According to the Newark-based Star Ledger, the state of New Jersey is proposing a plan to phase out motor vehicle inspections for mechanical defects by July 1 of this year. The State says the elimination of the system will save $12 million.
With the Garden State facing a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, officials could no longer justify paying $12 million a year for a program that resulted in a rejection rate of less than six percent, Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Raymond Martinez said. In addition, he said, there has been no conclusive evidence that eliminating mechanical inspections would lead to more traffic accidents.
The plan is not sitting well with the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ), the state’s largest association of collision and mechanical repairers. “We are strongly opposed to eliminating the New Jersey Safety Inspection Program,” says AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant. “New Jersey has become a safer place because of the program. If the powers that be think that New Jersey drivers will still maintain their vehicles in safe operating condition without the requirement that they do so, they should think again.”
Bryant also disputes the rejection rate argument. “The six percent failure rate that is quoted as not being enough to justify the cost of the program is the result of the program itself,” he explains. “People have come to know that they are required to maintain their vehicles to a safe operating condition and that is why the failure rate is so low. If you eliminate the requirement that people maintain their cars to a level that allows them to pass the current NJ Safety Inspection, you will see those statistics change. Right along with the failure rate changing, watch the fatal accident rate soar upward.”
Former AASP/NJ President Bob Everett of Bayville Auto Care in Bayville is not as subtle. “Surprise, Surprise…NOT,” he said. “The State did it to us again; told us a set of rules, forced us to make a premature business decision, demanded all of our money up front (money we could have really used during this economy), delayed the start-up by months and, once they had us all roped in, changed the rules AGAIN. Talk about history repeating itself. If any business or company did this to a consumer, the government would be all over them with headline grabbing actions. Why do they get to act in an unscrupulous manner?”
Krehel Automotive Repair’s Keith Krehel, AASP/NJ Mechanical Co-Chairman, added, “The biggest problem I see with this is the issue of safety. By eliminating the periodic maintenance of a certain standard of safety that the inspection program provides, the streets will become a much more dangerous place to navigate. The streets will only be as safe as the most dangerous vehicle on the road. There is a huge concern about what will happen to our standards of safety if the inspection program is done away with.”
Shops across the state feel like they have seen this all before. “Everyone in the industry understands that the safety inspection is the force that drives vehicle maintenance,” Everett says, “especially in this economy. The State hides behind a lack of data that they do a poor job of collecting as justification for putting the public safety at risk. Every shop owner and technician has dozens of stories of consumers refusing to repair unsafe vehicles. It will surely get worse now.”
Bryant perhaps sums it up best: “Even if you take the economy out of the equation, the bottom line is, are the savings that might be achieved worth the lives it will cost?”
For more information on AASP/NJ’s NORTHEAST™ Automotive Services Show, please visit www.aaspnjnortheast.com.