Public meetings begin in New Brunswick this week to determine the direction of the province’s annual vehicle safety inspection program.
Minister of transportation and infrastructure Claude Williams says the review was prompted by 400 responses to online survey this spring.
Speaking to delegates at the Automotive Industries Association of Canada’s Eastern Conference – held in Moncton last week – Williams said a series of town hall meetings, followed by a stakeholders’ meeting will help the government decide the direction of the safety inspection program.
“Our program has been in place since the late 1960s and has not changed much since that time,” he said. “As you well know, vehicle technology has changed, as has as our awareness and understanding of the environmental impact of cars, trucks and motorcycles.”
N.B. roads minister Claude Williams
Williams said the review process will look at the schedule for inspections, whether emission tests should be part of the program, and whether motorcycles should be subject to regular inspections. Currently, there are 1,500 inspection station licensees throughout the provinces who are allowed to charge a maximum of $25 for an annual safety inspection. Cars that pass are given a sticker. Those that do not pass must be repaired within a set period of time or risk being pulled from the road. Motorists found without a valid stickers are liable for fines.
Public consultations on the future of the program will be held tomorrow (Oct. 5) in Miramichi, Oct. 6 in Saint John, and Oct. 18 in Edmundston. There will also be a stakeholder meeting in Moncton.
The Department of Public Safety – which is responsible for the program – will consider comments at the meetings as well as email submissions, and responses to another online survey before recommending any changes to the program.
“We haven’t made any decisions on the matter at this time,” Williams said. “We first have to go through this process and get all that information and do a good analysis. We don’t want to prejudge the outcome. I think its important that everybody be part of the discussion and bring forward some ideas.”
Williams commended AIA for its ‘Be Car Care Aware’ public information campaign about the importance of regular vehicle maintenance.
“As you all know, well-maintained vehicles improve highway and road safety, and are better for the environment,” he said.
But repair shop owners, managers and technicians in Moncton, where the conference was held, said any move to make safety inspections biannual would undermine the provincial government’s stated commitment to safe roads.
Terry Macleod at Coast Tire
Terry Macleod, manager at Coast Tire on Rue St. Therese, said the review likely stems from consumer dissatisfaction about a program that is considered a nuisance, if not a money grab. The value, however, is indisputable.
“I’ve been in the trade for a while and I’ve seen a lot of junk disappear off the roads,” he said. “I can remember the days when cars came in with no floors, or with holes in the frame, and things like that. You don’t see that to the same extent anymore.”
He said the problem with going to a two-year program is all vehicle issues that can get progressively worse, to the point of being dangerous, in 24-months.
“We sometimes see new vehicles, less that two years old, still under warranty, with serious mechanical problems,” he pointed out. “If you’re driving a new car with the assumption that everything is fine, and there’s nothing to bring you in for an inspection, the potential is there for a real serious issue.”
Adam Perry, Wonder Auto Center on Cloverdale Road in Riverview, N.B., said he is a firm believer in annual safety inspections.
“Our kids are wives and our friends are on those roads,” he said. “ To me, it's more about peace of mind than anything else. A car cannot go two years without some sort of inspection. And this is not a matter of greed on the part of auto service providers. Honestly, there's no money to be made on a $25 inspection.”
If anything, he said, the current annual inspection should be made more rigorous. “I think we should be required to take that car on a road test to do a full inspection,” he said.
Other shop owners agreed, some saying they might accept the idea safety inspections every two years provided the tests were more thorough than the current ones.
Brian Pellerin, owner of Brian Pellerin’s Moncton Autopro, said New Brunswick’s climate makes annual inspections very important.
“Going to two years isn't good for anyone,” he said. “Maybe they can do it in the southern United States where the environment isn't as harsh as ours, where the roads aren't as beat up as ours. But around here we need it.”
He said the inspection, which takes about 45 minutes, routinely finds burned-out taillights, loose suspension parts, and worn brakes.
“You never know what you're going to find,” he said. “Most people put 25,000 or 30,000 kilometers a year on their vehicles. So can you imagine most people not getting their car check for 60,000 kilometers? A lot can go wrong in 60,000 kilometers.”
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