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.

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