Thursday, 28 March 2019 17:04

ASA’s 'Washington Watch' Webinar Features Industry Association Leaders

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On March 20, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) hosted “Washington Watch with Robert L. Redding Jr.” as part of its Webinar Wednesdays series.


Redding, ASA’s Washington, D.C., representative, was joined by Aaron Schulenburg, executive director of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS); Roy Littlefield IV, director of government affairs for the Tire Industry Association (TIA); and Tom Tucker, director of state government affairs for the Auto Care Association (ACA). Tony Molla, ASA vice president of industry relations, welcomed attendees to the update on the 2019 state legislative sessions and promised they would learn about legislation impacting shop owners, the legislative agenda for 2019 and what’s of interest to the automotive industry.


Redding’s first topic was OEM repair procedures. He explained that ASA and industry partners, including SCRS, kicked off legislation related to OEM repair procedures in August of 2018. He noted that multiple states are building support for this issue for 2020 and stressed that interest in the issue was somewhat stimulated by the 2017 Seebachan/John Eagle Collision case in Texas. However, interest had risen long before then,


The OEM repair procedures draft states: “Any insurer licensed to issue policies of automobile insurance providing bodily injury, property damage liability, comprehensive or collision coverages shall not condition payment to any person conducting a collision repair upon the utilization of any repair procedure or specification if that repair procedure or specification is in conflict with the repair procedures and specifications for that vehicle as recommended by the original equipment manufacturer of such vehicle. If a repair procedure or specification from an original equipment manufacturer includes a directive to conduct a scan of vehicle electronic systems before or after the commencement of repairs, such directive shall be considered as a required part of the repair procedure.”


Redding explained, “The draft language is meant to be a template for various states since this issue should be handled at the state, not federal, level. The bill language is intentionally very narrow and focuses on OEM repair procedures only, with no discussion of parts or the mandated use of OE parts in the statement.”


In 2018, legislation regarding OEM repair procedures was introduced in three states. Indiana Senate Bill 164 died in conference, and Illinois House Bill 4926 was not approved. Rhode Island Senate Bill 2679 was signed into law but is quite stringent and applies only to OE repair procedures on OE parts. Numerous bills on this issue have been introduced so far in 2019, including Connecticut House Bill 7266, New Hampshire House Bill 664, Minnesota House File 2234, Illinois Senate Bill 2104, Nevada Assembly Bill 173, Montana House Bill 252, and Texas House Bill 1348.


“Interest in OEM repair procedures is not a new phenomenon, but this subject has generated a lot of attention in the past few years due to the increasing complexity of modern vehicles,” Schulenburg said. “SCRS and ASA worked collectively with partner groups in 2011 to address this topic. Collision repairers recognize OEM repair procedures as the documents for repair, but we need to be able to identify in a way that repairers can point to. Our groups collectively issued a statement that we recognize published repair procedures from OEMs as the official recognized standard for collision repair.


“I think it will only become a bigger issue, especially as that technology increases and vehicles become more complex. Consumers want the technology, a lot of which is safety-related, and their interest drives the demand for it, which will continue to perpetuate the issue. It’s important to point out that the insurance industry is also pushing for technology. While the collision industry feels resistance to the necessary steps to restore functionality on the claims settlement side, the insurance industry is very supportive, if not driving, the development of these technologies to increase highway safety and reduce frequency.”


Redding agreed that the interest in OEM repair procedures hasn’t lessened and reiterated the question he has heard from others about why it isn’t happening more quickly. Comparing the 2018 and 2019 bills, Schulenburg emphasized the importance of industry organizations documenting what is recognized as the industry’s standards and being the voice of the industry when necessary.


He noted, “In 2019, it’s important for the proposed language to be rather narrow and focused. When we see it coupled with other industry issues, such as claims practices, rates or parts, it opens the door for opposition that may not enter into the conversation if we were just focused on procedures. Disregarding documented procedures opens the industry to unnecessary liabilities, so it’s much more beneficial to propose narrow, focused legislation.”


Schulenburg agreed that this has been the most pressing issue he has seen among SCRS members for quite some time now.


“If you look at how frequently this conversation comes up, there’s no doubt that it’s one of the top issues our members face today,” he said. “Shops are challenged by the desire to perform a proper repair, and it impacts them on a daily basis, increasingly as the pace of technology advances. The largest challenge is that even regulatory bodies responsible for the insurance industry don’t have firm language guiding their responsibilities; there’s a general lack of understanding from regulators on what role procedures play in safety and proper repairs. Consumers deserve support from the industry and from their elected officials to ensure they receive a safe repair, and that requires us to put some language around these requirements so claims are settled in accordance with those specifications as well.”


Redding then provided a brief history lesson on state vehicle safety inspections. He explained that federal law in the 1970s mandated states have some type of safety program to participate in federal programs. However, after Congress revoked that mandate, what started as more than 30 state vehicle safety programs was eventually reduced to just 15 state programs. Currently, the only states with vehicle safety inspection programs in place are Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.


Redding stated, “We are proud of these remaining programs and want to defend them. They are regularly attacked in state legislatures, and concerns have already been raised this year due to bills introduced to eliminate or significantly alter these programs.”


Those bills include Missouri House Bill 451, Texas House Bill 3665, Hawaii House Bill 85, and Virginia House Bill 2068. Missouri House Bill 451 would repeal the requirement that all motor vehicles must obtain an inspection before the vehicle may be licensed. ASA, ACA and TIA all opposed the bill, stressing that periodic vehicle safety inspection programs help protect property and lives.


“The Missouri bill is a mirror image of what was presented last year. We fought it in 2018, and the bill died in legislature, but each year, these bills get a little further. We’ve been banning together to stop the Missouri bill, but there are others,” Redding said.


Redding introduced Littlefield and Tucker, who expressed concerns with states trying to take safety programs away.


Tucker stated, “ACA strongly believes in safety programs and regular vehicle maintenance and care. Vehicles are becoming more technologically sophisticated. My car affects your safety, and your car affects my safety, so if a car isn’t adequately repaired or inspected, we are all in danger. Every vehicle on the road should meet minimum safety standards, and that’s why these programs are so important. We need to rethink our strategies and become more proactive in the states where these programs are being attacked.”


Discussing third-party evidence of how inspection programs impact vehicle safety, the group referenced the University of Texas – Austin study, which looked at economics and safety and affirmed that inspection programs save lives and enhance safety.


Tucker pointed out, “You can’t get any better evidence than that. A safety inspection in Texas costs just $9, which is a small price to pay to ensure all vehicles on our roads are safe. Pennsylvania and Missouri also published reports that validate these findings. If we have three groundbreaking safety inspection studies that all say the same thing, the real question is: Why aren’t policymakers listening to real data instead of emotional arguments?”


When Redding asked why we see such passion to eliminate these programs from some policymakers, Tucker suggested, “Most policymakers really try to be responsive to the needs of their constituents, so if a constituent brings a concern, the elected officials often try to pursue legislation to fix it, but that’s not always the best solution.


“Also, we were missing effective data until the University of Texas issued their report last year. Opponents of the programs have often said there was no good data to prove that the safety inspections save lives, but that’s because when there’s an accident, the first priority is getting the vehicle off the road so traffic can move. Public safety officials aren’t trained to look at the causes of these accidents. States aren’t required to report traffic accidents into the federal database unless there’s a fatality involved, so a lot of good data goes unreported, leaving policymakers to believe the inspection programs are ineffective. We need to do a better job of educating elected officials with good data that demonstrates why these programs are effective.”


Redding, Tucker and Littlefield discussed the need to get more people involved.


Littlefield suggested, “Maybe it’s time to reunite and try to make a run for it at the federal level. If we can change some minds in Washington, maybe we can work from the top down.”


Tucker added, “Safety is the one thing that brings us all together.”


The webinar concluded with a Q and A session, during which Schulenburg noted, “It’s important for the industry, regardless of the issue, to have collaboration. Consumers and the industry deserve a concerted effort to fix these problems.”


On April 17, ASA will host its next Webinar Wednesday, titled “Increase Sales and Your Customer Value Proposition with Financing” and presented by Scott Schwalm, assistant vice president, relationship management for Synchrony Car Care.


On April 24, ASE campus administrator Dave Capper will present “609 Certification” for technicians.


ASA’s May 15th webinar, “Stop Reacting and Start Succeeding,” is intended for shop management and will be presented by Rick White of 180 Biz Solutions.


For more information on ASA, visit asashop.org.

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