New Jersey shop owners who are certified state inspection stations were recently required to spend approximately $12,000 on new equipment and training. Now, the state has decided to eliminate vehicle inspections starting July 1.
Below is the article as it appeared on the NJ.com website.
N.J. auto repair shops steamed after buying expensive equipment as state dumps inspection rule
By Mike Frassinelli/The Star-Ledger
May 09, 2010, 9:40PM
TRENTON If state officials did an inspection of New Jersey’s automotive repair shops, they would find overheating, blown gaskets and short fuses.
And that’s just the shop owners.
The operators are steamed that they had to install expensive equipment a month ago only to learn the state is eliminating motor vehicle inspections for mechanical defects beginning July 1.
Many repair shops are certified state inspection stations that also provide emissions testing for vehicles. The owners say mechanical repairs are their bread and butter because drivers whose vehicles fail inspection tend to have repairs done at their shops.
Had they known the mechanical inspections would be dropped, the owners say, they would have never spent $12,000 on emissions equipment and training to remain an inspection station.
"They went and sold us this machine, and now they pulled the rug out from underneath us that isn’t fair," said Bob Herburger, manager of Advantage Auto Repair in Randolph. "Had all your garages had the information they have now, how many would actually have bought the machine and stayed on board? Because I know we wouldn’t have."
State officials say phasing out the mechanical inspections will save nearly $12 million a year and make New Jersey one of 30 states that don’t perform them. Neighboring New York and Pennsylvania still do them.
Repair shop operators in business more than a decade still haven’t forgotten spending $70,000 for emissions machinery in 1999 including a dynamometer with tire rollers to simulate driving conditions that ended up being obsolete only a few years later.
"They just keep changing their minds," said Abbot Affaf, who owns a pair of Good Guys Garage locations in Dover.
With the state facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, officials say they can no longer justify paying $12 million a year for the mechanical inspections. It’s a program that results in a rejection rate of less than 6 percent for "serious" defects such as those related to brakes, steering or suspension. The overall re-inspection rate is nearly 17 percent.
In addition, there has been no conclusive evidence that eliminating mechanical inspections would lead to more traffic accidents, Motor Vehicle Commission chief administrator Raymond Martinez said.
Federal mandates still require vehicles to be tested for emissions. But instead of vehicles 4 years old or newer being exempt from emissions testing, the exemption will be extended to vehicles 5 years old or newer, a move expected to save about $5.9 million. Vehicles older than 5 would still have to be tested for emissions every two years.
MVC spokesman Mike Horan said he understood the complaints of repair shop operators, but given the state’s budget climate, hard choices had to be made.
"When you look at the facts, it’s not backing up that these mechanical inspections are worth the nearly $12 million we’re putting out there," he said.
Horan also said the new emissions equipment, which could be bought for as low as $8,500, allows more shops to become inspection stations.
Aside from the loss of business, repair shop operators said they fear for the safety of vehicles in America’s most congested state. As long as a vehicle passes the emissions test, the shop owners say, they will have to green-light it, regardless of its physical condition.
"You come in with broken windows all over the place, you come in with your side mirrors knocked off," said Steven Seidor, co-owner of Advantage Auto Repair and also of Interstate Car Care in Hackettstown. "You come in with no taillights, no tie rods, no rack, no brakes, nothing. You roll this thing in here on its last wing and a prayer, putting, smoking, dying. As long as the ‘check engine’ light is not on, I’ve got to put a sticker on there."
Seidor said he is not confident all drivers will be vigilant about self-policing their vehicles. When some customers are shown their dirty air filter, they ask: "Can’t you just blow it out or something?" They don’t realize that would only blow the grease to the outside of the filter.
The state conducts more than 1.92 million initial inspections a year and pays for all of them. Drivers pay only if they fail the inspections and have to get repairs done.
To read this article on the NJ.com website, visit http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2010/05/nj_auto_repair_shops_steamed_a.html.