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Welcome back after the annual holiday which now extends to almost 10 weeks per annum of beach strolling for the masses. Little by little nothing gets done in the weeks of December, before the month-long sabbatical starts, and precious little more in the weeks of January where everyone is trying to catch up. It just seems that this lethargic mode becomes worse as the years go on.

Anyway, while you were off in exotic locations, my nose was caught up in some story research, having been commanded to attend the recent Towing Association demonstration against a 10-year period of no increase in towing rates from their process partners. This industry is part of the cycle of collision repair, and an important one at that. Read more on page 22.

Seeing over 300 drivers all toyi-toying at 06h00 in the early African sun does leave a mark. I am told not to go down there, as the drivers are literally hopping mad.

Finally, their memorandum of financial discomfort was handed over. The trusty Nikon and the elderly news hound – that’s me – completed the story research needed to get the considered events recorded in a youthfully diligent way.

It turns out that even a huge low bed tow unit gets a reward of just over R6 per kilometre for risking life and limb. his price has been the same for over a decade without any meaningful increase, which is shocking to say the least.

As the business wakes up, the unpredictable mirror shows that the rate of business closures seems to be accelerating once again.

It is clear that in many areas of the collision repair business nationally that a creeping labour rate of approximately R300 per hour on average is simply not viable and after last year’s push by the Collision Repair Association (CRA), to get a more realistic rate of some R450 per hour, seems to once again fallen on the deaf ears of our insurers.

We are running out of puff on this uneconomical labour rate once again going into 2019.

Not to say that the over 100 short term insurers who carry motor book business are in good shape either. With some high-profile liquidations in view for non-payment, the prospects are a bit alarming.

Statistics show that only one in three of our road users bother to take out any insurance. If you remove the 10% of individuals that only have third party, fire and theft, you have an alarming number of just 20% of fullly comprehensive drivers. So just where is this top pinnacle-end of the business going?

Well you don’t have to be Einstein to work it out, that in business terms, the body shop business is locked into a cycle of pure competition for the survival of the fittest. So we are all once again left with the only option of staggering out of our comfy chairs and charging off in survival mode to see if we can keep the company doors open.

Looking on the bright side, however, at least we are all gainfully employed in the slow race of mending damaged metal.

An economist called Aldous Huxley, a noted economist in 1929, said that everyday business is just a deadly hussle. Nothing seems to have changed in almost 100 years then.

What to look forward to this year

There are already several shows to look forward to this year, and two will be hosted in South Africa. The first is the inaugural IBIS SA, which takes place on 28-29 May at Emperor’s Palace in Johannesburg. (See more on page 31). Then 2019 is the year for Automechanika SA, which will take place 18-21 September in Johannesburg.

It’s important to stay up to date with the latest trends, technology and the best ways to make your business proficient, so getting exposure at these conferences and doing training is absolutely vital.

Training is key

The January-February magazine has a training focus so make sure to see the various courses you can attend in your region on pages 76-80. We also took time out to showcase Senatla Panelbeaters (page 44) and the IT-C graduation (page 41) for the hearing-impaired learners and to see how well this project is doing. There is also a new apprentice academy training centre in Midrand at Sanrose Autobody (page 50) which is taking a very hands-on approach in training local people in the body shops. Each approach to training is different but working well in up-skilling workers that our industry desperately needs.

Enjoy the read this month and wishing you all the best for the year to come.