Friday, 13 March 2015

Great Expectations ...

Since its launch in January 2001 and up until September 2014, breakdown and assistance firm River Canal Rescue has come to the aid of over 26,000 inland waterways users.

Prior to its formation, those in need of assistance would have had to rely on marinas, boat yards, local suppliers and ‘DIY mechanics’, who often claimed to have more knowledge than they did, or simply try to identify and resolve the problem themselves in order to continue with their journey. 
Whilst many boat owners still prefer this option, around 20% opt for RCR membership.

RCR’s ethos is to provide peace of mind for callers who, no matter what or where their situation, receive help from engineers with unrivalled breakdown repair knowledge and experience.   
Over the years, customer demand has prompted the firm to extend its breakdown and assistance service to include Replacement Parts Cover, courses, an online chandlery and servicing.  A separate division, Canal Contracting, launched in 2013 providing services that fall outside the remit of membership cover, such as domestic plumbing, electrical work and maintenance.

With engineers and support staff endeavoring to provide outstanding service, the firm has built an enviable reputation, particularly for fairness and cost effectiveness.  This however, says Managing Director Stephanie Horton, can lead to confusion over what is and isn’t covered by membership fees.
In order to avoid further misunderstandings and address any misconceptions, Stephanie is keen to outline areas where customers are often unclear – leading to great expectations;

All parts are covered under Replacement Parts Cover.  Parts not listed in the membership book such as fan belts and filters are not covered.  Similarly, if a leak is caused through wear and tear or a part fails due to water ingress, it is classed as a gradual decline and not ‘sudden unforeseen failure’, which is covered.

Bilge pumps and tunnel lights are covered.  These do not affect the engine operation and therefore are not classed as a breakdown.  We’re happy to assist, but this would be a chargeable visit.

I’m covered if I have an accident, hit something underwater or sink. Accidental damage due to a third-party, underwater obstruction or hitting something is not covered by membership.  It is not a breakdown and should be covered by your insurance policy.  RCR is usually the first on site and will always try to assist and advise (our Canal Contracting team works with all major insurance companies to make the claims and repair process as easy as possible).

Everything on the boat’s covered.  Membership doesn’t cover anything outside the engine and propulsion system.  If the fridge stops working, the lights fail, the shower fails to flow or the domestic water pump won’t turn off, Canal Contracting can assist, but there will be a charge.

Can you change my domestic batteries? It isn’t covered under your RCR membership, but we can help, via Canal Contracting.   

All labour costs are covered.  RCR covers up to two hours to attend and rectify a breakdown, additional time or return visits are chargeable along with parts unless the repair is covered by Replacement Parts Cover.  Eighty five per cent of all callouts are fixable within the two hours labour period.

I’m covered for a tow back to my home mooring. We offer two hours towing when a vessel cannot be repaired in-situ, taking it to a safe haven such as a mooring, marina or boatyard.  Towing takes time and in 80% of cases we’re able to use an outboard motor to move the vessel.  If the owner wishes to go further afield, going beyond the two hour towing time, charges will be made.  And where a tug is used, the boat owner can be liable for the cost of the tug’s return journey.

Why does a diagnosis take time? As there are a number of potential causes to every problem we have to identify it through a process of elimination.    It’s always best to start with the simplest and least costly element and then work through the system.  Sometimes there can be a whole host of issues which are only identified once one has been solved.

RCR should carry engine spares. There are over 600 different engines on our system and although most craft have the same base engine, the majority will have different marinised parts and different installations/modifications making it impossible to carry all without a HGV.  We carry the majority of common parts and have access to national distributors, but they tend to be contactable between 9 and 5 – so not always immediately available when an emergency arises.  

Parts should be available the same day. The majority of Replacement Parts claims are completed the same/following day.  However where parts are not easily available, we endeavour to deliver and fit them as soon as possible.  If parts are obsolete or a custom installation we have to source alternatives and modify them which can take time.

You’ll have the right parts when you arrive. Although we hold engine details for a vessel often we find the engine we’re asked to help with is different to the information we hold or the parts are standard but modified.  During servicing we try to ensure the right parts are carried by the engineers, but if this isn’t the case, we’ll endeavour to rectify as soon as possible.

Why aren’t I receiving several daily updates re; when the engineer’s returning? Staff dedicated to providing this service are likely to be communicating with several boaters at the same time.  In order to avoid staff making calls where they don’t have any real information to give - which can be irritating for the customer - we’d rather wait and call when there’s something tangible to share. Before we make that call we’re liaising with parts suppliers, engineers, and couriers.

Whilst you’re here can you sort out this additional problem on my boat?  Our engineers will always try to assist, but with other jobs to attend to they often have to concentrate on the most pressing matter that is covered by your RCR membership.

Why can’t an engineer visit in the middle of the night?  Engineers are on standby for emergencies - ie when a boat or person is in danger.  Health and safety guidelines restrict call-outs if the boat isn’t easily accessible and the breakdown isn’t urgent.  For example, we’d ask a person calling for help with a flat battery to wait until the morning, as the boat would have to run its engine for four hours to recharge its battery and failing light makes it very difficult to check electrical issues.  Asking an engineer to take risks late at night on unlit slippery towpaths can only be justified in a real emergency.

Before joining RCR we used to spend so much on engine maintenance but now there’s no need to service or maintain our vessel.   Regular engine servicing and boat maintenance is not only good practise, it’s a condition of membership.  RCR cover is for emergencies and not boat maintenance.
Stephanie continues: “We’d love to be able to provide the additional services required by our members free of charge, but as a business this wouldn’t be feasible.  Keeping costs as competitive as possible and exceeding customer expectations is very important to us, but so too is managing expectations and hence why the scenarios are listed.”

To find out more about RCR visit