New vehicle inspection format goes live March 20

 

vehicle inspection
Vermont’s new vehicle inspection format has its pros and cons.
Photo by Julia Purdy

REGION – On March 20, paper-and-pencil vehicle inspections will be a thing of the past. All inspection stations are required to be online with the new Automated Vehicle Inspection Program (AVIP), or stop doing inspections.

Jen Pittsley, information technology project manager at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, said the impetus behind the change is threefold. Going paperless will increase administrative efficiency. Electronic reporting will also prevent “sticker shopping,” although it’s not known to what extent that occurs. Finally, the state will be able to collect data for the first time on actual vehicle condition and emissions levels.

Pittsley said the inspection does not check for anything new, and the pass-fail criteria are still the same. Inspection fees are not dictated by the state or the system’s vendor.

There are some advantages to consumers. Prospective buyers will be able to check the inspection history of a particular vehicle and find out about recalls through the AVIP public portal. The data and photographic documentation go to a central server and the customer gets a detailed printout.

The system is installed by Parsons Corp., a national engineering firm that developed the software. It uses Wi-Fi, although the State of Vermont required that the vendor be able to serve dial-up customers. No one with dial-up has come forward, according to Pittsley.

The cost to the stations is not negligible and smaller shops may have to decide whether to stay in the inspection business or lose the extra income it brings in.

The equipment – tablet, scan tool, printer and router – costs $1,624.26 plus tax and can be paid in installments with interest. In addition, Parsons collects $2.21 for each inspection, and the fee is withdrawn directly from the business’s bank account.

Tom Potvin, who owns Potvin’s North Hill in Ludlow and has been using the equipment for a month, calculates the electricity usage as well, since the components must stay plugged in, in the shop. He is also concerned about the risk of theft and extra cost for insurance.

John Avery, service manager at Benson’s in Ludlow, has been using the system for a couple of weeks and is comfortable with it. But he admits that some repairs may be outside the customer’s immediate budget. Avery plans to raise his fee by “$20 at the most. I’ll try to keep it in the $50 range.” He said it isn’t a moneymaker for him; he just wants to make sure vehicles are safe.

Donna Eaholtz, office manager at P&M Auto Sales in Springfield, said it’s too soon to tell the impact of the program but she is satisfied that “People won’t be able to sticker shop anymore. … These mechanics, their name is going on those, they’re personally liable,” she said.

Potvin said he’ll charge $60 if it passes, but “I don’t feel I should charge a failed inspection at $60 and make them lose their money if they can’t get it fixed in 30 days. Some shops charge a single fee up front, pass or fail,” he added.

As for the impact on his operation, Potvin is less than enchanted. He said that even though he took a crash course last month, “almost every inspection I do I have to call them up, there’s always some kind of glitch” and tech support is not available evenings or Sundays. His first inspection took an hour and a half. It’s frustrating because the grace period ends March 20 and for every inspection he has to do over, $2.21 will be deducted from his bank account. Connectivity can also be a problem for those without Wi-Fi or DSL, he observed. He had to run a 200 ft. wire from the house.

Will it be worth it? “Moneywise, yes … as far as brain-wise, I don’t know,” he said with a laugh. He’s doing inspections and is halfway to paying off the new equipment. His regulars are sticking with him, but he knows people are calling around for the best price.

 

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