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Wrecks to riches

By / 3 years ago / Comment / No Comments

Long gone are my days of frequenting breakers’ yards to pick up parts for whatever old wreck I was driving around in at the time. Mind you, I did accompany a friend to one recently and noted that whilst hi-viz jackets are now mandatory, two chaps were still working underneath a car which was perched precariously on a forklift. I did the decent thing and looked away.

Although old-style breakers still exist, elsewhere the idea has morphed into something wildly upmarket. Now, quality, traceable recycled parts are available for fixing fleet vehicles. Notably it was the police who gave the trend a head start, not so long ago advertising they had achieved a two million pound saving in 18 months.

Parts are removed from damaged and written off fleet vehicles, photographed, tagged and logged in order that they can be traced, and then sold back to the donor companies, which up until now have been largely public sector. As the parts are sourced from vehicles with a known history and generally – up until now – sold back to the same donor fleets, the end user has confidence in what he is buying. And it’s not just cost savings which the dismantlers are keen to promote; they are keen to point out that there are green benefits in reutilising existing parts, with a knock on reduction in shipping costs. Sometimes it’s quicker to source a part this way too.

Leasing company opinions about such recycling vary, but several say they are already doing it in order to save the customer money. Of course, they will be disclosing to the customer that they are using second-hand parts and saving money, won’t they? It would be naughty of me to suggest otherwise. Actually I thought they might see a reconditioned gearbox as diminution in the value of their asset, but it appears rather to be viewed as a good saving on the maintenance budget; I guess it depends which party suggests doing it.

If the idea takes off big time in the private sector, I think we will inevitably see some form of regulation fairly swiftly. As the end user of the parts, we need a transparent view of what we are signing up to. I’m sure those assurances are already on offer between the parties signed up but we Brits do like a bit of regulation just to be sure. Indeed there was a working party set up as long ago as 2009, to discuss just such standards. At the time it wasn’t taken any further, but I’m betting it’ll be back on the agenda shortly.

So, I hear you say, a couple of months back you were singing the praises of PAS 125 and the new kite standard; now you are considering the merits of using second-hand parts. But the recycled parts are not safety related items – things like brakes, suspension, airbags and steering components are excluded. PAS 125 states that recycled parts can be used so long as they are OE, and not safety related. Bolt on parts would be acceptable, cut parts are not.

I believe there is a middle ground here; although I really can’t see the motor manufacturers or their component suppliers being particularly happy about the potential drop in new parts sales, so one might expect pushback from that direction.

When I first heard about recycling I thought it was a great idea and looked to see where I could sign up. But then I thought about it a bit more. If I were running a large fleet with its own internal workshops, and perhaps a limited model range, I could definitely save the firm money. For my own fleet, on the other hand, sourcing second-hand parts and taking them to the local dealership to fit might raise a few eyebrows, or more probably “you’re having a laugh mate”. So, at least until the leasing companies lend their weight to the idea en masse it appears that for me it’s one of those annoyingly great ideas that unfortunately I can’t adapt for my own fleet’s use. Good luck to those who can, because the cost savings look to be significant.

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