HONK Offering New Service to Capture On-Scene Collision Estimates

Oct. 5, 2021

A tow truck driver's role has typically been to take away a damaged car from an accident to a body shop or storage facility and little more. But could their role be expanded?

When a vehicle collision occurs, among the first people to arrive on-scene is a tow truck operator. Traditionally their role has solely been to take away the damaged car to a body shop or storage facility. 

But could their role be expanded? And could that expansion be of benefit to collision repair shops? HONK Technologies, a digital roadside assistance platform, hopes so. 

Last week, HONK Technologies announced the launch of an on-scene accident information solution, FirstOnScene, which allows tow operators from the HONK network to capture photos and videos and collect data on the scene of an accident. That data will then be analyzed by third-party AI estimating systems to give a quick estimate of the damage. 

That information, depending on who called for the tow truck, can then be sent to insurance carriers or body shops for assessment. 

Many in the collision repair space, mainly shop owners, are concerned about the implementation of AI in estimating. So why could this service benefit repair shops? FenderBender chatted with Rochelle Thielen, HONK’s chief revenue office, to find out. 

Cut the clutter

Before working for HONK, Thielen came from a claims background, working for Mitchell and then as the CEO of Estify. As such, Thielen is very familiar with the practices and processes of body shops.

Among the struggles she saw from body shops during her time working with them was an influx of cars coming into the garage that couldn’t be repaired. FirstOnScene should help that. 

“Collision repair shops only want vehicles in their shops that can be repaired. The rest of it is just wasting space,” she said. “This will prevent that from happening.”

By allowing tow truck operators, who are also intimately familiar with on-scene accidents, to take photos and collect information about the vehicle, it reduces the likelihood of an obvious total entering the garage. Allowing an estimate to be written and analyzed before it even enters the shop gives collision repair shops an idea of if they want to take it on. 

For MSOs, it can also help route vehicles to specific locations, if one is more equipped to handle a certain repair, rather than it landing at one location and then becoming the responsibility of that shop to transport it to a different facility. 

If the AI-generated estimate reveals obvious repairs, the service could also help shops proactively order parts. Thielen could not disclose which third-party AI estimating systems the service would work with, but called FirstOnScene “system agnostic,” adding that most, if not all, of the top estimating companies will be compatible with the product. 

Effect on DRPs vs. Non-DRPs

According to Thielen, HONK will relay the information it gets on-scene to whichever party called for the tow. In most cases during an accident, the people involved will call their insurance company and ask next steps. That is usually when the insurance company will help send out a tow truck to help move the vehicle. If that is the case, the data HONK collects goes to the insurance company. 

For shops with DRPs, that could signal work being sent to them that already has an estimate generated for them. The service should only help push work to their shops. 

If, however, the call for a tow truck is initiated by the shop, the data would then go to them. So for non-DRP shops, the service incentivizes them to get involved with tow truck companies and develop a relationship. It’s something shops aren’t doing enough, Thielen said. 

“It’s such a black hole the collision space hasn’t taken advantage of,” Thielen said. “I’m really interested, as this comes to light, how and when the collision operators start to look to tow providers as someone that is more than just moving a vehicle and instead using them to leverage for their own benefit.”

Image: Jonathan Cooper

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