Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine
I had the recent pleasure of attending my first Northeast 2011 Trade Show at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ, on Friday and Saturday, March 18–19, 2011. For the benefit of those who were unable to attend I’ll do my best to summarize some of the presentations here, but all who are able should plan to attend next year. It’s a very worthwhile event and a great value for collision repairers.
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Waterborne Panel Sponsored by BASF
With pending regulations in the Northeast which will very likely mandate adopting waterborne paint to minimize VOCs, many shop owners have questions about converting to waterborne systems. Many of those regulations will come from the Ozone Transport Commission, a coalition of eleven East Coast states and the District of Columbia which advises the EPA on regional solutions to air pollution. The OTC has adopted a model rule, which is based on the recently adopted Delaware rule. Delaware, which is a member of the OTC, has already set the following allowable VOC content for various refinish products: Primer: 2.1 lbs./gal; Clear coating: 2.1; Base coat: 3.5; Multicolor coat: 5.7; Sealer: 5.4; Single-stage coat: 2.8.
The American Coatings Association’s Automotive Refinish Coalition has urged the OTC to move forward with adoption of the Delaware rule, which is based on the California mandates, for all its member states.
The Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals of Pennsylvania (AASP-PA) has over 2,000 members across Pennsylvania and Delaware. Each of the 34 active chapters holds their own monthly meetings, and provides two delegates to represent their chapter at the quarterly delegates meeting. AASP-PA held this quarter’s delegates meeting on February 12 in Harrisburg.
Items discussed included AASP-PA’s upcoming TechTrain 2011, the association’s annual training weekend, which will be held on March 26–27 at the Grantville Holiday Inn. New instructors include John Forro with two mechanical seminars and Tim McDonnell, David Rogers, and Gary Gunn with management seminars. Tim McDonnell, Training Manager with Mitchell 1, will give the breakfast keynote. There are 13 seminars scheduled for the weekend so far.
Groupon, the ‘group coupon’ site where businesses submit daily deals for Groupon to market to their large subscriber base, has had lots of recent success with body shop deals.
The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) proudly announces the addition of its newest Affiliate Association, the Alliance of Auto Service Providers of Pennsylvania (AASP-PA).
Based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, AASP-PA is a collision repair association with chapters across Pennsylvania. They are aligned with, as are a number of other SCRS affiliates, the national Alliance of Automotive Service Providers (AASP).
AASP-PA consists of three divisions-collision repair, mechanical and towing. The collision repair division gravitated toward SCRS as part of their ongoing efforts to find ways to add value to membership, as well as being driven by their mandate to forge strategic alliances to strengthen the industry.
"SCRS has a national point of view containing many useful insights into the issues affecting collision repairers, and they have a record of being very active on behalf of the industry," explains AASP-PA Executive Director Jerry Schantz. "Our decision to affiliate was based on the fact that our two organizations are looking for the same changes to help our collision members and make our profession stronger. By working more closely with SCRS it will be easier for our members to stay in touch with what's happening in the industry, which in turn will help them adapt to what's coming down the road."
Between August and June annually, high school students practice and prepare for the big game or the next challenge in their academic careers. For a select group of teams, their road to the championship passes through the Carlisle PA Fairgrounds, June 24th-26th.
In conjunction with the 2011 Carlisle GM Nationals, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow engine building competition will take place at the fairgrounds, making Carlisle one of six regional qualifying locations. Regional winners plus two non-winning top time “wild cards” will advance to compete in the championships, November 1st-4th at the SEMA show in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Along with being dubbed “champion,” these student engine builders are eligible for prizes, sponsorships and support from select companies as well as scholarship money to aid in future education and training. In 2010 more than $600,000 in scholarship money was awarded and 2011 expects to match or exceed that total. Thus far, monetary commitments have been made by the University of Northwest Ohio, Ohio Technical College and SAM, the School of Automotive Machinists, located in Houston, Texas.
The Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge began in 2008 with just five schools as an exhibition and has grown into a national competition for high school students. In 2011, more than 50 teams will compete nationwide. The event serves as a forum for the future development of today’s youth for the race and performance industry. During each regional qualifying competition, students must properly disassemble small block Chevy engines using only hand tools and follow proper disassembly and reassembly procedures. This is a competition against the clock, so time added penalties may be issued. For specific rules and regulations visit the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow online (www.hotroddersoftomorrow.com).
“Hosting a regional event for the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow is one way we can foster the growth of the hobby and the industry,” said Event Manager Rick Marko. “This competition encourages kids with automotive interests to pursue a career in the automotive world and with the scholarships that are made available; it insures an education and an opportunity to follow that dream.”
In selecting the Carlisle GM Nationals as a regional qualifier, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow has partnered with one of the most diverse All-GM events in the world. Over 1,400 vehicles from all eras are showcased yearly in Carlisle and offer the opportunity for not only Showfield competition, but also to meet like-minded enthusiasts of chrome classics, muscle cars, street rods, modified customs and high-performance models. Whether you spend a few hours or the entire weekend in Carlisle, you will enjoy special vehicle displays that are second to none.
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health, safety and insurance groups, on Jan. 31 ranked Pennsylvania as one of the seven worst states when it comes to the adoption of safe driving laws. The group gave Pennsylvania an "F" in teen driving laws and an overall "Danger" rating when it comes to basic laws. The group rated every state surrounding Pennsylvania with a green light for legislation that promotes safe driving.
The group's annual report was announced at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Among the speakers was Marlene Case, of Lower Pottsgrove, who became a highway safety activist after her 17-year-old son, Andrew, was killed in a crash involving a teen driver in November 2009.
"It's too late for Andrew, but it's not too late for others," said Case, as she spoke through tears to the gathering. "These laws don't cost states any money and only require political leadership."
The leadership lacking to enact safe driving laws in Pennsylvania has a profound effect.
In another study released the same day, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance reported that in 2008 more than half a million people, 681,000, were involved in crashes in which a teen driver was behind the wheel.
The study said that nearly one-third of the recently people killed as a result of car wrecks involving teen drivers aren't even in the teenagers' cars. Cyclists, pedestrians and occupants of other vehicles comprise 30 percent of the people killed in crashes involving teen drivers.
Officials said the research shows that most of the tragedies are caused by inexperience and are therefore preventable.
Strong graduated driver licensing laws, which allow teenagers to gain experience under lower-risk conditions, are proven to be an effective prevention measure, researchers maintained. Also proven effective in states where they have been adopted are passenger limits in cars driven by teens.
As Case pointed out, this is not difficult: It just requires leadership.
Safe driving standards and more restrictive teen driving laws have been adopted in neighboring states of New Jersey, New York, Delaware and Maryland.
Pennsylvania has gotten failing grades on many fronts recently, and new Gov. Tom Corbett says he intends to change some of that.
This fix is simple. It doesn't cost anything except leadership to enact safe driving laws.
A three-bill package designed to promote the buying of electric vehicles by New Jersey residents and businesses through tax credits was approved Feb. 17 by the NJ Assembly.
The package sponsored by nine Assembly Democrats comes shortly after President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, pledged to work to put a million advanced technology vehicles such as electric cars and hybrids on American roads by 2015.
The bills would:
"It's clear that electric cars can play a lead role in tackling some of our biggest concerns, whether it be our reliance on foreign oil or environmental and health concerns," Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen). "These bills will help steer New Jersey in the right direction."
"We should be supporting cleaner energy alternatives such as electric vehicles to invest in our future," Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Mercer) said. "It will mean a cleaner environment, a stronger economy and job creation for our residents."
Wagner and Benson are joined in the sponsorship of the package by Assembly members Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex), Angel Fuentes (D-Camden), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer), Kevin J. Ryan (D-Essex), Gilbert "Whip" Wilson (D-Camden) and Majority Leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union).
A new law in New York may affect the cost of automobile insurance. As of today the Department of Motor Vehicle added changes to an already in effect law that was established in 2001 regarding talking on your cell phone while driving. Previously drivers who were caught talking on the phone while driving were eligible to be charged up to a $100 fine. The new changes to this law also now make it so that violators will get two points added onto their driving record.
This two points is the lowest increment on the state’s drivers violation point system and is by far no guarantee that a motorists insurance premium will rise, however, it is a factor. If it is a drivers first violation most likely it will not affect their insurance at all, however, if a driver already had multiple infractions this two points could be what sends them over the edge.
Michael Barry, vice president of media relations for the Insurance Information Institute told Online Auto Insurance News that, “It is difficult to quantify whether the state’s new rules – adding two points to the license of a driver convicted of driving while talking on a cell phone – will raise anyone’s rates… Auto insurers examine dozens of variables when assessing risk.”
While major insurers are still deciding how to adjust the formula used when determining a drivers rates, most are simply stating that obviously the better a driving record is the better the possibility of cheaper insurance.
In New Jersey police can ticket any driver they spot who hasn't cleared snow and ice from a vehicle - and they're doing just that. The new law went in to effect in October and, after a grace period, more than 1800 citations were issued statewide in December and January.
"We are clamping down, the police are out there. We're taking it seriously because there's a serious problem," said Sgt. Brian Polite of the NJ State Police.
Polite says fines range from $25 to $75 but can go much higher if flying snow causes injury or damage.
"I've personally experienced the snow coming at me so they have to do what they have to do, it's for everyone's safety," said truck driver Victor Pedrosa.
Some drivers don't agree.
"I think it's ridiculous only because sometimes you might not have time to clean off the snow," said Shalona Covington of Crosswicks.
It's one thing to clean off a car, but truck drivers say it's not so easy to clean snow and ice from a big rig.
"It's real hard to get up on top of the trailer and get it off," said truck driver Keith Zimmerman. "You'd wind up killing yourself going on top of the roof."
With the new law in mind, National DCP in Westampton purchased a snow removal system to clean off the hundred-plus trucks moving out of its distribution center each day. Turnpike officials say a similar system will be installed at the Fenwick rest stop in Salem County to clear off trucks entering the toll road.
New Jersey saw an increase in the number of new insurance companies doing business in the state, and in carriers writing new lines, in 2010, according to state officials.
The state insurance department said that last year it admitted 27 new insurers and extended new business lines to 28 carriers. That number is up nearly eight percent from 2009 when the department approved 51 new admissions and business extensions, and up 25 percent from 2008 when the department approved 44, according to officials.
Department of Banking and Insurance (DOBI) Commissioner Tom Considine said that included in the 2010 admissions were 10 new commercial insurance carriers, six new workers’ compensation carriers and three new homeowners and auto insurance companies. Extensions were granted in the commercial lines, homeowners and workers’ compensation markets.
In addition, DOBI regulators reported that in 2010 they recovered more than $11.3 million from insurance companies for consumers and returned nearly $9.4 million to medical providers, including doctors and hospitals. Consumers and providers received the payments for claims processing delays, improper handling, and denials of claims, and premium refunds due to improper ratings or failures to return unearned premiums. Insurers made the payments resulting from probes into consumer complaints against licensees, enforcement investigations and errors found during market conduct examinations.
Delaware Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart announced that the Department of Insurance was successful in a variety of actions resulting in over two millions dollars being returned to Delawareans. They include the prosecuting of complaints on behalf of consumers, providing dispute resolution through arbitration, agency exams and refunds to policyholders who had completed an approved defensive driving course from a major insurer.
The Commissioner said, “During the past two years, I have tried to re-engineer the Department of Insurance into a consumer driven agency. The success we have had in getting returned to business and individual consumers a total of over two million dollars in 2010 is a first step among a number of enduring initiatives and actions we are taking to better serve the citizens of our state. In addition to new ideas and initiatives, any success in serving our consumers involves maintaining our success in responding and sustaining our level of vigilance.”
Three former Chrysler and General Motors automobile dealers in Western Pennsylvania have joined about 125 others nationwide in suing the federal government on the grounds that their property -- their franchises -- was taken from them without compensation or due process, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review on February 23, 2011.
Verona Motor Sales, formerly Verona Jeep, is one of five dealerships in Pennsylvania and 59 nationwide that claim they are owed $130 million in damages because the federal government did not pay them when their franchises were eliminated, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.
The lawsuit contends that when the Treasury Department forced Chrysler Group LLC to reduce its dealership network in 2009, it was done without due process under the Constitution and protection of state dealer franchise laws.
"Our property was taken illegally. We lost untold thousands of dollars," said Bert Molitierno, owner of Verona Motor Sales, now a used-vehicle dealer with sites in Verona and Penn Hills.
The Treasury became involved in the automakers’ restructuring when the government gave Chrysler and its financial arm $14 billion and General Motors Co. $50 billion in bailout money.
They are accused of taking money from the shop in exchange for sending the shop cars that had been damaged in roadside accidents. The practice dates back to 2009, according to an affidavit. A criminal complaint also was filed against the owners of the shop, according to the Associated Press (AP).
The Baltimore Police Department and the FBI conducted the investigation, according to Baltimore Police Commissioner Frederick Bealefeld III.
Officers are expected to allow the vehicle’s owner to arrange for a tow on their own, or if they decline, to use police communication channels to contact an authorized towing company, according to AP. The officers charged said in reports that the owners arranged for their own tow or would leave that portion of the form blank, according to the complaint.
However, these officers allegedly told vehicle owners that Majestic could help with the insurance claim and waive the deductible, advising them not to call the insurance company before talking with the repair shop owner, the complaint alleges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland says the officers allegedly would be on the scene of car accidents and direct the owners of the cars involved to have Majestic Auto Repair Shop in Baltimore County tow their vehicle, repair it and they could handle the insurance claim.
Prosecutors allege the officers would get $300 for each car they directed to Majestic.
U.S. Attorney for Maryland Rod Rosenstein expects there will be more arrests in the case.
Read more about the arrests from the U.S. Attorney's Office: