"We're confident we're off to a very good start," Darrell Amberson, a task force member representing the Automotive Service Association (ASA), said at the Collision Industry Conference (CIC) held in Charlotte, N.C., in mid-April. "We do want to assert our influence and get certain changes made, and some of those match up with insurers. In cooperation with them, we can have that much more influence to [push for] the changes that we're looking for. Obviously our primary focus is going to be protecting our members, the repairers, but there are, in many cases, good reasons for a cooperative effort with insurers."
The task force also includes representatives of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) and the Alliance of Automotive Service Professionals (AASP). It was created to address such issues as how large-scale changes are made to the estimating databases and introduced into the industry.
Representatives of the three associations held three meetings in April, one with each of the three estimating database providers: ADP, Mitchell International and Motor Information Systems (whose database is used in the CCC Information Services estimating program).
"During the meetings, one thing that became clear was that other than me, no one else [on the task force] had ever seen the information providers give information at CIC meetings or elsewhere on how their labor databases are developed and what's in an hour," Lou DiLisio, a task force member representing the SCRS, said. "The database providers left the room understanding that they need to get out in the world and start to communicate this all over again."
Suggesting a review
The companies were also asked to document how database users can submit concerns or "requests for review" about a labor time or other aspect of the estimating system, and what process is followed once that request is made. DiLisio said one of the changes the task force suggested was making it very easy to submit such a request even from within the estimating program.
"We discussed the concern the three associations and the industry in general have over database ethics," DiLisio said. "We want to make sure that their sales and market share don't dictate how the databases are developed. Ensuring the integrity of the data is a very critical and important step from our perspective."
Sheila Loftus, publisher of an industry trade publication as well as executive director of the Washington Metropolitan Auto Body Association, questioned why the associations would allow insurers to get involved with their efforts.
"Why would you want the insurers in there," Loftus said. "These are our issues. Insurers already have a huge influence over the database providers. I respect the insurers. They are people making a living. I am glad they're in the room at [CIC]. But this [task force] is the one opportunity where you have [the database providers'] attention and you have the power and you give it away. Shame on you."
DiLisio and Amberson said they believe the associations are working together to press for what repairers want; that's why, they said, the initial meetings included only the associations and database providers. But they also see that some of the repairers' needs overlap with those of insurers.
"We have some common issues, DiLisio said. "Disclosure happens to be one of those issues. The insurers are just as much looking for disclosure [of changes made to the databases] as the repair industry is. They've got people on their staff that do nothing but look through the databases to find out what was changed.
"You haven't known us to lay down yet," DiLisio told Loftus, "We're not about to now."
Non-deployed airbags back on the table
After several years in which discussion of reuse of non-deployed airbags has dropped off, two CIC committees focused their April presentations on the topic.
The Legislative Committee reported that about a dozen states are considering legislation regarding use of airbags removed from salvaged vehicles. The legislation varies from outright bans on the use of such bags, to mandatory disclosure laws when such bags have been installed. Others require that only airbags "certified" for reuse are allowed.
The CIC Parts Committee had two speakers argue for and against the use of non-deployed airbags. Steven Nantau of Ford Motor Company cited nine reasons his company and other automakers oppose the reuse of non-deployed airbags. Water damage or improper handling of the modules, for example, may not show up in "certification testing" but could compromise the airbag's performance in a subsequent accident, he said.
Rod Enlow, an industry consultant and former insurance executive, argued that testing and handling procedures have been developed to accurately ensure and certify that a non-deployed airbag module is fit for reuse. He said the cost of new airbags is a key factor in the tripling of the percentage of vehicles being totaled in the past 15 years, use of salvaged airbags could increase the number of vehicles being repaired rather than totaled, he said.
Other news at CIC
In other news and discussion at CIC in Charlotte:
• Bruce Yungkans of CCC information Services said an upcoming version of his company's estimating system may reduce the need for shops to rekey an insurer-prepared CCC estimate. Pathways 4.3, which Yungkans said would be available this fall, will allow an adjuster to provide an electronic copy of an estimate file to the shop either on disk or by email.
• Perry Ebner of Assured Decontami-nation Services explained the dangers that blood borne pathogens can pose for those working in a vehicle contaminated with blood or other bodily fluids after an ac-cident. Such pathogens can pose a risk up to 30 days even after such fluids have dried if the contaminated stained area is rewetted, he said. He urged repairers to understand and comply with OSHA regulation 1910.1030 regarding safety for workers exposed to such pathogens by providing appropriate personal protective equipment, offering Hepatitis B shots and having proper disposal methods for infectious materials removed from the vehicle.
• Employment law attorney Cory King, chairman of the CIC Human Resources Committee, explained what the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) requires of all employers, including display of the poster about the Act, which can be downloaded at www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/poster. pdf) at no charge.
• CIC participants at the April meeting donated $2,200 to the Hendrick Marrow Program, a Charlotte-based non-profit group that works to recruit bone marrow donors and assist leukemia patients and other bone marrow recipients with post- transplant expenses.
• DuPont Performance Coatings sponsored an evening reception during CIC at Hendrick Motorsports, a 70-acre site where the company builds engines and cars for its team of NASCAR racers. Jeff Gordon, who drives the Hendrick's team's No. 24 car sponsored by DuPont, attended the reception and had his photo taken with CIC attendees in the racing museum at the Hendrick complex.
John Yoswick is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore., who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988