State seeks online system for motor vehicle inspections

The state is moving ahead with plans to collect all vehicle inspection data online. Photo by Tom Brown/VTDigger

The state is moving ahead with plans to collect all vehicle inspection data online. Photo by Tom Brown/VTDigger

Ink and paper might soon become a faint memory for Vermont auto technicians who conduct state inspections.

The Administrative Rules Committee gave the Department of Motor Vehicles the go-ahead Thursday to seek bids for a software system that will collect state inspection data online.

But it could be up to two years before the new software is in place, and paper forms are no longer needed.

“I think it will be much more efficient,” said Drew Bloom, chief inspector at the Department of Motor Vehicles after the ruling. “If we would build a system today, we would never look to paper and pen.”

In the meeting, Bloom argued that paperwork takes a long time for inspectors and that Vermont is one of the last states in the country to adopt such a system. In all, 48 states have systems that collect inspection data electronically.

The next step is to make a request for proposal (RFP), a detailed request for bids to create the system design to send out to vendors, said Joanne Bilodeau, project manager at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The department hopes to have the new system in place within two years, but doesn’t have estimates on the cost.

Vehicle safety inspections are mandatory for Vermont cars every 12 months and can only be performed by authorized inspection managers.

Inspection providers have mixed feelings about the idea and some believe the electronic system will take longer to submit than the current paper form.

David Pearson at Green Mountain HD in Essex Junction is one of them.

“What once took a moment is going to take much longer,” he said. “The time and effort will probably double, and in a service shop we deal with efficiency.”

He describes a scenario where, instead of making notes on a paper form next to the car, he would have to walk back and forth to a computer.

Other vendors welcome the change.

Robert Clayton, a mechanic at Bob Sunoco’s in Montpelier, thinks the system is a way to stop fraud in the annual inspection business.

“There are way too many cars having a sticker,” he said. “Anyone could fake a note made on a piece of paper, but this way you can’t cheat the system.”

During the Thursday rules meeting, government officials also discussed the advantage for customers who would be able to see their inspection report online or have it sent to them by email.

Vermont inspectors are free to charge whatever they want, either a flat rate or an hourly rate for the work. An inspection should take 40 to 45 minutes, Bloom said. It takes about about 10 minutes to fill out the inspection report by hand, Clayton said.

Stations will not pay an additional fee to file into a new system, but they might have to buy or lease new computer equipment, depending on the requirements of the software.

“We made a trip to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles in New Hampshire, and the Vermont system might come to look very much like theirs,” Bilodeau said.

Comments

  1. Connie Godin :

    It’s been over 10 years since DMV started the “modernization” program. If they do as well on this it will cost a fortune and be ready about 2020 or after.

  2. Jay Johnson :

    According to the article, Drew Bloom, chief inspector at the Department of Motor Vehicles after the ruling Vermont is one of the last states in the country to adopt such a system, saying 48 states have systems that collect inspection data electronically.

    I’m pretty sure this can’t be true, or at least is widely misleading. There are a lot more than 2 states that don’t require an inspection.

  3. Moshe Braner :

    I can see it now: “Sorry, we can’t inspect your car now, the the network is down”. Call that progress?

  4. Peter Liston :

    They should do away with inspections. There really is no point.

    Fine people who run unsafe cars on the road. But eliminate the yearly inspection.

    • Lee Stirling :

      There is a huge point to annual safety inspections…that point being revenue. How much would the Transportation Fund suffer if fees for State Inspections weren’t part of the mix? Also, there is a safety aspect to it (as Dan Lunneau notes below)

      • Peter Liston :

        I’d be happy to pay higher registration fee, which would offset the revenue issue for the state.

        As for the safety issue, if a person is caught driving faulty equipment, they should be fined by the police and fined heavily.

        Only 14 states require an annual inspection. Others require a bi-annual inspection or an inspection when a vehicle is newly registered. This is more logical and less regressive.

  5. Dan Luneau :

    Annual vehicle inspections are a critical element of Vermont”s ongoing attempt to insure that the vehicles on our roads are as safe as possible. That said, it is my opinion that it would be extremely beneficial to bring the administrative element of the inspection program into the twenty first century. I have operated an official Vermont inspection since 1973 and currently we administer the program the same as we did when I started.
    Bringing the program on line would open up many possibilities to enhance the process. One example comes to mind; one station flunks a car because the tires do not meet the minimum standard and the customer chooses not to buy new tires. That is certainly the customers perogative but instead of going out to shop for the best price for tires he instead finds a shop that will overlook the substandard tires and pass the vehicle and install a new sticker which allows said vehicle to operate on the same roads you and I and our families use every day. If we had software that was designed correctly, the station that flunked the vehicle could immediately flag the vehicle in question for having bad tires and any future stations would have to specifically address this problem before passing said vehicle.
    The next time your on I89 with your family going nearly seventy miles and a car passes, give some thought to what condition that car is really in. Most people will do the right thing but it only takes once to cause an avoidable situation that we pay dearly for.
    We have witnessed this scenario unfold too mant time during my time in this business and as a result, I support moving forward with this program.

    Dan Luneau
    Handy Toyota

    • Peter Liston :

      Yep. The inspection system is a huge boon to the car dealers and the auto mechanics. For everyone else, it’s nothing more than a tax.

      Drop the annual inspections. Require them only when a car is being registered with a new owner.

      If someone is found on the roads with faulty or unsafe equipment, fine them up the wazoo.

      • Dan Carver :

        Two points:
        Finig is not a deterent. If folks can’t afford/choose to keep their cars in good repair, then they aren’t going to pay a fine. Look at our DUI system, folks loose their licenses, multiple times (I think the record is 8) and still get in a car and drive. It only becomes a real issue when they finally kill someone, then a short period of time in jail.

        Secondly, in the grand spectrum of shops performing inspections, there may be some who do use the inspection as an opportunity to sell goods and services to pass a vehicle. And to Dan’s point, some will pass a failing vehicle and pocket the revenue–maybe more than the state rate. You are going to have the good, the bad, and the ugly and laws without real teeth do not keep law abiders safe from the out-laws.

        A week or two in “the stocks” in the town square would be a grand improvement.

        • Peter Liston :

          If fines don’t deter people from breaking the law, they aren’t going to deter people from driving an uninspected vehicle.

          I agree about the stocks.

  6. David Dempsey :

    There are only 17 states in the US that require vehicle registrations currently and recent trends show that the number of states requiring them has been decreasing steadily. The state should take this opportunity to drop vehicle registration to save the taxpayers a small fortune to administer the process and before spending millions on new software. Current registration policies say that if your car has a feature , it has to work. My neighbors car failed inspectionat the end of June because his tire pressure monitor didn’t work. The repair is expensive and he borrowed money from me to get it fixed. With the 4th of July coming, he couldn’t get it fixed until Monday the 8th of July, 8 days after is appointment to fix the registration ran out. I let him use my car when he needed it. If your car doesn’t have a tire monitor, no problem. It can be a real problem for people that can’t afford the fix before the registration runs out, and the problem has nothing to do with how the car runs. Whats wrong with a tire gauge. I have 2 friends who have their own repair shops and they both say it is a not worth the small profits they make for doing them because they say its a hassle and they have to spend so much money upfront to buy the stickers. Vermont needs to join the 31 and growing states that don’t require registrations. It would also give the police a valid reason to stop a vehicle to check for other violations.

  7. rosemarie jackowski :

    This might be a good idea, by my gut reaction says otherwise.

    Maybe I am cynical because recently I paid $500 for a simple oil change for a car with 37,000 miles on it. The car dealer’s mechanic stripped the plug and so the oil pan had to be replaced. No recourse. Even a friend on the Select Board unsuccessfully tried to intervene.

    If something can go wrong, it will. Sometimes simple is better. A broken pencil is easier to fix than an entire computer system. Who is making money on this????????????

    • John Jacobs :

      If a merchant destroys your property and won’t fix it, your recourse is to sue them in small claims court.

      • rosemarie jackowski :

        John…the auto dealer had tons of money and lawyers. I was just one consumer. I did not have money for ‘expert’ witnesses to prove that it was not a manufacturing defect etc.

        Other car owners told me that they also had the same experience at that dealer, but ALL of them were afraid to testify. A BBB might have helped, but there is none here. I considered putting a statement up on Angie’s List, but this is a small town, and retaliation would be sure to follow.

  8. Viola Gad :

    That’s right, not all states require motor vehicle inspections.
    Some states, however, only require motor vehicle safety inspection or emission inspections for certain counties. Drew Bloom’s refers to data from the American Association of Motor Vehicles that shows that 48 states (even if some is for emission and some is for safety or both, and in some cases just a county in that state), collect their data electronically.

    /Viola

  9. rosemarie jackowski :

    The greater threat to highway safety is distracted driving – texting – even cell phones that are not hand held are a safety hazard. Remember when busses had a sign that said: “Do not talk to driver while bus is in motion.”

    I was nearly killed by a distracted driver, driving a State of VT dump truck. According to witness statements, he was distracted by pretty girls in shorts on the side of the road.

    Unsafe cars are not at the top of the list. Unsafe drivers are.

  10. Of course it’s a good idea — “ideas” are rarely the problem with government, though.

    Few phrases more terrifying than “seek bids for a software system.” Vermont hasn’t had a lot of luck with that approach…yet.

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