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Vehicle safety inspection program will be on menu for 2021

Task force formed to build appetite for bill that would mandate a statewide safety inspection program for all vehicles

Sacramento, Calif.—A bill will be introduced to the California legislature in 2021 involving vehicle safety inspection programs and two California automotive associations are behind the initiative.

“The California Automotive Wholesalers Association (CAWA) has expressed interest in doing something in this arena,” said Jack Molodanof, Automotive Service Councils of California (ASCCA) legislative advocate, during the association’s Team Weekend meeting on Saturday.

Other states have similar programs where, in order to have a vehicle registered with a state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV), it must pass a safety inspection program.

“We’ve been working with CAWA as a taskforce to create a similar program here in California,” Molodanof said. “Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of pushback on it, so we’ve been taking ‘baby steps’ with the idea.”

“We’re going to be very involved and hands-on in shaping this legislation as a member of the taskforce and working with CAWA’s lobbyist and BAR.”

— Jack Molodanof

It’s been proposed that such an initiative be combined with California’s current Brake and Lamp Program that some shops already participate in, and rename it as a vehicle safety inspection program. The Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) could then be given authority to expand upon it, he said.

“They could increase the inspection requirements and allow the brake and lamp folks to electronically transfer certificates (instead of paper) directly to the DMV or BAR — it would save money and create convenience. It would be similar to the Smog Check Program.”

The proposed legislation is currently seeking an author, Molodanof added, noting that a potential candidate is Assemblymember Evan Low.

Concerns and risks

ASCCA member Maylan Newton, of ESi, expressed concern for shop liability if a vehicle safety inspection program were to become a reality.

“If the state regulates this, what happens if an independent shop customer’s car is involved in an accident? Where does our liability stand? I know of other states that have safety inspections and technicians have been prosecuted if they’ve missed something [resulting in a crash].”

Molodanof responded by referring back to the current Brake and Lamp Program and present shop liability with that program. “My assumption is that the shops participating in the Brake and Lamp Program are insured for [such potential accident cases] and that the vehicle safety inspection program would be very similar.”

Hurdles and challenges

Molodanof said that safety inspection programs have become controversial in other states and have been viewed as a “boondoggle” for repair shops.

“They’re viewed as costing consumers money and as unnecessary, especially with newer model cars. Consumers also consider such inspections as like going to get a smog check — it’s an inconvenience and its value is questioned.

“Here in California, there’s also been a feeling that there would be similar pushback. A safety inspection program would apply to all vehicles, whereas with the Brake and Lamp Program the inspections are only for vehicles that have been in an accident with revived salvage titles.”

ASCCA Board Member Dave Kusa, of Autotrend Diagnostics, added that programs in other states are losing traction because some vehicles are failing inspections as a result of owners not being able to afford the repairs.

“Does a shop sideline the car? How does the customer get their kids to school? How do they pay for a car that they have trouble making payments on in the first place? Those are some of the legislative hurdles that consumer advocacy groups bring forward — and they are valid concerns.”

Molodanof reiterated the need to take those baby steps with the Brake and Lamp Program (incorporating a vehicle safety inspection program), see how it works, then perhaps gradually expand it to a statewide program.

“It’s a big bill,” he said. “We’re going to be very involved and hands-on in shaping this legislation as a member of the taskforce and working with CAWA’s lobbyist and BAR.”

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