EPA Finalizes Service Information RegulationPosted 7/18/2003
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Whitman has signed the final emissions service information rule amending the 1995 service information regulation. This new emissions rule lends support to the Automotive Service Association's agreement, formalized in the fall of 2002, with the automakers.
The EPA's regulatory announcement stated, "The amendments are intended to ensure that all aftermarket auto service and repair facilities have access to the same emission-related service information, in the same manner as that provided by the manufacturers to their authorized dealerships. In addition, this final rule will provide consumers with more choices in where to have their vehicles serviced."
This new emissions regulation was first proposed by the EPA in June 2001. ASA, as well as other members of the aftermarket, had expressed concern with the effectiveness of the 1995 emissions service information regulation. ASA hosted a meeting in Colorado with the EPA's air quality staff following the 1995 publication of the original regulation. ASA's leadership followed with a meeting with top EPA officials in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to improve the 1995 regulation.
The EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality worked diligently during the next few years to craft a regulation to fulfill the intent of the language in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, assuring "that no such information may be withheld if that information is provided (directly or indirectly) by the manufacturer to franchised dealers." After listening sessions, industry meetings and a formal hearing, the regulation has been finalized.
One important item to note is the length of time between ASA obtaining language in the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 and an effective regulation being finalized in June 2003. Despite the first regulation being finalized in 1995, it was imperfect to the degree that it was rendered ineffective. Another eight years would pass before repairers would see a regulation where process and enforcement would find common ground in the assurance of emissions service information to the point of functionality in the marketplace.
ASA's board of directors recognized this laborious regulatory process when making its decision to reach an agreement on non-emissions and emissions service information with the automakers last year. With the 107th Congress coming to a close, and despite a very decisive U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing on service information, ASA believed that a lengthy, multi-year legislative and regulatory process for a legislative remedy could push many independent repairers out of the marketplace if they did not have sufficient access to non-emissions and emissions information. The ASA-Automaker Agreement provided immediate service information, tools and tool information as well as training access to the aftermarket. This was ASA's original goal.
The EPA highlighted the key components of the new emissions regulation:
In meetings with ASA, the EPA expressed its belief that the final regulation contains sufficient enforcement language to make this particular rulemaking effective. The National Automotive Service Task Force (NASTF), comprised of the aftermarket, automakers and new car dealers, should be the first line of review of any specific service information, tool and training problems relative to emissions and non-emissions information. The EPA's separate emissions regulation reinforces the industry agreement already in place.
ASA's mechanical and collision operations committees held separate meetings during May to discuss the automaker Web sites. Both committees continue to review the sites in anticipation of the Aug. 31, 2003, ASA-automaker deadline for all emissions and non-emissions service and tool information, tools and training to be provided by the automakers. This review will be an ongoing process for both the automakers and the aftermarket. The automakers have requested continued input as to the effectiveness of the sites. ASA and the automakers presented a report to Congress earlier this year on the progress of the agreement and will do so again in the fall.
ASA will host the next NASTF meeting at the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) in Las Vegas this November. The aftermarket is encouraged to provide specific issues of concern relative to emissions and non-emissions information to the NASTF for resolution. Brief forms describing specific information problems are available on the ASA Web site (www.asashop.org), as is the final EPA regulation.
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