Back in 1990, we were all overwhelmed by the reunification of Germany, something we Baby Boomers hadn’t seen in our lifetime. It was also an important year in the Internet’s early history: The first web server was created, setting the foundation of the World Wide Web. Looking at the technology of today, it is apparent that much has happened in the past quarter century.
That level of change has also affected our industry as well. In 1990, we were just beginning to see the beginning of the burgeoning light truck market – including SUVs, pickups and minivans. As we entered the 1990s, front-wheel drive became the standard drive system, and disc brakes, fuel injection, electronic engine control units, and electronic ignition were becoming staples in our various parts inventories.
At the same time, gasoline was around $1.30 a gallon, while the average age of vehicles on our nation’s roads and highways was 7.7 years. Gas prices currently average around $3.35 per gallon — down from the $4.00 level not that long ago.
The point of the matter is clear: The world has changed dramatically over the last quarter century. And that only is reason enough to support the Government Accountability Office’s decision to initiate an update of its 1990 study, “NHTSA Should Resume its Support of State Periodic Inspection Programs,” at the request of Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), thanks to the advocacy efforts of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA).
“The original GAO report issued in 1990 provided valuable information and recommendations. However, the characteristics of our nation’s vehicles and drivers have changed over the past 25 years,” said Steve Handschuh, president and CEO of MEMA. “We are very pleased that the GAO has chosen to review this report and thank Senator McCaskill for her efforts.”
In her request for the study’s update, Sen. McCaskill specifically called on the GAO to address three crucial areas:
• The costs and benefits of state vehicle inspection programs;
• The potential challenges posed by advanced technology in today’s vehicles; and
• Any actions taken by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the states to improve inspection programs, and recommendations for future NHTSA actions.
Ann Wilson, MEMA senior vice president of government affairs, said the association is gratified that McCaskill included these points in her request, “which will be key to identifying the efficacy of state inspection programs in increasing the safety of our nation’s vehicles and the safety of everyone traveling the roads today.”
Vehicle inspection programs are truly a win-win for all involved. First and foremost, vehicle inspections keep our roadways safe, and this is especially imperative with a vehicle fleet that is at a record age. Many of a vehicle’s safety-related components are wear-related parts, and need to be repaired or replaced before failure not only jeopardizes the vehicle operator but all the other vehicles and pedestrians that could be involved in such a failure.
“If not properly maintained and regularly inspected, motorists may be unaware of potential safety risks, particularly as vehicles get older,” said Bill Long, president and chief operating officer of the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA), the light vehicle aftermarket division of MEMA, of the decision.
And, for our industry, these types of vehicle inspections get marginal vehicles into the shop when they need service, keeping vehicle owners responsible for the proper service and maintenance needed for today’s vehicles. These inspections can actually save car owners money over the long run, making the repair simpler and less costly while keeping the resale value of the vehicle higher.
Kudos to Sen. McCaskill and MEMA for advocating this much-needed study update.
Gary A. Molinaro