Many automotive repair shop technicians are in favour of stricter MVIS standards. There are 20 million-plus vehicles on the road across the country today, and Ontario accounts for the majority of that number. The average age of a vehicle today is the highest it’s been in history, at 9.3 years, and the average number of kilometres driven during the lifespan of that vehicle is 320,000 km. These indicators mean Ontario drivers are keeping their vehicles longer, which means the likelihood of more vehicles on the road in need of repairs is greater. Most techs today would like to see a mandatory annual safety inspection for all vehicles. “When you look at so many provinces around us and the many states throughout the U.S. where they have annual mechanical inspections, that’s probably something we should have been doing here in Ontario a long time ago,” says Stephen Marple, owner of Today’s Automotive in Scarborough, Ontario. Angelo Fiorito, a licensed mechanic and sales manager for Paste Auto Parts based in north Toronto, agrees with Marple. “Many of the U.S. states have had annual inspections since the ’60s, where you go to a state-run area and they check your brakes, tread wear, wipers, lights, etc. I strongly believe that should be done here. Just think about how many sets or wipers are not being replaced, how many bald tires are on the road, how many worn brakes and ball joints are out there that need to be replaced, and certainly all the other problems that are related to automotive.” “I think it should be conducted along the lines of the Drive Clean program and be done every couple of years along with your license renewal. It can be expensive and it’s always the people who can’t afford it that pay, because they are the ones with the cars that are in disrepair, not the guy driving the 2010 BMW,” adds Marple. “It doesn’t have to be done at the provincial level. It can be done at the technician level, so anybody who is certified can do the inspection,” adds Fiorito. Ontario Minister of Transportation Glen Murray recently introduced the Keeping Roads Safe Act in an effort to reduce collisions, injuries, and fatalities in Ontario. In addition to addressing distracted driving, pedestrian and cyclist safety, alcohol impairment, unfit drivers, and truck, vehicle, and bus safety, the bill also addresses anti-lock braking systems, electronic stability control systems, and suspension components. While the new bill does not directly address vehicle safety standards, it speaks to the creation of a new framework for the vehicle safety inspection program (MVIS). Updates to the standards themselves are a separate, parallel effort that will move forward regardless of the success of the new bill. The bill proposes the following changes: Brakes: • The ABS (anti-lock braking system) is not required to function; however, the service brakes must not be adversely affected by an ABS that is not functioning properly. • ESC (electronic stability control) must function properly on all vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2011. Suspension: • Modern materials, such as composite springs, are now included. • Excessively changed vehicle height may invoke additional checks (e.g. four-wheel alignment). (It is important to note that consultations are still underway and that all items, including those mentioned above, are subject to approval and may not be included in the final version of the legislation). Stricter MVIS standards would translate into safer vehicles on our roads. “I do safety inspections for different shops in my area, and what I often find is that many technicians aren’t following the MVIS guidelines in the first place. I don’t think a lot of techs have actually read the regulations. Of course some of that comes down to the shop’s responsibility. For instance, in my shop I do all the certifications, so I think I look at it a little bit differently then maybe someone who just wants to get them through on a quicker basis,” explains Marple. “A lot of shops in our area will certify a car with ball joints and tie rods, etc., out of spec even though there is a strong specification on that in the certification manual. For instance, a ball joint tool that measures the play in a ball joint is required if you are a certified shop, and yet I have never seen one in use,” adds Fiorito. “The mechanical fitness of a car is a critical component of safe driving. For example, you could have a vehicle travelling down the road with a broken stabilizer bar. How can that driver properly handle driving on the highway and make a lane change at the average highway speed of 120 kilometres per hour if the stabilizer bar is not hooked up and the struts are worn out? When he makes a change at that speed on the highway, how does he bring it back into the lane?” asks Marple. “I’m sure anything the Ministry comes up with for tightening up inspections will only be for the better.” If passed, the proposed legislation would allow the motor vehicle safety inspection program to move to a contractual model and enable the procurement of a third-party contact administrator, while allowing the Ministry to retain overall accountability for the program. The MTO started updating the safety standards long before the bill was proposed, and will continue to work on the updates regardless of whether or not the bill is passed. The section of the bill related to safety standards would simply allow the outsourcing of the administration of the safety inspection program to a third party. Because the new third-party vendor will likely bring in a more tech-savvy electronic reporting system, it is felt that it is timely to move to an administration model while rolling out new standards. “If diagnostic equipment is required to conduct more stringent safety inspections, we have that option just like with the Drive Clean program. Each repair shop has to weigh the odds and take a look at their numbers and decide what works for them,” says Marple. The proposed standards for these categories are simply stricter standards that all MVIS shops will test to before giving a “safety” to a vehicle. MVIS inspection is only required at resale before a new person registers the vehicle, so the test itself remains the same, though the standard level will become stricter. The benefit to the consumer is that they will end up with a vehicle that in the long run is safer and more reliable, and they will likely spend less on major repairs because it has been maintained at a higher level. Higher standards will mean that some of the vehicles that just pass the current test will fail future safety tests and will require repairs to meet compliance standards. This of course is only true for vehicles being resold that require the safety test. Overall, any updates to the current MVIS standards will not affect the majority of vehicles, because the province of Ontario does not require regular safety inspections at this time. The AIA has stated that it is supportive of the new Act that will help bring about a modernized process for vehicle inspections in Ontario.