Wednesday, 18 December 2013 13:25

Ohio State Bill Will Require Mechanical Shops to Register as Collision Repairers Now Do

A bill in the Ohio Senate that would require providers of auto mechanical repairs to register with the state, just as collision repair shops must do now, could improve public perceptions of the business and root out participants that don’t belong, its supporters say.

The Automotive Service Association favors Senate Bill 232, which was introduced in November, in part because the independent auto repair shops it represents are competing against bad actors, said Joe Sanfillipo III, the legislative liaison and immediate past president of the association’s Ohio chapter. Those bad actors include shops that aren’t complying with all the safety and environmental regulations that govern the business.

The association also wants to raise the reputation of the auto repair business in the eyes of consumers, said Sanfillipo, who also is chief operating officer of USA Collision Centers in Fairfield.

“It’s been the plan all along” to extend the registration requirement to mechanical repair shops, Joe Sanfilipo said, noting that it’s “just taking a long time to get there.”

Collision repair shops have had to register with what is now the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Repair since 1997. The state slowly has been expanding the types of auto repair providers subject to the registration requirement, adding shops such as window tint operations since then.

Bob Redding, the Washington, D.C., representative for the Automotive Service Association, said the trade group has used Ohio’s collision repair legislation as a template for other states interested in implementing similar measures. It’s substantial, pro-consumer and allows shop input, Mr. Redding said.

Michael Greene, executive director of the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Repair, said he believes the economy has led to greater support for expanding the existing law to include providers of mechanical repairs. As people keep their cars longer and put more money into repairing them, they want dependable mechanics.

“They just want to know that they can trust the people they take their car to,” Greene said.

Under SB 232, all relevant auto shops that perform more than five repairs a year would be required to register with the board. The current guidelines require a registrant to pay a fee for the registration and to provide proof of its taxpayer identification number, its vendor’s license numbers, its workers’ compensation and unemployment information, and its Environmental Protection Agency hazardous waste generator number, if applicable.

The shops also must have insurance with general liability and garage-keepers coverage, and show proof of that coverage. Registration would be $200 a year if the bill is passed as is, which would lower the cost by $25 annually for those already required to register. The board has officers that investigate and enforce the registrations.Registration is not a lengthy or difficult process, Greene said, but it is meant to assure that service providers are operating based on the same standards.

In addition to extending the registration requirement to mechanics, SB 232 would expand the motor vehicle repair board’s ability to set standards, giving it room to look in the future at issues such as individual technician certification.

Charged-up mechanics

Rad Air Complete Car Care and Tire Centers is a local company that would be required to register if the bill passes. Its president and CEO, Andy Fiffick, is all for it. “Our industry really needs to be brought into the 21st century,” Fiffick said.

Forcing companies to register could help to reduce the number of people working on cars without the appropriate training, Fiffick maintains. He said Rad Air requires its technicians to be ASE-certified—a designation of the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence—but that such certification is voluntary throughout the business. He said he would support individual certification across the board.
Mark Cole, owner of Cole’s Garage Inc. in Akron, also would be required to register for the first time if SB 232 passes, and he’s a fan of the proposal. It would add credibility to the auto repair business, he said, possibly helping to shut down backyard mechanics. It also would put companies on a more level playing field because everyone registered as a mechanical auto repair shop would need to pay the same taxes and disposal fees.
Ron Meister, owner of Shaker Quality Auto Body in Cleveland, said he thinks registration for all auto repair shops is an excellent idea. His shop does both body and mechanical work, so it has been registered for years under the existing law.
Right now, anyone who can hang a sign can be a mechanic, which is a problem, especially with today’s high-tech cars, Meister said. Mechanics also should be able to follow all the rules and regulations, he said, mentioning EPA requirements among them.
“If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be working on these vehicles,” Meister said.
Ron Meister is among those shop owners who said they would like to see the state go a step further after shops are required to register and ask for certification or minimum qualifications from those working on vehicles.

Enough is enough

But not everyone agrees. Floyd Bowen, a service manager at Corcoran’s Auto Repair Service in Hudson, wasn’t familiar with SB 232, but said he did know he’s opposed to additional oversight by the state.

Bowen said companies already are required to register with the state when they apply for a vendor’s license. Bowen said while many legitimate businesses feel undermined by those mechanics working out of their garages or a small rented space, he thinks the more skilled companies can offer services the amateurs can’t. That means those competitors usually are here today but gone tomorrow, he said.

Sanfillipo of the Automotive Service Association said a big hurdle in the past to adding mechanical repair shops to the businesses subject to registration has been getting past the appearance that registration would add more regulations to small businesses. And he noted some push-back to this latest proposal in a follow-up email to Crain’s, citing new and used car dealers who believe they are covered by the current licensing requirements, and by tire dealers. Sanfillipo said his group believes the bill would ensure mechanical repair shops were complying with tax laws and safety regulations.