Why We Support State Vehicle Inspection Programs

Policy proposal presents opportunity for safety improvements.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) has prioritized the task of urging states to adopt periodic motor vehicle safety inspection programs in its policy objectives. This action has included annual events on the subject at ASA’s NACE | CARS show and in state forums, as well as efforts to protect existing state vehicle safety inspection programs. But with the recent loss of Mississippi’s safety inspection program, such programs remain in effect in just 16 states.

At one time, state vehicle safety inspection programs were tied to federal highway dollars. Although major federal transportation authorization legislation still has a vehicle safety component, it does not include incentives for them now.

Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the U.S. House of Representative’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, recently led a Pennsylvania Roadshow to call attention to the federal-state infrastructure partnership and the importance of Congress passing a long-term surface transportation bill. Members of the House Transportation Committee and state transportation department officials from across the nation participated in the event. Federal transportation funding runs out May 31, 2015, and members of Congress are scrambling to get legislation prepared to move forward.

Last year, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., requested that the Government Accountability Office update its 1990 report titled, “NHTSA Should Resume its Support of State Periodic Inspection Programs.” And a number of congressional representatives have shown interest in having state inspection programs play a larger role in national vehicle safety policy.

In fact, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx recently submitted the administration’s proposed six-year surface transportation reauthorization proposal: “Grow America.” It contains numerous vehicle safety provisions, including a pilot program discussed at ASA’s Pennsylvania Vehicle Inspection Forum last year in Philadelphia that would involve states informing consumers of motor vehicle recalls at the time of motor vehicle registration. You can find details of the proposal at www.dot.gov/grow-america.

The following language is included in the administration’s transportation legislation:
“(a) IN GENERAL — The Secretary shall conduct a pilot program to evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of a State process for informing consumers of open motor vehicle recalls at the time of motor vehicle registration in the State.
“(b) GRANTS — To carry out this program, the Secretary may make a grant to a State that agrees to comply with the requirements of this section. Funds made available to a State shall be used for the project described in this section.
“(c) ELIGIBILITY ”— To be eligible for a grant, a State shall submit an application in which it agrees to notify, at the time of registration, each owner or lessee of a motor vehicle presented for registration in the State of any open recall on that vehicle, and provide such other information as the Secretary may require.
“(d) AWARD — In selecting an applicant for award under this section, the Secretary shall consider the State’s methodology for determining open recalls on a motor vehicle and for informing consumers of such open recalls.
“(e) PERFORMANCE PERIOD — A grant awarded under this section shall require a two- year performance period.
“(f) REPORT — Not later than 90 days after completion of performance under the grant, the grantee shall provide to the Secretary a report of performance containing such information as the Secretary may require.
“(g) EVALUATION — One year after expiration of the grant under this section, the Secretary shall evaluate the extent to which open recalls identified under subsection (c) have been remedied.
“(h) FUNDING — Notwithstanding the apportionment formula set forth in 23 U.S.C. 402(c)(2), up to $2,000,000 of the amounts made available for apportionment to the States for highway safety programs under 23 U.S.C 402(c) in fiscal year 2017 shall be available for grants under subsection (b).
“(i) DEFINITIONS — In this section:
“(1) “Motor vehicle” has the meaning such term had under Section 30102 (a)(6) of title 49, United States Code.
“(2) “Open recall” means a recall for which a notification by a manufacturer is required under Section 30118 of title 49, United States Code and that has not been remedied under section 30120 of title 49, United States Code.
“(3) ‘Registration’ means the process for registering vehicles for use in the State.
“(4) ‘State’ has the meaning such term has under Section 101(a) of title 23, United States Code.”
At the ASA’s Pennsylvania program, repairers discussed the possibility of vehicle owners being informed of recalls at the time of their vehicle safety inspection.

The House Transportation Committee has held several hearings on transportation reauthorization. It is anticipated that other committees will have input on the legislation when it begins to progress. The Senate has also seen several hearings on transportation reauthorization in the Senate Commerce Committee chaired by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

The U.S. DOT has released “Beyond Traffic 2045,” described as “a draft framework for the future. It’s not prescriptive. It does not advocate for specific policy solutions. Rather, it underscores critical decision points facing the country, by means of data-driven analysis, research, expert opinions and public engagement.”

Demographic trends, technological advances and improvements to traffic safety enforcement, education and engineering are likely to lead to continued safety improvements in the next 30 years. As our population grows more urban, more driving likely will take place on safer roads at slower speeds. Stronger restrictions on youth driving and an overall aging of our population may contribute to reduced incidents of reckless driving. Continued education and enforcement efforts will be needed in the future as issues such as distracted driving threaten the safety of our roadways.

Advances in automation and connected vehicle technology likely will contribute to sustained improvements in safety. Safety features including airbags, antilock braking systems, electronic stability control, rearview and blind-spot cameras, lane departure warnings and adaptive cruise control have made vehicles much safer. The introduction of automated features and connected vehicle systems likely will lead to substantial improvements in safety in the near future.

ASA leaders were in Washington, D.C., this spring and planned to discuss vehicle safety inspection with congressional leaders. To view more on vehicle safety legislation and related items, please go to ASA’s legislative website www.TakingtheHill.com.