Auto Service World
Feature   January 1, 2001   by Auto Service World


Sometimes things take an awful lot longer than you might think. Then, just when you think the possibility of success seems as improbable as a capitalist in the Kremlin, hope is rekindled.

Two examples come to mind immediately: the Tool Tax issue, and what we used to call P.M.V.I., or Periodic Motor Vehicle Inspection.

The first issue has been fought for the past two decades at least, mostly with Jobber News’ sister publication Service Station and Garage Management and industry groups like the Canadian Automotive Repair and Service (C.A.R.S.) council at the forefront. Several bills have been introduced in the interim, and every time they died before becoming law.

But, through it all, there were many groups who kept working on it, who kept moving behind the scenes to rectify what everyone in the aftermarket must truly believe is an inequitable situation. There was always support in the field for the initiative, but a pall had fallen over the hope for success. A tech who was working on my race car a decade ago told me that he’d sign any tool tax petition that came to his attention –there had been several–but he didn’t believe it was going to make any difference.

Yet, here we are 10 years later, and it seems like there is some real hope that the years of discussions may yet bear results. Let’s hope this is true. It has been a long road–not as long a road as that traveled by the issue of vehicle inspections, though.

While we are all aware of safety inspections taken at the time of resale, most of us have never had to deal with having our vehicle inspected at all in the interim. While there is a general fitness inspection performed prior to the dyno-based emissions testing of Ontario’s Drive Clean, it’s really a sad substitute for proper safety inspections. The issue has been fought at the provincial level for years, trying to get them to understand that the issue of vehicle inspections isn’t just a self-serving platform of the people who stand to gain by bringing the cars on the road up to snuff; that it is really about the impact that poorly maintained cars have on the environment and on the safety of the public. For years, this fell on deaf ears.

At least one of the problems was that there was little or no statistical correlation between vehicle condition and collisions. Police, who make the reports, focus on human factors. One of the favorites is “following too closely.” Rarely is any mention made of a malfunctioning brake system, seriously out of spec alignment or springs and shocks so worn the tires barely touch the road. The prevailing view seems to be that the vehicle is just along for the ride. Thankfully, this appears to be changing, if just a little.

Buoyed by concerns over the condition of heavy-duty vehicles, the transportation authorities began thinking about more than just drivers. Then, with truckers rightfully claiming that they were being singled out and that cars aren’t all in pristine condition, the police in at least two jurisdictions began conducting passenger car inspections.

In Calgary, police began inspecting vehicles prior to the winter season as a way to reduce collisions, targeting vehicles for everything from worn wiper blades to bald tires and broken lights.

In Toronto, hundreds of cars were pulled over in an inspection during a blitz. There was a truly amazing rogue’s gallery of rolling disasters. I think my favorite was the car with a rope threaded through two holes so that the driver could operate the windshield wipers!

Sure, the police targeted the worst vehicles, the super clunkers that only scratch the surface–the bottom surface–but it’s a start.

The evidence that there is at least the possibility of a change in the heretofore-exclusive focus on driver training as the arbiter of collision stats is there. It has taken a long time to get to this point, and there’s still a ways to go, but if there’s any lesson to be learned from this it is that we should never give up on the things we think are important for our industry and the motoring public.

We may not get what we want right away, or even ever, but if it’s important, we should keep trying. — Andrew Ross, Editor

P.S. I think you’ll find more than one capitalist in the Kremlin these days! I guess anything is possible.


Next month we’ll have insights into the Exhaust Market, Ride Control, Brakes, Wipers and more.

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