The unseen factor behind ‘wear’ is time. Everything wears in time frames or environments without even moving to cause ‘wear’. Vehicles in highly corrosive areas, such as Richards Bay, or the open cast mine at Phalaborwa, can show accelerated aging and wear in shorter time frames. 

Neglect is an unseen enemy impacting on what is ‘fair’. Neglect accelerates both wear and tear. Failing to wash a vehicle more frequently in corrosive regions, omitting engine oil checks or overfilling the sump, and running under-pressured tyres are a few examples of neglect.

Once the wheels roll, ‘tear’ is added to ‘wear’ and expectations for vehicle performance and value are compounded further. Include the term ‘fair’ with ‘wear and tear’ and one can arrive at differing perceptions resulting in awkward legal wrangles in the absence of benchmarks and standards.

That’s why it’s essential for contractual use of vehicles that the owner and operator must have detailed prior knowledge of both the operating conditions – the ‘wear’ – and degree of utilisation – the ‘tear’. All of this is also measured against time. 100,000km covered within one year has a totally different wear-‘n-tear factor when compared to the same distance over three years.

Distance does not disclose operating conditions. Three years and 100 000kms on freeways result in ‘fair-wear’-‘n-tear’ outputs appearing totally different when the same vehicle is introduced to off-road conditions to any degree. Total disclosure of operating conditions is vital because of a wide variation in appreciating the meaning of ‘off-road’. Even regular 10% off-road work on bad roads accelerates vehicle ‘tear’.

Just because a vehicle only operates in urban conditions does not accord it a low ‘wear-‘n- tear’ factor - stop-start operations hammer clutches and drivelines. High levels of engine idling change service parameters and engine wear factors.

‘Fair-wear-‘n-tear’ is also the result of treatment according to recognised standards. The original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provides the first benchmark – service intervals according to operating conditions. As vehicles become more high-tech these service intervals are not negotiable standards. Missing, or over-running, vehicle servicing seriously impacts on wear and tear. All vehicle manufacturers will exclude warranty support where service standards are not adhered to – especially with extended warranties Experience shows that the main causes of excessive wear and tear in leased vehicles are where the vehicle operator fails to conduct regular checks resulting in defect and damage going undetected or repaired.

A major factor is the driver. Standard parameters for vehicle legal speed limits apply. Exterior paintwork and good appearance mask the truth for any vehicle driven continuously well beyond national speed limits. The evidence for excessive wear and tear on vehicles operated to the limit lies in high fuel consumption and abnormal replacement of foundation brakes. This is why vehicle tracking is commonplace in detecting abuse.

Overloading is the final serious ‘wear-‘n-tear’ factor that completely negates ‘fair’. Every day, thousands of bakkies travel on SA roads exceeding their gross vehicle mass (GVM) design limits. A one-ton bakkie laden to one-ton payload, with an additional five people on the load deck, is running at approximately 50% overload. Any vehicle subjected to 50% overload exhibits excessive wear and tear. The problem is that many transport users are not aware of overloading and have not examined the mass volume ratios of the cargo they transport. GVM is the benchmark when assessing overloading – every manufacturer’s plate carries GVM details.

The only way to avoid litigation over ‘fair wear and tear’ interpretations is complete transparency at the time of entering into any agreement. And then Modern forensic failure analysis allows independent observation to come into play when determining what really is ‘fair wear and tear’. At the conclusion of a lease every vehicle undergoes a thorough check against a standard list that removes subjectivity and inconsistent perceptions of how wear and tear must be measured. This is when one fully comprehends the importance of prevention being preferable to the alternative of incurring costs for excessive wear and tear.

If you wish to discuss this or for more information, please contact Hennie Botha at 031 713 3146 or at 074 331 1354