Western News

1HomePageMap small w 0816Local news stories affecting the auto body industry in California, NevadaOregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, Alaska and Wyoming

City Auto Body in Simi Valley, CA, has been in business for 31 years. Unlike a lot of local businesses that are downsizing, City Auto Body held an open house for their new, larger location on March 15.

Owner Gary White decided to build his own shop on an adjacent property from the leased shop the business is currently located in.

“The new building is about 25% larger than the current place,” said White.

The building cost about $2.5 million, including the property itself and the building costs for the shop—but it’s an investment White anticipates will pay off in the long run.

The San Diego chapter of the California Autobody Association (CAA) held their monthly meeting on March 15 at Tom Ham’s Lighthouse in San Diego.

The San Diego chapter is encouraging members to share different efficiency techniques with the group at each meeting, which they call “Tips from the Top.” This month Paul Amato, owner of Amato’s Auto Body in San Diego, spoke about some tricks he uses around the shop to make things run a little more smoothly.

First Amato talked about those very  particular customers everyone is familiar with. Amato said he puts a red star sticker on the front and rear of a car when the owner is known to be very particular about their vehicle. This way it is easy for everyone involved in the vehicle’s repair to anticipate the customer’s expectations and reaction.

Amato also recommended that shops install an air dry system in their paint booths. “You cannot shoot water without a [good] air supply system,” said Amato.

The Economic & Employment Enforcement Coalition (EEEC), a government enforcement unit comprised of investigators and inspectors from several state agencies including EDD, Cal OSHA, the Labor Commissioner’s Office and other agencies, was on hand to speak to the membership at the East Bay California Autobody Association (CAA) membership on March 8 in Dublin, Calif.

Of concern to many members in attendance was "how can body shops avoid expensive fines levied on their businesses by a wide range of government watchdog organizations?"

Seemingly simple things like not posting safety posters, minor errors on payroll bookkeeping or forgetting to offer your employees 15-minute breaks during peak times can all lead to citations which can seriously interrupt or even halt operations at collision facilities throughout the state.

Deputy Labor Commissioner Kevin O’ Connor, OSHA Senior Safety Engineer Eric Berg, and EDD Joint Enforcement Agent Archana Mathur gave separate presentations to the 70 East Bay CAA members on hand.

O’Connor opened the evening meeting by outlining EEEC’s primary purpose and discussing how the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Cal OSHA, Employment Development Department (EDD) and the U.S. Wage and Hour Division (WHD), along with the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and the State Board of Equalization (BOE) have been stepping up their efforts and performing more and more unannounced inspections for compliance within the collision industry, to collaborate for vigorous and targeted enforcement against unscrupulous body shops statewide.

O’Connor explained that body shops will usually appear on the EEEC’s radar initially when anonymous tips are called in to their offices or through surveillance efforts. In most cases, it's a former employee or an unhappy competitor who blows the whistle.

The first thing the EEEC will do when performing a sweep is to go through their standard onsite protocol, which includes verifying compliance with state and federal laws, employment tax laws and health safety laws. Then the EEEC needs to validate appropriate licenses, workers’ compensation insurance coverage, time and payroll records, required postings, and other labor or Industrial Welfare Commission requirements. Everything has to be in place and records must be properly recorded, or citations and fines will follow. Any body shop that has been inspected knows this drill all too well.

The most common issues cited by the Labor Commission found in body shops are workers’ compensation-related infractions, as well as record keeping problems relating to wages and hours, O’Connor said.

OSHA Senior Safety Engineer Eric Berg then spoke to the members about workplace safety. He admitted that his organization’s rules and regulations are many and complex (700 pages) and some are not so easy to interpret, but he also emphasisized that OSHA is inspecting body shops for the purpose of protecting employees from serious injuries and hazards that potentially exist in any collision facility.

The most common OSHA-related issues cited in body shops, in Berg’s experience, include first-aid kits that aren’t present in shops or properly stocked; improperly stored chemicals and a whole host of spray booth safety concerns, such as filters not getting changed at proper intervals and ventilation problems.

The final speaker of the evening was EDD Joint Enforcement Agent Archana Mathur, who outlined several employee-related pitfalls that body shops encounter. These include misclassifying employees (1099 vs. W2); under-reporting or non-reporting of employees’ wages and taxes and unreported cash compensation, she said.

The overall message from the three government agency representatives was to be proactive in dealing with problems now, so that they don’t lead to citations and fines when the EEEC may come knocking at your door tomorrow or in the immediate future.

An Arizona bill that could adapt the state's insurance code to include language about auto glass inspections passed the state Senate's majority and minority caucuses March 1, and now will proceed to the committee of the whole, and, after that, a third reading before the full state Senate. The bill, sponsored by Sen. John McComish, contains several provisions related to the industry, including one that would prohibit insurers and third-party administrators (TPAs) from causing "a delay in the inspection of a policyholder's auto glass condition in the handling of a policyholder's claim regardless of which repair facility the policyholder chooses."

Though the original bill contained a provision that would have prohibited insurers and TPAS from having a financial interest in auto glass replacement companies, that provision was removed by the Banking and Insurance Committee, which voted to pass the amended bill in February.

A California state senator has introduced a bill to reduce the penalties auto repairers face if they don’t check the tire pressures on every vehicle they service.

Meanwhile, a Nevada state senator has introduced his own bill to force tire dealers and auto repairers to check vehicle tire pressures, arguing for the measure as a safety and energy-saving tool.

The California Air Resources Board issued its tire pressure rule Sept. 1, 2010, two days after the California Office of Administrative Law approved it. The OAL had rejected two previous versions of the regulation for not meeting the state’s standards for clarity and necessity.

Promulgated expressly for greenhouse gas reduction, the CARB regulation requires an estimated 40,000 auto service providers in California to check and if necessary adjust the pressure on the tires of every vehicle they service or repair up to 10,000 lbs. gross vehicle weight, except for motorcycles and off-road vehicles.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) declared a notice of public workshop and CEQA scoping meeting about the proposed amended Rule 1147 – NOx reductions from miscellaneous sources at their January meeting.

The AQMD has also scheduled a public workshop regarding Proposed Amended Rule 1147 – NOx Reductions from Miscellaneous Sources.  PAR 1147 is scheduled for a Public Hearing before the AQMD Governing Board on May 6, 2011.

Rule 1147 – NOx Reductions from Miscellaneous Sources is designed to reduce NOx emissions from a wide variety of combustion sources including, but not limited to, ovens, dryers, furnaces, kilns and most importantly to auto body shops, the gas heaters. Non-resettable gas meters on paint spray booths deadline has been extended to December 2011, for installation.

Rule 1147 was adopted by the AQMD Governing Board on December 5, 2008 and established nitrogen oxide (NOx) emission limits for new and existing combustion equipment that are not regulated by other AQMD NOx rules.