You may know it as the organisation that rates aftermarket alarms, or that it conducts research into car repairs. But it does a lot more besides – and much of what it does is making your fleet safer.
Thatcham is named after the small town in which it is based, near Newbury. It looks unassuming from the front but behind is a cavernous workshop, crash-testing facilities and a training centre, where employees take cars and vans apart in an effort to improve vehicle safety.
Established in 1969, it employs 134 people and is owned by members of the Association of British Insurers and Lloyd’s Motor Underwriters Association.
Thatcham’s 32 members pay a levy towards its running, totalling £7.2 million. The organisation has a £11.6 million turnover from the sale of data, research, consultancy services and training.
Thatcham’s mission statement is: To reduce the cost of accident repairs, personal injuries and theft claims while maintaining high standards of safety and quality to the benefit of the UK marketing public.
In the workshops, brand new vehicles are stripped in order to put together Thatcham’s repair methods. These instructions are made available to bodyshops.
“There are a huge amount of metal combinations in vehicles,” Ms Upham says. “There’s a range of change going on now which we have never seen before – there’s now 425 types of steel used in body materials.”
Together with the British Standards Institution (BSI), Thatcham recently launched a kitemark scheme for bodyshops. Those accredited will have been assessed for their ability to cope with the increasing complexity of modern vehicles.
Thatcham is calling for standardisation in repair methods, and urges fleets to think about repairs when buying new cars.
“Fleet managers have to be aware that apart from buying a safe car they buy a car with repair methods and that they use repairers that use those methods effectively,” Ms Upham says.
“We train 4,000 staff a year, from bodyshops to HM Revenue and Customs – if they’re taking a car apart to look for contraband, they need to know how to put it back together again safely,” Ms Upham explains.
The accreditation process also covers materials to ensure that components used to repair vehicles are up to scratch. Thatcham accredits aftermarket cosmetic parts and has given its seal of approval to 300 parts.
“Our security research is important for the cost of insurance,” Ms Upham says.
“Over the last 10 years we’ve seen the number of vehicles stolen halve.
“It’s very important to buy a car with good security. We give five-star ratings for security on both vans and cars.”
Thatcham also tests the effectiveness of bumpers – not just the plastic exterior but the internal structures as well.
The organisation, together with RCAR, is working towards a standard bumper height for all vehicles. Vehicles of different sizes have bumpers at different heights, which can make a big difference in an accident.
“Fleets need to ask additional questions,” says Ms Upham. “If you’re buying cars do they have good seats and what’s the security like? If fleets start asking these questions of manufacturers they have to act, because the UK fleet industry is very powerful.”
Thatcham is holding regular briefings at its headquarters for members of fleet operators’ association ACFO, and is also organising an event for the wider fleet community on June 20. For more information, visit www.thatcham.org.
In the UK, some 250,000 people a year suffer from whiplash and 2,500 suffer permanent damage. Thatcham has the only ‘Hyper-G’ test sled in Europe, designed to test the effectiveness of seats against whiplash injuries. Each seat tested holds a complex biofidelic dummy with a calibrated neck mechanism designed to emulate the human body.
The seats are put through tests that recreate rear impacts and Thatcham publishes the results on its website.
Electronic stability control
Following extensive testing, Thatcham believes ESC is one of the most important safety features currently available.
“ESC is now standard on 40% of UK cars, but that compares to 60% in Germany and 90% in Sweden and Denmark,” says Ms Upham.
“It doesn’t just help in an accident, it can help prevent an accident. To protect your drivers and your fleet, expect to see ESC fitted as standard.”