Three pieces of press have emerged in the past few days about the resurgence in road traffic volumes and the impact it might have on road accidents. In addition, audited accounts have been published by two large CHOs, Accident Exchange, (for the period to February 2020), and Anexo Group (for the period to December 2020).
Of the media reports, two, from Keoghs and the Auto Body Professionals Club ("ABP"), signal encouraging news of the prospects of recovery in traffic volumes and, as a consequence, the frequency of road accidents.
The third, from the Association of Consumer Support Organisations ("ACSO"), is not so positive but it appears that the authors may have tried to use the same statistics reported on by Keoghs to drive a different media message around the frequency of personal injury claims. We thought it needed some balance.
Encouragingly, ABP report that traffic levels increased again last week.
They report that official government data reveals that volumes over the last weekend were at 99% of pre-Covid levels and, during the week, they were at 93% of the volume reported before March 2020.
In anyone's book, especially in the world of credit hire, that has to be very good news and it is a trend that accords with the report of increasing claim volumes that we are also hearing from a number of Forum members.
Keoghs focus is on the latest release of Portal statistics and so it addresses the volume of reported injury claims during the first quarter of 2021, a period overshadowed by the most recent lockdown.
Keoghs cite the figure and observe that, not unsurprisingly, RTA Claim Notification volumes are marginally down by 3% when compared with February 2021 and, unsurprisingly, 36% down when compared with volumes a year ago, (March 2020).
Significantly, they note that whilst traffic volumes have increased over the last couple of weeks, that the impact of that increase has yet to materialise in reported claim notification levels in the portal figures released yesterday.
We take that to mean that nothing can be read into the Q1 performance other than the impact of the lockdown on accident volumes and therefore the level of injury claims notified.
Keoghs produced a helpful graph (reproduced below) from which I think it is difficult to discern anything other than the impact from Lockdown 1 (April 2020), the relaxation of lockdown (June 2020), and the subsequent circuit breaker and further lockdown from November 2020 and January 2021, all of which we know materially impacted road traffic activity albeit that we may have become de-sensitised to it:
ACSO report on the same data. However, they put what seems to be a less reliable narrative around it and we fear that talking down the prospects of recovery for the credit hire industry may be picked up and reported elsewhere.
Their comments were reported in an article written by by Mark Dugdale in CIII Claims Media on 27th April, which can be accessed at: https://www.claimsmag.co.uk/2021/04/new-cru-data-shows-continuing-decline-in-motor-claims/17769
"Motor claims [by which I think he means those involving personal injury] fell to just over 107,000 during the first three months of the year, according to the latest Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) statistics.
The accident claims statistics for January to March 2021 were released following a freedom of information request from the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO).
They revealed a year-on-year decrease in motor accident claims [by which I think he means those involving personal injury] from just under 157,000 in January to March 2020, to just over 107,000 during the same period this year, a fall of 31%.
Matthew Maxwell Scott, executive director of ACSO, said:
“The fall this year continues a long-term downwards trend in motor claims. This started well before the pandemic, which has accelerated the decline.”
“It will be interesting to see whether the launch of the new online small claims portal at the end of May will lead to a further fall in registered claims, as was the government’s expectation.”
The fall in motor accident claims follows news that comprehensive car insurance premiums decreased by 14% over the past 12 months.
Maxwell Scott said:
“This is good news but is undoubtedly due to the impact of the pandemic on claims frequency. The promised £35 of savings per premium expected as a result of the whiplash reforms needs to come on top of this if consumer confidence in the insurance industry is not to take another knock.”
“In reality, Covid has finished the government’s job for it. Motor claims dropped by nearly 25% between 2019 and 2020 and we see no reason why overall claims will not continue to decline as driving continues to change and evolve in future.”
Having read the article, we suspect his comments are aimed more at providing a criticism of the government and insurers and the blunt regulatory changes introduced in the last few years.
However, as a body representing the interest of the credit hire industry, we are not sure that we can agree that "overall claims will continue to decline" as Mr Maxwell Scott contends. Somebody does need to shout out for the CHO and highlight that overall claims are not declining and that there does appear to be light at the end of the tunnel even though none of us know what normal will be in the year ahead.
From discussions with, and based on the feedback from our members, the past year has clearly been difficult for the industry. However, it is a matter of fact that, in line with the report from ABP, there has been an uptick in the volume of reported road accidents following a reported increase in observed traffic volumes.
In the most recently published audited accounts from Accident Exchange Ltd ("AX") they reported that "after the second lockdown ended in December 2020, referral and hire volumes returned to a level close to 80% of prior year volumes" and that, in January 2021, they had revised their forecasts on the assumption that "there would be a gradual increase in road traffic volumes in the second half of April 2021" as has proved to be the case.
Anexo Group plc reported their Final Results for the period to 31st December 2020 on 27th April 2021. In the presentation that they gave to investors, they reported "business levels returning to normal as roads became busier."
Like all businesses, the group reported the impact of Covid 19 on its performance during the financial year but also reported an increase in revenue to £86.75m (2020: £78.5m), with profit before tax of £15.5m (2020: £22.4m). Perhaps most significantly, they achieved the milestone of delivering revenue growth and network expansion whilst also generating net cash in the period.
For those interested, the published results are available at https://www.anexo-group.com/docs/librariesprovider13/archive/results/2020-prelims.pdf
Finally, we might wrong but I don't think we are confused. We will continue to monitor and report public announcements and media coverage relating to the fortunes of the industry in the hope that members will be able to share in the positive news, assess the impact of any negatives and, more than anything else, avoid feeling dispirited by isolated reporting on social media or elsewhere that fails to deliver the balance we need.