— More and more state legislatures are considering bills that would place new limits on insurer mandates, such as State Farm’s mandated use of PartsTrader. Meanwhile, the Automotive Service Association (ASA) is expected to issue a preliminary report soon on the response it has received from state attorneys general and insurance regulations regarding the legality of State Farm’s PartsTrader mandate.
“ASA has had discussions with a number of these states that have submitted inquiries for additional supporting information,” ASA states in its press release. “It’s important to note that subsequent to our announcement relative to sending letters to each state, State Farm sent states a letter arguing the legitimacy of such mandates.”
Want to see what State Farm is telling some state regulators? See one such letter.
“Our goal was to resolve this issue without government oversight, interference, or legislation,” Dan Risley, executive director of ASA, said. “As such, we have persisted in our efforts to work with State Farm to change the current PartsTrader mandate policy. This has included multiple meetings and other discussions that continued throughout 2013. ASA believes that there are potential solutions (if) State Farm is willing to work toward an amicable resolution that benefits State Farm, collision repairers, and the consumer.”
— Looking for another way to recruit new technicians? Shops should note that use of the TopTechFinder.com recruiting site is still free for both shops and those looking for work.
Since launching in early 2012, TopTechFinder.com has connected with over 1,350 candidates and 350 repairers in the collision repair business. It has since expanded to help mechanical repair shops find qualified employees.
“It’s hard to find qualified technicians on general job boards,” Jeff Herman, CEO of TopTech Finder, said. “They aren’t designed for the mechanical repair industry and don’t draw many technicians. In contrast, TopTech Finder allows candidates to show off industry-specific qualifications, making it a natural place for techs to find jobs.”
TopTech Finder is free for job-seekers and will remain free for employers for a limited time.
— It’s a common belief in the industry that in markets with lower labor rates, estimates have more line items to make the bottom line about the same as it would be in a market with a higher labor rate. Some analysis from Mitchell International indicates that may not be the case.
Download Mitchell’s most recent “Industry Trends Report” to read how the company analyzed estimates in states with the highest labor rates to compare them to those with the lowest labor rates. The states with the lowest average body labor rates—Massachusetts ($37.07), Tennessee ($41.14), Florida ($41.29), Georgia ($42.04), and Maryland ($42.12)—did not tend to have more repair (versus replace) operations, more refinish hours, or more overall estimate lines than the states with the highest average body labor rates—Montana ($63.05), Alaska ($61.35), California ($60.46), North Dakota (59.52), and Wyoming ($57.45).
“Only 1.2 hours of total labor separates the average of the bottom five labor rate states from the top five labor rate states,” the report found, for example.
— Which states are doing the most to improve highway safety? The 11th annual report card from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety measuring state progress in passing highway safety laws gives Illinois, Oregon, and the District of Columbia the top grades for having enacted 12 of 15 laws the organization supports. Another six states, including Indiana, have passed 11 of the laws.
States receiving the lowest grades, having enacted five or fewer of the laws, are South Dakota, Mississippi, Arizona, Iowa, Montana, and Nebraska.
— Here’s a link that has nothing to do with collision repair directly, but could save a life. Joe Arnold, vice president of Arnold’s Body Shop in Davenport, IA, is urging people to learn the symptoms of a stroke after his wife suffered a stroke on the day after Christmas.
“She is only 39 years old and healthy,” Arnold posted on Facebook. “It can happen to anyone at any age. At the start, we thought it was just a migraine. As it progressed, it became clear that it was a stroke. I only knew because of my past training as an EMT (14 years ago) what it really could be. She will make a full recovery because we recognized the signs and symptoms and took immediate action based upon them.”
“The more you know, the safer you and your loved ones will be,” Arnold wrote.
— Another anti-DRP website, StopDRP.com, has launched; its content includes an animated video cautioning consumers about the use of non-OEM parts (comparing them to having a diamond replaced with cubic zirconium) and one fictionalizing a conversation between a shop and an insurer about what the shop must do to become part of the insurer’s DRP.
The site includes a link to another such site, StopSteering.com, which launched in 2008.
— Looking for help explaining their automaker’s position on non-OEM parts or reconditioned wheels? The OEM Roundtable this year launched a new consumer website, www.CrashRepairInfo.com. The site includes: information for vehicle-owners on how to choose a body shop; definitions of common terms used in collision repair and auto insurance claims; automaker position statements on vehicle safety systems, counterfeit or salvage airbags, etc.; and videos such as Honda’s demonstration of a mistimed airbag’s impact on a watermelon.
— Ten insurers (including Farmers, USAA, Chubb, and MetLife) are offering a branded app through Snapsheet that enable “self-service” claims for customers. Snapsheet CEO Brad Weisberg said when an insured calls to report a loss, the insurer can offer them the option of using the app to upload six to 15 photos of the damage. Estimators at Snapsheet’s offices then prepare an estimate based on the photos and sends it back to the customer within three business hours.
The customer has the option of a direct-deposit cash-out, or can use the app to schedule an appointment with one of the insurer’s DRP shops. Supplements are handled through Snapsheet. Insurers pay a flat fee per estimate for the service, Weisberg said. He emphasizes that his company produces “visual estimates” only.
How do Snapsheet estimators ensure their estimates comply with various state laws regarding use of non-OEM parts, etc.?
“There are some states where we absolutely cannot write in,” Weisberg said. “But what we pride ourselves on is writing accurate estimates. Not only accurate to fix the car but also according to a carrier’s guidelines. So we spend a lot of time with the carriers calibrating with their claims organization how they want us to write the estimates. They review a lot of our estimates to make sure we’re writing according to plan.”
Prior to Snapsheet, Weisberg was the founder in 2011 of BodyShopBids, which enabled consumers to upload photos of their damaged vehicle and receive quotes from nearby body shops within 24 hours.
“BodyShopBids was a great idea and a great way to start, but it wasn’t a real business,” Weisberg said. “This is needed in the industry and this is wanted by consumers, so it’s a perfect fit.”