State Limits on Car Inspection Stations Under Fire

2:57 PM, Feb 21, 2012   |    comments
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By Sarah Bradshaw Poughkeepsie Journal

A recent state agency regulation restricting how many garages can do vehicle inspections has angered some local mechanics.

When Pat Maisch was figuring out his business plan for his auto repair shop, he estimated 25 percent of his revenue would come from vehicle inspections and subsequent repairs if vehicles failed inspections.

He was unaware of a New York State Department of Motor Vehicles regulation that placed a cap on safety and emissions inspection stations. The regulation became effective in July, a month before he opened his shop.

There were 210 DMV-licensed stations in Dutchess County at the end of last year, according to the motor vehicle department's most recent statistics. The DMV set the cap at 177 stations in the county, which means as stations here close, new licenses won't be issued until the number of stations drops below 176.

Newly-established car dealerships are exempt.

DMV spokesman Nicholas Cantiello said the cap on inspection stations is a cost-saving measure for the state and taxpayers, and protects the station operators from too much competition. He said the DMV has to audit every station to make sure owners adhere to federal and state laws, and audits are expensive, although he couldn't give a dollar figure per audit. "To do the job properly, if we kept adding more and more stations, we would require more audits, more staff," he said. If the DMV doesn't properly police stations, he said the state could lose federal grant money.

Maisch, owner of 9D Auto Repair and Diagnostics in the Town of Wappinger, said the regulation hurts new businesses by giving repair shops with licenses an unfair advantage.

He said his customers have to get their vehicles inspected at other repair shops.

If they fail the inspection and the current inspection sticker is expired, it's against the law for the customer to drive that vehicle to Maisch's shop for repairs.

He said he has turned away about two requests for inspections each day for a total of 50 since he opened in August.

"We make $15 off the inspection, but ... they may need $1,000 worth of repair work to pass," the 26-year-old auto mechanic said. "I cringe every time someone comes in here and I say I can't do an inspection."

Cantiello said the DMV determined how many stations were needed based on the number of vehicles registered in each county.

For Dutchess, that number was 33 fewer than what the county has. He said too many stations would saturate the marketplace and hurt current licensees.

Current licensee and Poughkeepsie mechanic Bob Gorman, president of Gorman's Garage, said there is enough inspection business to go around.

"I think that's ridiculous, to prevent small businesses from expanding and servicing the public," he said. "In this business climate, anyone who wants to perform an inspection, who has the proper equipment, should be able to do it."

As of January, the DMV was only accepting new license applications for Putnam, Richmond and Saratoga counties. Everyone else wanting a license is put on a waiting list.

Charles North, president and CEO of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the state should not limit entrepreneurship.

"The state is not being fair and equitable," North said. "We are trying to promote business expansion and encourage new businesses, and now the state says, 'Well we have too many people in your business.' Where did the system of free enterprise go?"

Cantiello said there are more than 11,000 inspection stations in the state. The stations average five inspections per day.

"A neighboring state like Massachusetts, which also has a cap, averages 10 inspections per day," he said. Also, Cantiello said about 45 percent of auto repair shops do not do inspections.

"You can be a successful repair shop without doing inspections," he said.

It costs $125 to apply for a license. The fee is $100 to renew the license every two years.

Maisch said he's turned away "thousands of dollars" of business. He said he'd pay a higher licensing fee to cover the cost of audits.

With the inspection license, he said, "We can generate more business, we'd pay more taxes, we'd have more work here and we'd be able to hire another worker. Taking someone off unemployment benefits, that's saving the state money, too."

 

By Sarah Bradshaw Poughkeepsie Journal

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