Shop Licensing Interest Continues to GrowPosted 10/15/2004
By Robert L. Redding, Jr.
In an ASA survey of mechanical and collision repairers, ASA members made it clear that they supported repair shop licensing. This support included a call for licensing programs containing tough regulations that are consistently enforced. Repairers expressed concern that any licensing program must be funded at a level sufficient enough to provide adequate enforcement of the law. Some state programs, due to their lack of important licensing criteria, are viewed as mere business taxes. Repairers report their willingness to pay a licensing fee if the program is viewed in a way that protects their long-term investments in training, equipment and adherence to safety and environmental laws.
An analysis of the laws of the 50 states in 1969 by the Library of Congress revealed that only one state had an effective statute regulating automobile repairers. Their study pointed to Connecticut as the state model for motor vehicle repair licensing. In 1968, Congress initiated a four-year investigation of the auto repair industry and disclosed five major areas where multibillion dollar economic losses occurred to the motorist. The investigation highlighted the cost of unnecessary and unsatisfactory repairs due to the difficulty in diagnosing vehicle faults. The Federal Trade Commission conducted a separate study.
By 1977 more than 20 states had licensing statutes. The interest in shop licensing has continued to increase at the state level.
On multiple occasions over the years, ASA has assembled repairers from around the country to review licensing statutes and proposals. ASA has tried to determine which guidelines at that particular point in time would be helpful to repairers and policymakers in developing programs or enhancing existing state licensing programs.
ASA's Collision and Mechanical Operations Committees have again revisited these guidelines to ensure that repairers have a current source to use for their states.
ASA has focused on the following key areas in developing various licensing outlines for background use in the states:
The committees determined that these 13 broad categories were essential to the structure of any state licensing program. These concepts were designed as guidelines and were not exclusive by any means. ASA is contacted regularly by repairers and policymakers who are interested in licensing. These guidelines are meant to be a service of the association.
Certainly at the heart of any new program are the governing board, funding and enforcement. ASA leaders believed the board should be comprised of a majority of motor vehicle repairers but also include consumer representation. As for funding, the committees encouraged a self-funded program covering operating expenses. These registration fees, renewal fees and fines would remain under the control of the governing board.
Enforcement has remained an area of strong interest by ASA members. Committee members called for tough, consistent enforcement with an investigative staff in the field as well as available through a hotline. A minimum number of physical visits in each shop would occur once every 24 months.
The committees debated at length over the training and equipment necessary for a shop to be licensed. The equipment and training pieces are important areas of debate, particularly in the collision industry because of the additional interest in controlling the sale of refinishing products. ASA has served on federal and state government advisory committees where the training and equipment criteria for collision repairers were controversial.
In meetings across the country, some collision repairers have argued that collision licensing is unnecessary if there are sufficient refinishing product controls involving training and equipment. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently completed action on a final regulation governing the use of paint products by vehicle manufacturers. This has not occurred, to date, for the use of refinishing products in collision shops at the federal level.
Repairers can review the ASA Operations Committees' suggested shop licensing guidelines on the ASA legislative Web site at www.TakingTheHill.com.
In this last Congress, there was some interest in shop licensing at the federal level. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, raised this issue in proposed legislation. Schumer recommended a tie of licensing and federal assistance to states for auto theft prevention. States with U.S. Justice Department-approved licensing programs would receive additional assistance for U.S. Justice Department offices in those states for the prevention of auto theft. ASA believes that interest in licensing will continue to grow in the states over the next few years.
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