What systems should be inspected before a repaired total loss vehicle is legally returned to the road, and what guarantees are needed to make sure that an inspection has been properly done? The California Bureau of Auto Repair wants to know.
The question is part of BAR’s strategy for implementing AB 471, legislation signed last fall by Gov. Gavin Newsom that, among other things, institutes more stringent safety inspections for total loss vehicles that have been repaired and offered for sale.
Other parts of the law that BAR must implement include the creation of a three-member panel for informal review of automotive repair dealer (ARD) citations, recognition of professional education certificates on the ARD application, creation of a remedial training process for ARD citations and a requirement of ARD registration to charge storage fees.
BAR said it will plan more frequent regulatory workshops in 2022 to complete the regulatory development process as efficiently as possible. Notifications will be posted to BAR’s website, bar.ca.gov, and sent to those on BAR’s mailing list. Proposed regulation language and any other presentation materials will be posted to BAR’s website 10 calendar days in advance of a workshop.
Totaled vehicle inspection, certification
The law requires BAR to create a vehicle inspection and certification program by Jan. 1, 2024.
The regulations are to combine the current Lamp and Brake inspection programs into one program, allow BAR to add other vehicle systems for inspection, and move BAR from a paper to an electronic certificate of compliance for these inspections.
The legislation applies to all automotive repair dealers in California, including body shops, independents and new car dealers. Written by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Silicon Valley) and co-authored by Assemblymember Heath Flora (R-San Joaquin Valley), the bill was approved by the Assembly on Sept. 10, and signed into law by Newsom on Sept. 28.
“AB 471 is a very important piece of legislation for the repair industry, and the CAA was very supportive of the bill,” said Jack Molodanof, the head lobbyist for the California Autobody Association (CAA), at the time of its signing.
Until now, to be approved for use on public roads, repaired totaled vehicles have had to pass only a brake and lamp inspection and a smog check, and to be inspected by the California Highway Patrol to certify that there are no stolen parts on the vehicle.
At a Jan. 22 BAR Advisory Group (BAG) meeting, members issued their implementation strategy for the Vehicle Inspection Program, and other areas spelled out under AB 471. The document seeks feedback on the following questions:
- Beyond the brake and lamp inspection, what additional systems or items should be inspected as part of the Vehicle Safety Inspection?
- What process should BAR use to verify that the vehicle receiving the safety certification was inspected?
- How does BAR verify that the licensed inspector was the one who performed the safety inspection?
- What is the best way to transition from current brake and lamp station/adjuster licenses to new vehicle safety inspection licenses?
Comments and questions are to be directed to Mathew Gibson, Bureau of Automotive Repair, 10949 N. Mather Boulevard, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670, or firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone number is 916-403-8060. The deadline for comments had been Feb. 15, but has been extended to the end of the month.
Citation review program
The BAG also provided an update on the creation of an informal review process for shops cited by BAR through the (ARD) citation program, as required by AB 471.
ARDs with licensed smog check stations and those who are performing unlicensed repairs can be cited and fined by BAR. Previously, any appeals to those actions would be heard by a single BAR representative in an Informal Citation Conference (ICC) under Bureau regulations permitted by state law.
The new law expands the ICC process for ARDs that receive citations, and establishes a three-member panel to hear these informal appeals. The panel is to consist of one representative of the BAR, one from the general public and one from the automotive repair industry, all appointed by the BAR chief.
BAR has been working toward creating a citation program since January 2020, and held public workshops in April and July 2021 on proposed regulations.
Beyond the requirements of AB 471, a subgroup of the advisory group has been considering the need for additional enforcement options to address the areas of greatest concern to consumers and BAR. According to an Oct. 21 legislative and regulatory update, these business practices include:
- Untrue or misleading statements: 3,136 compliance issues identified in the investigation of complaints over a three year period, with 466 ARDs having repeated issues. These included false advertising, and recording labor not performed or parts not supplied.
- Gross negligence: 185 compliance issues identified over a three-year period, including five ARDs with repeated issues. The committee reported a need to further define the term, which might include deviation from a standard of care that could foreseeably result in injury or significant harm to the consumer, the consumer’s property, and/or the public.
- Accepted trade standards: 1,614 compliance issues identified over a three-year period, including 165 ARDs with repeated issues. Citations would focus on areas in which trade standards currently exist in BAR regulations, such as auto body repair and automatic transmission repair.
- Maintenance of records: 3,355 compliance issues identified over a three-year period, including 230 ARDs with repeated issues. These include equipment requirements for auto body repair shops, and referral fees for towing services.
The advisory group is considering minimum and maximum fine amounts, with BAR to consider the gravity of a violation, the good faith of a licensee, and a history of previous violations.
The group is seeking input from industry and other stakeholders, and will be holding regulatory workshops before finalizing its proposal.
Making shop certifications more visible
The working group reported that it will be developing regulations to make shop certifications more visible to consumers, as required by AB 471.
The group said the development of regulations will:
- Detail additional information required on the ARD application (e.g., email address)
- Create a process for BAR to accept and connect educational and professional certifications to BAR- issued ARD registrations
- Determine how to link all newly required information to BAR’s Auto Shop Locator
California law previously limited the amount of information that BAR could collect from ARDs. Under the new law, BAR is allowed to collect more information, including educational and training certifications that are nationally recognized and generally accepted by the auto repair industry (e.g., ASE, I-CAR and others), or any BAR-approved educational certificates.
This information will be collected voluntarily from the automotive repair dealers, and shared with consumers through the BAR Auto Shop Locator Program, a new mobile-friendly search tool that allows consumers to perform location-based searches for auto body shops and other automotive repair dealers.
The legislation states that repairers are to provide the information when they register with the BAR.
“The forms shall include any applicable nationally recognized and industry-accepted educational certifications and any bureau-approved educational certifications,” it states.
ARDs are required to renew their licenses annually.
Remedial training, provider certification
The advisory committee will be addressing AB 471’s requirements to create a remedial training program, which would prevent disclosure of an ARD citation for a violation BAR deems to be minor in nature. Disclosure would be prevented only once every 18 months.
BAR is also required to establish the required content for the remedial training course, and to develop a certification process for remedial training providers.
Before AB 471, all citations, including those for minor record keeping violations, have been a matter of public record, published on BAR’s website.
Lien authority for storage fees
AB 471 modified existing state law to add a requirement that ARDs have a valid registration in order to charge storage fees, in accordance with other applicable laws.
The advisory group notes that, since the 2018 passage of AB 2392, BAR has provided guidance to the automotive industry on storage fees on a number of occasions. These include an October 2018 BAG presentation, “Storage/Towing Fees and Lien Sales;” the article “Storage Fees and Lien Sales” in its spring 2019 newsletter; and an October 2021 workshop on proposed changes to the storage fee reglations.
Featured image: Highway traffic in Los Angeles. (peeterv/iStock)