Thursday, 24 March 2011 17:45

Effort to Develop Collision Repair Standards Takes Another Step Forward

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A Collision Industry Conference (CIC) committee hopes by April to have hired a consultant to help build a business case for a new organization that would oversee the development and implementation of formalized collision repair standards in the United States.

Russ Thrall, co-chairman of the Repair Standards Advisory Committee, said at the CIC held in Secaucus, NJ in mid-March that several proposals from consultants are now being reviewed, and a decision is expected in April. If funding for the position can be raised, the consultant will be asked to issue a draft of the business case by the end of September.

For a number of years, an all-volunteer CIC committee has discussed and crafted some portions of a possible standard, which would address training, equipment and even repair procedures. A draft of the still in-process 100-page document can be viewed online (www.repairstandards.com).

Thrall has said the consultant is needed to work with the volunteer committee to conduct the interviews and research necessary to propose a structure and funding mechanism for the organization that would use a formal process to create and implement the standards. The consultant’s report would also outline the value such standards would offer various segments of the industry, and how the performance of the standards could be measured.

The committee is planning a forum to be held in conjunction with CIC’s November meeting in Las Vegas that would present the consultant’s findings and recommendations. Thrall said the committee hopes to include presentations and discussion at that forum with representatives from shops and insurers in the United Kingdom where a formalized set of industry standards has been in place for several years.

As happens during many of the discussions of proposed industry standards, a number of participants at CIC in Secaucus expressed questions or concerns about the process or outcome.
Aaron Schulenburg of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists, for example, asked whether the fund-raising that was planned was just to cover the expense of the consultant’s research, or if would be establishing funding for a standards organization even before the need for and interest in such an effort was established. He said his group had recently held a conference call with about 18 of its affiliated state repairer associations.

“The perspective was pretty consistent from association to association,” Schulenburg said. “To be honest, there was a lot of skepticism over the value, the benefit, and the overall impact (of formalized industry standards) on the repair facilities that these association represent.”

Thrall and others on the committee stressed that funding was only being sought to determine whether there is an interest in and business case for the development of a standard-setting and –implementing organization.

I-CAR offers update
Also at the meeting, Bill Stage of I-CAR provided an update on the training organization’s efforts to revamp its offerings and recognition program. He said that while the Gold Class Professionals designation is currently based on “points,” it will convert to be based on “hours” of training next year.

Stage said there are currently about 4,000 Gold Class facilities in the United States, up by about 1,800 since last July. That growth, he said, came in part because of Allstate’s push to ensure all shops in its direct repair program are Gold Class.

“There’s another insurance company that is pretty close to going down that path as well,” Stage said. “And two OEMs at this time are close to announcing a Gold Class initiative for their dealership shops.”

Starting in July, I-CAR will begin to allow experienced technicians to “test-out” of some of the more “basic” courses required for “Platinum Individual” status. He said I-CAR will announce three new online classes in April, as well as about one new online class about each month after that. He said that while four hours of online training currently is more expensive than one 4-hour live I-CAR class, a new pricing structure expected to roll out in January will have “a lot more rationality” in the pricing for the two types of training.

Other discussion at the meeting
In other news and discussion at CIC in Secaucus:
● Industry trainer Toby Chess presented information on the need to recalibrate the steering angle sensor that is part of the electronic stability control system on an increasing number of new vehicles. Such systems are standard equipment on 85 percent of 2010 new vehicles, and will be required on all new vehicles as of model year 2012. The recalibration is an additional procedure that must be done after the vehicle alignment. “It’s an added step, and there’s also no more 2-wheel alignments with these systems. That won’t work,” Chess said. He said even though no “trouble light” will be lit on the dash and the vehicle may handle properly under normal driving conditions even if the system is not calibrated, the electronic stability control function may not work properly in a subsequent “emergency maneuver.”
● Deborah Craig, a compliance officer with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said that even though the deadline has passed for shops to comply with new federal refinish and paint stripping regulations, any business that has not complied should not avoid doing so. “Some folks think if they hang back and don’t submit the paperwork that somehow EPA isn’t going to know about them,” Craig said. “They don’t want to shine a light on themselves by submitting something late. Our recommendation is that you just move forward as quickly as possibly to come into compliance. Give the regional EPA folks a call. Ask for help in filling out the forms. Talk to folks in your trade group for assistance. Talk to your paint suppliers. A lot of the paint suppliers have really been offering such excellent customer service by helping you comply.”
● An informal collection of cash donations from the approximately 150 people at the meeting raised more than $1,600 for the Japanese Red Cross to support efforts to help that country following the earthquakes and March 11 tsunami.

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