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Challenges of 21st century vehicle dismantling

Industry data, alongside market research and legislative drivers, provides an accurate picture of both current and future hurdles faced by the sector, as well as highlighting the longstanding historical issues that have not yet been adequately addressed. Data indicates that there are five main challenges for the industry to overcome:

Industry Challenges
Vehicle recycling challenge pyramid

01

CHALLENGE 1: Incorporating Electric

Lithium-ion Vehicle Batteries

Electric and hybrid vehicles are here, and here to stay. Or at least for the time being, until hydrogen and other alternative powered technologies are developed further and become a viable replacement to lithium-ion batteries. As an industry, we recognise that the safe decommissioning of electric and hybrid-powered vehicles adds complexity to current ICE depollution and dismantling practices. The associated high voltage, chemical and explosion risks require investment in specialist equipment, additional PPE and tooling. New processes will need to be developed to ensure electric can be safely incorporated alongside traditional depollution activities. Additional space, time and cost is a must. It is critical that treatment facilities involve the experts when upskilling their technicians. 

CHALLENGE 2: Government Deadlines

2035

2050

02

The UK Government has a legally binding target of achieving net zero by 2050, requiring a 78% reduction in emissions by 2035. This milestone is only achievable by banning petrol and diesel engined cars and vans. The EU are following suit and formal approval for Europe is imminent. Most cars and vans in the western world, reach the end of their operating life after 10 and 15 years of service. Worryingly, 20.4 million cars and vans on UK roads are already at least 10 years old. So we can anticipate that the vast majority of these vehicles will be decommissioned and scrapped over the next five years. ​To meet this demand, authorised treatment facilities (ATFs) will need to significantly increase processing capacity. Current ATFs process around 1 million vehicles per year. To prevent a backlog with millions of cars and vans forced to go into storage whilst they await decommissioning, the vehicle recycling industry needs to look to technology and training to drive efficiency.

Reduce vehicle CO2

03

CHALLENGE 3: Current Depollution Capacity

The average age of a car and van when its is scrapped is 14 years old. So, with over 17 million UK vehicles requiring decommissioning at some point over the next five years, ATFs are going to be extremely busy. The current 1,951 ATFs in the UK are collectively depolluting 1.5 million vehicles per year and in order to process the existing 17.4 million ELVs, ATFs will need to more than double their current output, starting today. That's an average of 3,485,421 cars and vans per year requiring depollution and dismantling over the next five years. At current ATF rates this would take 11.62 years to complete! Consider also that these figures don't consider the new ICE and hybrid vehicles that are likely to be purchased up until 2030 and 2035 respectively.

Cars

17,949,596

UK cars are 10 years or older.

Vans

2,469 510

UK vans are 10 years or older.

Average UK car life

AVERAGE AGE OF UK SCRAPPED VEHICLES

20,419,106

UK cars & vans are

10 years or older.

Data sources: DoT and DVLA Vehicle licensing statistics (December 2023) VEH1103a:  Licensed vehicles by body type and fuel type: United Kingdom

  “Vehicles In Use” ACEA Report published in February 2024.

04

CHALLENGE 4: Recruitment & Retention

Training to address staff retention

The sector has, and continues to experience, a high employee turnover with treatment and dismantling facilities historically struggling to recruit and retain ELV operatives and vehicle dismantlers, resulting in a cycle that leaves employers unable to recover training and recruitment expenses after employment ends. 

This attrition is often overlooked but is costing the industry hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. This money is being needlessly poured down the recruitment drain when it would be far better spent investing in technology, machinery, tooling and training; all that would go on to drive efficiencies as well as addressing the revolving door of attrition and recruitment. The cost of hiring a new employee can add up to 30% on top of the employee's salary in their first year. Training and development of an existing employee is significantly less than that of recruiting, hiring and training a replacement employee. Save yourself money by holding onto your experienced employees long-term. Long-serving employees have always been the most effective at reaching objectives and providing consistent high-quality work. 
 

05

CHALLENGE 5: Lack of Standardisation

National Occupational Standards for vehicle dismantling

A lack of a defined technical requirement around end-of-life vehicle training has impacted the industry, with inconsistent and poorly defined training leading to inadequate quality and safety standards. Developing an occupational standard provides a benchmark for core competence and defines a clear performance measure for a business. Historical legacy and handover training from co-workers or equipment providers does not provide this. Once an activity is being executed to a recognised competency standard, then a business can really start to monitor and drive performance safely and compliantly. If you can’t measure performance how do you know how well you are doing in comparison to the competition? How do you know who your best workers are, and how do you know if an employee or a team are underperforming? Incorporating a consistent work standard and providing quality assurance increases safety and compliance awareness, driving both efficiency and productivity.

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