It’s been about two weeks since Hurricane Florence lashed the Carolinas with rain measured in feet in some places. Now the task given to the wholesale industry — contending with flood-damaged vehicles — is gaining steam.
To accelerate catastrophe response in the Carolinas and Virginia, Insurance Auto Auctions (IAA), a business unit of KAR Auction Services, announced the expanded launch of its IAA Tow App. This enhanced technology utilizes complex data analytics and the latest mobile technology to streamline the dispatch and towing cycle of salvage vehicles.
During natural disasters and catastrophic events, IAA recovers flood-damaged and total-loss vehicles on behalf of their insurance customers, clearing roadways for recovery vehicles and expediting the claims process for policy-holders.
The company indicated the second phase of IAA Tow App has been deployed to towing and hauling contractors transporting vehicles impacted by Hurricane Florence and the resulting flooding.
“One of our primary commitments is to quickly and efficiently transport customer assets to our facilities. This is particularly important during catastrophic events when impacted vehicle volumes surge,” said John Kett, president and chief executive officer of IAA.
“By digitizing and automating a historically cumbersome, paper-driven assignment process, our towing partners can better manage their assignments and loads,” Kett continued. “And by accelerating recoveries, we can inventory, process and auction salvage vehicles faster to help our customers and the communities we support get back on their feet.”
The IAA Tow App utilizes inventory management software to automatically push tow assignments directly to IAA contracted towers with capacity on their tow trucks or haulers. When a tow truck driver accepts an assignment, the app can open the mobile device map function to provide driving instructions.
Once assigned vehicles are located, drivers can check in and quickly complete the entire transport process via the app — from location, to pick-up, to drop-off at an auction facility or holding yard.
“We’ve leveraged the best mobile technology and fueled it with home-grown engineering and data from across the KAR platform to deliver a fast, simple and intuitive resource for our partners,” said John Krupnik, senior vice president and chief technology officer at IAA.
“The app also allows us to deliver real-time tracking and recovery information to our customers so they can monitor the location and status of their assets anytime, anywhere.”
IAA has a catastrophe response team prepared year-round to respond to natural disasters. In advance of Hurricane Florence and its subsequent flooding, IAA secured nearly 1,100 acres available to store recovered vehicles, obtained commitments from over 1,300 towers and has more than 400 IAA team members ready to respond.
IAA has 16 branches in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia with capacity for the anticipated vehicle volume as a result of Hurricane Florence and historic flooding. All IAA branches, including Wilmington, N.C., are open and fully operational.
Watching for flood units in the lanes
Meanwhile, AutoCheck Auctions acknowledged the sometimes flood-damaged units still make their way to the block. To help dealers and consignors, AutoCheck Auctions vice president Jamye Carpenter shared company plans in a message to Auto Remarketing.
AutoCheck Auctions is currently working on a special report called The Florence Report that will be provided at no additional cost to its auction customers.
“This report will be made available as part of our ongoing effort to provide critical data, helping to protect both auctions and their dealer customers from undisclosed problem vehicle,” Carpenter said.
“It is important to note that the Florence Report will not indicate that a car has flood damage. This report will alert you to the fact that a particular vehicle was registered in one of the flood impacted ZIP codes, prompting you to take a closer look at that vehicle for potential flood damage,” Carpenter continued.
If you find a vehicle has flood damage, Carpenter asked customers to report this information to AutoCheck Auctions by calling (800) 332-2608 or sending a message to email@example.com.
Carpenter also offered these tips for spotting a flood-damaged vehicle, including
1. Check the outside body panels for waterlines.
2. Check the carpet, upholstery, and inside doors for mud, dirt, damp feeling and discoloration.
3. Check beneath the vehicle's carpet to see if the pad beneath the carpet is damp.
4. Check for dirt buildup around seat tracks.
5. Check under the dash and in the glove box for dirt or dampness.
6. Look at the owner's manual. Check to see if the paperwork was ever wet.
7. Waterlines could be visible inside the car. Look at the seats, inside doors and door jams.
8. Smell the inside of the vehicle. A musty or damp smell can be a good indicator of flood damage. Is there an over powering use of air freshener?
9. Make sure all the dash lights are working properly. Do the turn signals work?
10. Check under the vehicle for corrosion, flaking metal underneath.
11. Check inside the engine compartment for waterlines, dirt or mud.
12. Are the headlights or taillights fogging?
13. Check the air cleaner for water.
14. Check the oil to see if there's a copper or milky color which could indicate water damage inside the engine.
15. Look for water in the spare tire compartment.
16. Look inside the trunk for dampness, dirt or mud.
Retail challenges, too
On the retail side of the industry, Auto Remarketing connected with Hendrick Automotive Group on Sept. 21 to gauge how Florence impacted operations within the dealer group and how Hendrick prepared ahead of the storm’s arrival.
A Hendrick spokesperson said via email that the retailer took a proactive approach and began closing stores in towns near the Carolina coasts early in the week of Sept. 10-14.
Employee safety being the top priority, the automotive group wanted enough leeway for team members in those areas (specifically: Wilmington, N.C.; Jacksonville, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.) to evacuate, per the recommendation from authorities.
The proactive response to the storm is par for the course for the Hendrick group, which has dozens of stores in the Carolinas.
During events like these, there is constant and strategic communication and coordination between the retailer’s management in Charlotte and the teams at individual dealerships.
Ahead of such storms, stores in affected areas do what they can to secure vehicle sand facilities ahead of time, plus any nearby objects that could cause damage, the spokesperson said.
The protocol for post-storm is to abide by the steps given by local authorities as team members re-enter and assess damage.
Sharing more details on the response to Florence, Hendrick also closed dealerships further inland in the middle to later part of the Sept. 10-14 week. Some have since reopened.
Here’s a breakdown by market, according to the group:
Fayetteville: Closed Sept. 12. Re-opened Sept. 18.
Raleigh-Durham area: Closed 6 p.m. (ET) Sept. 12. Re-opened Sept. 17
Greensboro: Closed 2 p.m. (ET) Sept. 14. Re-opened Sept. 17.
Charlotte-Concord area: Closed 2 p.m. (ET) Sept. 14. Re-opened Sept. 17.
Easley: Closed 2 p.m. (ET) Sept. 14. Re-opened Sept. 17.
Fort Mill: Closed 2 p.m. (ET) Sept. 14. Re-opened Sept. 17.
As of Sept. 21, the exact damage was still to be determined, but the Hendrick spokesperson said the Wilmington and Jacksonville stores were the hardest hit, with other areas incurring minor impact.
In those highly impacted areas, flooding had made it difficult to get to those stores. The group hoped to have those operating again soon, as of Sept. 21.