The Accident Assist Program started on 1 November 2002 and was developed by the same project team that implemented a Lifetime Repair Guarantee and the Premium Repairer Program for NTI policy holders.
Following an incident, a single phone call to NTI Accident Assist can provide policy holders with peace of mind, that NTI will manage the incident on the client’s behalf.
Should the vehicle require towing, NTI will arrange for one of its accredited towing operators to attend the scene and transport the vehicle to one of the company’s Premium Repairer workshops.
Due to stringent specifications and standards set by NTI, there are now 40 tow operators around Australia accredited by NTI, with several tow trucks sporting the NTI green and white livery.
Although NTI understands how important it is for transport operators to get their vehicles back on the road, Rob says that the company’s main priority is always the driver’s wellbeing. “Whenever we receive a phone call about an accident, the first question we ask is ‘how the driver is’. We then offer trauma counselling which can be provided over the phone or face to face,” explains Rob. “The next step is getting the driver home or back to base. For example, if the driver lives in Adelaide and has had an incident in Kempsey while travelling to Brisbane, we’ll get the driver from Kempsey to the airport and fly them back home to Adelaide.”
Once the driver has been looked after, Rob says that the next priority is looking after the vehicle, the load and the accident clean-up.
“After an accident, NTI arranges for its service providers to attend the scene as quickly as possible. Depending on the location, we can have a service provider on site within 15 to 20 minutes. We have service providers placed in strategic locations nationally to minimise travel times to any incident,” explains Rob, who has worked as Accident Assist Manager at NTI for the past 8 years and been with the company for almost 27 years.
“NTI is very unique in that we only specialise in insurance products catering for the heavy motor and earthmoving sector. As we have our own assessing teams, referred to as Repair Managers, we can provide our clients with personalised service,” Rob says.
Currently, NTI insures almost 168,000 pieces of equipment.
“People take out insurance hoping that they will never have to use it – but, when they do require it, time off the road means money when you’re working in transport. Our aim is to repair the vehicle and get it back on the road as soon as possible. Our Premium Repairers are authorised to commence work as soon as the vehicle comes through the door. Claim lodgement is all completed during the call to Accident Assist, so there is no need to wait for any paperwork,” he says.
Rob began his career in the transport industry building trailers such as tipper bodies and car carriers. After approximately 12 months, Rob decided he wanted a change in career direction and secured a job with heavy vehicle repairer, Priority Transport Repairs. After only two years, Rob worked his way up and was appointed workshop manager where he was responsible for 45 members of staff that carried out heavy vehicle repairs.
Priority Transport Repairs was eventually acquired by NTI and Rob’s career with the insurer began. He continued working as workshop manager for NTI for about four years, before moving into the role of assessor at the Brisbane branch. Rob moved to Melbourne to establish a second assessing branch, started a third assessing branch in Sydney, followed by another in Adelaide, before moving back to Brisbane and taking on the role of National Assessing Manager and joining NTI’s project development team.
As Accident Assist Manager, Rob attends numerous accident scenes to ensure the clean up is managed in the most appropriate manner.
“The call-outs we receive mainly relate to bulk spillages where there are creeks or waterways involved. They are the ones we really need to attend because we need to get it right.
“Firstly, the product needs to be identified. Then we need to determine where the waterways are and where the drains run into. Then crews with specialised pumping equipment are called to the scene. Most of these types of accidents occur after hours but we need to make things happen quickly. When waterways are involved, the clean up can take days.”
Rob recalls an incident where a load of tallow – a fatty substance made from rendered animal fat that is used to make items such candles and soap – had spilled into a creek only 300 metres from the Brisbane River. “If it got into the river, it could have been a lot worse. All of the relevant emergency services were notified including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the RSPCA, as ducks had been sighted in the area. Tallow is absorbed into bitumen and if it rains, it can get very slippery. Bringing in detergent trucks wouldn't have solved the issue as they only clean the surface, so my decision was to re-bitumen the section of roadway.”
Another difficult accident scene attended by Rob was where a semi-tipper had an incident underneath power lines. “The trailer was fully loaded with sorghum and we had to get the load out prior to any salvage attempt to minimise the risk of further damage, as all the wheels and axles were broken. Trucks were brought in to suck the load out. We couldn't cut the power, so this was the only option we had,” he explains.
However, Accident Assist Manager is only one of the many hats worn by Rob. He has also completed a Diploma of Auditing and conducts internal audits on repair managers, assessors and the parts team; as well as external audits on Premium Repairer premises to ensure they meet the criteria that NTI requires; and is the secretary of the Heavy Recovery Vehicle Association of Australasia (HRVAA) in which NTI is a Foundation Sponsor. Through this association, the Transport Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC) was approached in order to develop a training package for heavy recovery vehicle operators. This was approved in December last year and the HRVAA is now working towards finalising the program before it is offered to heavy recovery tow operators.