possible, wash operators look to have these expenses covered by the liability insurance of the first car in the collision. Even if insurance pays out, the expenses can be significant especially when the tunnel is fully-loaded. Damages to cars and wash equipment can cost thousands of dollars per incident. Sometimes there isn’t an “at fault” vehicle and the expense falls to the wash operator. Most operators factor in collisions and opt to pay out of pocket for repairs to avoid high insurance premiums.
Regardless of who pays for the actual physical damages, the customer experience is painful. Longtime customers may leave, taking their business and that of their friends with them. How operators handle these events can have an impact on not only those who were involved in the collision, but those who were inconvenienced while waiting (and watching) as the collision was resolved.
Interruption of Business
Every collision decreases car wash production. Attendants have to stop loading cars and clear the tunnel and that means lost business. When customers drive by a carwash and see a line, they keep driving.
To avoid collisions, many washes add staff to monitor the tunnel for problems. This is frequently the case for high volume tunnels during peak hours. The added expense is well justified if it avoids collisions, but, sadly, the most vigilant attendant can’t maintain 100% focus on the length of the tunnel at all times.
Inefficiency and Delays
Another technique used to avoid collisions is to increase the distance between cars. This is often used in conjunction with an attendant monitoring the tunnel. Increasing the spacing may buy an attendant more time to react, but it also means that fewer vehicles move through each hour.
Trust. When customers pull into a carwash they have an almost blind trust that they are safe. Every time a collision occurs, it erodes the car wash’s reputation. Customers leave, not with the happy feeling of a clean vehicle, but with a photo of the accident that they will share on social media. Without a means of addressing the pileup issue, it will be easy to see a day when consumers ask themselves: is this car wash trustworthy enough to safely handle my car?