Increased Rates – Now or Never

Whenever I come across fellow Recovery Operators there is only ever one topic of conversation and it is the rate we are paid for our work and the way we are treated or mistreated. I have been attending various meetings for 30 years and I don’t ever remember seeing the level of despondency and despair that is now present. There has never been anyone to fight our corner because for many years there was no fighting to be done. We were well paid, well looked after and enjoyed every aspect of the work and now we are left to struggle. Just look at the age of some of the vehicles being used.

A man arriving from outer space would never believe that there are five or six associations or groups of people that claim to represent us in the Industry and then another two or three who claim to help the Industry. But apart from creating one or two concessions they are basically useless and a waste of an annual membership fee. (AVRO of course give a discount PAS 43 Certification, which is useful.) Mind you, the members themselves are just as bad considering they are hard working and clever business men, so why are they paying a membership fee and getting absolutely nothing back, because they are not taking part in the associations’ activities.

They are not ringing up, going to the meetings, or even voicing criticism when someone has said something they don’t like. If they were paying a gym subscription or a snooker club, they would want to take part. Instead they pay their money, remain dissatisfied and won’t say “boo” to a goose. They just seem wholly unable to address the rates we are paid. I have not seen one constructive proposal that could be taken to a work provider.

So I am now going to try to put something together that can become a valuable document for discussion (short pause for laughter). The problem with rates is, as I always say, one size does not fit all and rates in particular are very sensitive to this faction, because it is only the lower medium and lower volume operators who are severely hit.

If, for example, a club increases the turn-out by £5, which is a ridiculously small amount, an operator who is doing 20,000 – 25,000 jobs a year is going to benefit by well over £100,000. Now I think that is a lot of money: it certainly is in my world. But we need £10 so, using the same theory, big operators are all soon going to own their own yachts, and this must sit badly with any work provider.

Put the same scenario to an operator who is doing less than 4,000 – 5,000 a year, even perhaps only 2,000 jobs, and the extra remuneration is only half the man’s wage in a year. This is why the work providers are so reluctant to increase the rate, but they really must do something and get behind the operators that are backing up for the big operators and providing a vital service in rural and semi-rural areas.

There is no reason in the world why two operators need be paid the same amount and there is plenty of evidence that some operators are being paid in excess of £60 by some clubs, while others are paid considerably less. But many of the clubs are stuck in the £40-ish and £1 a mile scenario. I am sick of hearing people (who do nothing) saying operators must stick together – rubbish! Every operator needs to model his business and look after himself because, rest assured, nobody else will.

The other thing that needs addressing is a higher rate after, say, 10 o’clock at night. I think that no-one should turn a wheel for under £75 after 10 p.m. They certainly would not get a plumber or any other tradesman to come to your house, which is not on the hard shoulder of the M25, and carry out a 30-minute repair for £40. In fact, I very much doubt if he would turn out on a Tuesday afternoon for £40. It’s perhaps time operators realised they may be breaking the law by sending operatives out at all hours.

Another important reason why now is the time for an increase in rates is that cars are so much more reliable, so I would assume that the costs to the clubs of getting the cars repaired and recovered is considerably less. I am not 100% sure of the facts, but I would like people to at least think about it, and get their own calculators out, but I was told two or three years ago that for every 13 cars that are covered on a membership scheme, one breaks down each year. I was told 20 years ago it was one in three or four. But based on current reliability, I reckon it is probably one in 15 or 16 or even more.

Which comes to the point that we all mock the £25 annual membership that clubs provide, but if only one member in 13 breaks down they are still in profit. In fact, they would do all right if one in five broke down, the amount they are paying us. Since many only have 10 miles recovery, there won’t be many great costs attached.

Over the last few months one or two clubs have started to tinker with their rates but it is the mainstream jobs that require the fundamental adjustment. So, what do I think the rates should be? Not easy to answer, but if we are all to stay helping the work providers and not drift away as we are doing now, it needs to be a meaningful increase. A pound or two and a penny or two is not only useless but will alienate operators and could be the final straw.

One constant thought that haunts me is that in a given year (I’m not sure which one it was) an MOT test was £14 and we received between £20 and £24 + 60p per mile for doing breakdowns up to 20 miles. An MOT test is now £54.85 so it should at least match the MOT.

I think a good starting point would be a day-time turn-out of £55, 20 free miles and £1.30 a mile, increasing to £75 between 10 at night and 6 in the morning. I know it isn’t enough, but it would be enough to keep operators in the Industry at least for the time being. OR abolish the current free miles which would have a similar effect. And I don’t think I need to remind any of the clubs that once an operator drifts away, for whatever reason, I have never known them return.

I am aware that clubs will tell me they will lose contracts if the price is not right. I would also have guessed they would lose contracts if they could not get anybody to go to the vehicles. And will people please start and get off their backsides and do something; give me some support, tell me to shut up, but please don’t tell me it is not enough, because I know, but it is a nice amount to beg for.


Fred Henderson