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Garages dealing with glitches of new vehicle inspection technology

The changes are designed to limit fraud

  • John Richi, who owns Pro Lube Auto Center in Northampton, talks about the new vehicle inspection equipment upgrade, Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Wayne Blanchette places a sticker after inspecting a car, Saturday at Ernie’s Garage in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Steven Amlaw talks about the vehicle inspection equipment upgrade Saturday at Cahillane Auto Body and Towing in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ernie Booth talks about the vehicle inspection equipment upgrade Saturday at Ernie’s Garage in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Luis Flores places a sticker after an inspection, Saturday at Pro Lube in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Richi, from left, Hector Arroyo and Luis Flores handle a problem while printing a sticker from the new vehicle inspection equipment, Saturday at Pro Lube in Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@RebeccaMMullen
Saturday, October 07, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — Despite hitting a few potholes in using a new system for vehicle inspections designed to cut down on fraud, local garage owners say they are adjusting to the technology in the week since it went live.

John Richi, who has owned Pro Lube on Pleasant Street in Northampton for 27 years, said his shop experienced some computer glitches in the first few days following the Oct. 1 launch of the updated inspection system by the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles. But those have since been resolved.

“The inspectors have an adjustment,” Richi said Saturday from his shop. “But by the end of the week they got pretty quick almost back to the normal speed.”

Local garage owners interviewed gave mixed reviews of the new vehicle inspection technology. Starting Oct. 1, every car repair shop, auto center and service station that wished to perform inspections was required to spend $5,710 on a new computer system.

The manufacturer, Applus, a Spanish technology company, signed a five-year contract with the state RMV for about $29 million.

The new setup includes cameras that photograph the front and back of the car as well as its odometer and vehicle identification number to ensure that the inspection is completed correctly. Cameras installed at the workspace also film the inspection.

Another noticeable change is the inspection stickers. They are now printed in vinyl instead of plastic.

Richi said he had heard stories of inspection fraud and hopes that the photo requirement and cameras will make it harder for inspectors to cheat state standards.

“You could slip someone $100 and they’d give you a state inspection sticker,” he said.

Many news outlets reported delays and computer bugs in the first week of the month. The state Department of Transportation reported that, in the first few days, 364 of 1,347 stations were unable to complete inspections.

Ernie Booth, who owns Ernie’s Garage on King Street in Northampton, said he and his employees have found the system difficult to use. On the first day, the sticker printer malfunctioned, then the camera ran out of batteries overnight. The computer system is also confusing, he said.

“We’re not all college-educated people, we don’t know about computers,” said Booth, who has owned his garage for 50 years.

He wishes that there had been more training opportunities before the new system was mandated. Earlier in the fall, there was a mandatory workshop in Springfield for vehicle inspectors but it was only two hours long, and not very comprehensive, he said.

“Someone should come and show these guys exactly what it’s all about,” Booth said of his employees.

His frustration was further compounded when, after the sticker printer jammed on the first day, he tried to contact the manufacturer on the phone. He was directed to a confusing menu and then put on hold.

“Five minutes don’t seem like much, but it is if you’ve got a line of cars waiting for a sticker,” Booth said.

It costs a motorist $35 to get a state inspection. Of that, the inspection station keeps $23.50, according to the state RMV. If the inspections take longer with this new technology, that could mean a loss of revenue for the garage.

For at least one garage, the transition went off without a hitch. Steven Amlaw, inspector at Cahillane Auto Body and Towing on Damon Road, said he found the computer system easy to use and did not have any issues with the other components.

“I’m not a computer tech guy but I was able to figure out the whole thing and get it going,” he said. “I just don’t understand why everyone else had problems and we had zero.”