Wholesale used-vehicle auction environments are often described as “organized chaos.”
Hundreds of cars are moving through physical lanes in less than a minute with multiple lanes operating simultaneously. Auctioneers are engaging the energetic crowds while buyers are listening for prices, inspecting the vehicles and checking their phones or printouts for details.
With all this activity taking place, it’s important we never lose sight of the most important priority: the safety of all auction participants.
As we mark National Safety Month in June, it’s an important reminder for all of us in the remarketing industry that safety is everyone’s responsibility. Every company and individual that’s part of our industry must put safety first and ensure they’re aware of the measures they can take to reduce personal risks. For Manheim, with 78 physical auction sites handling 7 million-plus used cars annually, safety is a core value and at the heart of everything we do.
Safety also has become an industry issue with cooperation across companies through the National Auto Auction Association. In fact, according to NAAA, more than 78,000 auction employees are now safety certified and recertified.
Ensuring a safe environment is a process of continuous training, adapting to changes and making sure both new and experienced staff members are always on their A-game. Here are some important lessons we’ve learned at Manheim that can help make the work environment safer.
Create a culture of safety
Safety starts from the top. If leaders and managers don’t emphasize safety and make it a priority, no one else will. Creating a culture of safety means communicating the importance of safety with everyone regularly. That means discussing safety during leadership meetings, safety calls and reinforcing safety procedures and best practices. Senior leadership can show their support by creating a culture where employees are empowered to address safety issues on the spot and be rewarded for ‘walking the safety talk.’
Take advantage of safety training
The NAAA’s Safe T. Sam program provides training for auction employees in roughly an hour. That’s a small commitment of time, but the insights gained can be life-saving. And, safety training can also be reinforced through “Take 2 for Safety,” a daily practice at Manheim field and corporate sites. This calls for team members to take two minutes to share a safety story or important reminder before starting their day. These moments of focus can help ensure everyone is alert, paying attention and continuously creating a safe workplace.
Insist on safety protocols for auto auction drivers
Auction drivers are expected to follow common safety precautions, which should be spelled out ahead of time and followed with frequent reminders. Protocols should include requiring drivers to always wear seat belts and maintain at least a full car-length distance between vehicles, even when stopped. Drivers should keep vehicles in neutral or park, when stopped.
Create or update safety programs regularly
All dealerships and auto auctions should have a formalized safety program in place. And it needs to be reevaluated periodically. As new situations arise, and new resources become available, it’s important to keep information fresh and updated. We recently launched our Actively Care Today (ACT) safety program, in which Manheim will invest almost $13 million over the next three years to protect our clients and team members by enhancing best practices, training and resources.
Leverage digital sales
With advances in technology and consignors moving toward digital only sales, digital auction sales also are increasing sale day safety. Bidders no longer need to physically attend the sale, and in many cases, the vehicles don’t need to be driven across a block. High-quality images and detailed condition reports provide all the information needed to bid on a car, without being physically present. Last year alone, more than 2 million vehicles were sold to digital buyers through Manheim.
These lessons can go a long way towards creating a safer auction environment for everyone. As an industry leader, we remain committed to building on these practices and learning from our peers as well as other industries. Safety is a necessary conversation to have every day and during National Safety month and beyond.
Patrick Brennan is senior vice president of Manheim Marketplace.