Benefits of New Shop Requirements
Texas and Nevada recently considered licensing requirements for body shops. How would this benefit the industry?
In 1974, the State of Michigan enacted Public Act 300, which required state licensing for repair facilities and mechanical technicians. Initially designed for mechanical repair facilities, licensing became required for portions of the collision industry in the early 1990s. Two categories became a requirement: Unibody and Structural Repair and Collision Related Mechanical. Although not flawless, I feel it truly has assisted us in establishing standards. For example, many areas of opportunities arose for the industry when technicians were tested via questions from ASE and I-CAR, requiring that technicians know the theory and have practical knowledge of what they are doing.
The jurisdiction befell the Secretary of State’s Office under the Bureau of Regulatory Services, allowing the bureau to act on behalf of complaints from consumers against repair facilities. The bureau is empowered to escalate enforcement to the level of closing a repair facility if needed, which in my opinion, although not perfect, renders credibility to the program and to the shops. It allows for an unbiased opinion between customers and repair facilities.
The unfortunate matter in this equation is the challenges our collision repair facilities face even with these laws. The state recognizes that all repair work performed in Michigan is a “contract” between the customer and the repair facility, however, insurance carriers also deal directly with the repair facility and in some instances, may not agree with the repair method that the repair facility has chosen, increasing stress levels among the customer, the repair facility and the carrier. For example, the law states that the person diagnosing structural damage must be licensed in the state, something not required of a person adjusting a claim. In addition, although Michigan currently is the only state that I am aware of requiring these licenses, compensation does not properly offset the training costs involved for these technicians in many cases — something that I feel caught the industry by surprise and therefore, probably “agreed upon” too quickly before defining requirements.
The importance of a technician’s ability to safely assess and perform proper repair procedures on a vehicle should never be taken lightly. As many of us know, deviation on any structural repair could drastically affect the supplemental restraint systems along with occupant protection, just to name a few. The ability to maintain the functionality and effectiveness of these components could be the difference between life and death, not just “looks like hell.”
The industry has been challenged with so many technical changes in the past decade, and predictions are that these changes will multiply and be expedited as we look for more fuel efficient, smaller, safer vehicles. I sure would want to know that the technician that worked on my vehicle has proven that he knew how to fix my car rather than “that’s how we used to fix it!” Much like the licenses that are required for electricians, plumbers, heating and cooling specialists, we too need to demonstrate ourselves as “licensed professionals” — validating our compensation in accordance.
Just like these trades, structural repair is just as dangerous to the end user if not properly performed. Since I am a firm believer in training, in my opinion, the only person that should worry about licensing is probably the person who maybe does not know how to properly perform structural repairs in the first place.
My family is worth these extra requirements, and I am sure that most of us feel the same way about our own families and those of our customers — a human life is priceless!
Ray Fisher is the president of ASA-Michigan. This article represents his opinion and does not reflect the views of ASA-Michigan.