Moving on to a pressing industry issue, Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg addressed partial panel finishing and dissatisfactory compensation from insurers, noting that this problem which was seemingly corrected back in 2007-8 is returning. SCRS has seen a drastic increase in the number of queries about this issue since the beginning of 2013. Even more disheartening, this issue is not geographically isolated, occurring throughout the country.
SCRS issued letter to six different carriers in May 2013 to enquire about their guidelines. Surprisingly, the overwhelming response was that carriers have not made any changes to their policies, with many of the carriers saying that their expectations for reduced refinish time on repaired panels are based on receiving a mutual agreements with individual repairers based on the repair needs. Additionally, no company has provided or admitted to any corporate position or policy which specifies any precise reduction in time, although some examples of such documentation have been received by SCRS. The association is continuing to work with these carriers to address the issue and hopefully resolve what has become a pattern of practice for some in 2013.
Schulenburg’s said his concern arises because SCRS has received complaints from repairers who don’t agree to a reduction in time yet are being told that it is a matter of company policy. The question he now poses to insurers is how to respond to claims that this is company policy when, in fact, it is not. Schulenburg emphasized that such conflicts benefit neither collision repair shops nor the relationships between repairers and insurers. SCRS will continue to seek answers to this dilemma and will provide an update on the situation at SEMA in November.
SCRS Past Chairman Barry Dorn reported that over 6000 inquiries have been received through the Database Enhancement Gateway (DEG)— but while the number is a milestone accomplishment for the free industry resource, that number should be significantly higher. Collaboratively supported by national associations, the DEG is funded by SCRS, AASP and ASA who monitor the received inquiries through a full time administrator. Though the DEG has seen an increase in the number of inquiries received, there are over 30,000 collision repair shops nationally, suggesting that the number of submissions from repair facilities who have experienced issues with estimating data could significantly increase if more in the industry became aware of the tool, and how easy it was to use. The industry as a whole benefits from each inquiry, as they are publicly posted into a database.
Next, Schulenburg introduced representatives from their local SCRS Affiliate Association to talk about local industry efforts. SCRS represents 40 state and regional Affiliate Associations across the U.S. Molly Brodeur, Vice President of AASP-MA, provided updates on current industry activities in Massachusetts as well as an overview of her association’s efforts. The association has hired a management firm, Lynch Associates, as of May 2013, and with that addition came new Executive Director Jillian Zywien (see my interview with her this issue p. 53) who was excited to attend the week’s events and looks forward to her increased involvement within the industry. Through their partnership with Lynch Associates, AASP-MA hopes to create a stronger presence, especially legislatively.
Currently, AASP-MA is trying to get the Auto Body Labor Rate Bill approved into law. Since 2008, the state has seen a free market resurgence with new insurers writing new policies, however, there have been no changes to labor rates in fifteen years, leaving Massachusetts with some of the lowest rates in the nation. The Auto Body Labor Rate Bill proposes an increase in labor rates to reach a more competitive level, combined with a review and possible increase of rates every three years.
AASP-MA has also redesigned their website recently to enhance their member benefit packages as they strive to increase membership. Since there is not much I-CAR influence in Massachusetts, the association is also working to change that by focusing on acquiring Gold Class certifications for local shops. Through their work with the Collision Repair Education Foundation (CREF), AASP-MA awarded the first recipient of their tool grant at their 2012 golf outing.
As Brodeur concluded, Schulenburg turned the meeting’s focus toward the future as he assured attendees that SCRS’s plans for SEMA are coming along well. He encouraged collision repairers to attend the November event, claiming it is a great environment where a shop can learn how to market itself, add revenue or just learn more about the industry.
SCRS is most closely involved with the Repairer Driven Education series at the SEMA Show, and this year’s development of different learning tracks will allow individuals to choose the focus of their education. SCRS has engaged compelling industry speakers for the vents, and Schulenburg believes, “the program hits home for repairers and will provide tangible benefits.”
The show floor at SEMA promotes enthusiasm for the collision repair industry, due in large part to the vast array of exhibiting corporations, with attendees groups coming from as far away as Australia and New Zealand.
Several SCRS board members proceeded to talk about their involvement with Skills USA, emphasizing the importance of reaching out to young people who “truly are our future,” according to Reichen. Schools with students participating in the competition received a free SCRS membership, and student competitors received individual recognition from SCRS, letting them know the industry supports their efforts to become the best in their field, and is watching their accomplishments. The overall consensus was that an amazing energy surrounded the event which deserves to be supported and promoted; SCRS is excited to be a part of it and plans to continue their involvement. As always, SCRS emphasizes the importance of continuing education.