TCRA was established in 2006 when three collision repair shop owners met for lunch and the conversation turned to “the struggles of going it alone in the collision industry,” according to Nethery. This casual conversation sparked an idea and a goal, leading to the first TCRA meeting about a month later which was held at a restaurant in Jackson, TN. One of the founders volunteered to serve as chair until a board could be formed and an official charter completed.
Though 50 people attended TCRA’s first meeting, “the crowd dwindled to about half of that when it was made clear that TCRA was being formed to increase knowledge and work together, not to do battle with insurers,” Nethery explains. Still, enough interest was generated to allow TCRA to form a second chapter in Nashville the following year. Currently, the Jackson chapter of TCRA focuses on the western part of the state, while their Nashville chapter services central TN; however, since TN is over 400 miles long, they hope to establish an eastern chapter in the near future.
Currently, TCRA consists of around 20 member shops, but they are actively seeking new members and sponsors across the state. As such, they are also restructuring their board and meeting locations and times. While TCRA’s current membership is lower than it has been in the past, Nethery believes “our members are committed to seeing it grow again.”
Previously, each TCRA chapter had their own Board of Directors and officers and would meet monthly on their own, but Nethery notes that this “basically resulted in two associations with sometimes completely different agendas.” As TCRA tries to increase their membership, they are also restructuring the organization to promote unity. According to Nethery, “In order to try and boost attendance, we are now meeting every other month as a large group and moving the meetings to different areas to make travel equal for everyone. At the first of the year, we hope to elect one set of officers for the state and include board members from the entire group. This allows us to bring in better speakers because of the larger group and keeps us all working on the same issues. We are also hiring a part time staff member to keep up our website, send out reminders and solicit new members.”
Anyone in the state of TN is invited to join TCRA, and there are definitive benefits to membership, according to Nethery. “Membership with TCRA provides an opportunity to have a stronger voice in the industry. Many young shop owners have had the benefit of being mentored by their peers.”
TCRA is a member of the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS), and they subscribe to SCRS’s mission, purpose and objectives which include promoting education and communication within the collision repair industry. In May 2012, TCRA also entered into an alliance with the Congress of Automotive Repair and Service (CARS) in order to provide several new industry and business-related benefits to members, including a discount on the cost of TCRA’s membership.
The top purpose of TCRA is education and communication between collision repairers. They promote a professional atmosphere, as seen in their policy which is detailed on their website: that all officers, sponsors and members of TCRA conduct themselves and their transactions in a legal and ethical manner; and in addition, follow all guidelines and regulations set forth by the association during meetings and events, and exhibit great care regarding the reputation of this organization.
TCRA’s objective is "to develop a forum for interaction and exchange of ideas between body shops in TN, promote ethical and best practices, and to communicate with and educate members in all matters relevant to these objectives.” Nethery clarifies, “our mission is to educate the consumer and ourselves on how to correctly repair a vehicle and to promote ethical business practices.”
In discussing the emphasis that TCRA places on education, Nethery notes, “education is important for the same reason in this industry that it is in any other. An educated consumer is a customer that will make good choices in repair and not be easily steered by the insurer. In the state of TN, there is no license required to do collision repair, other than a business license that anyone can buy. A hairdresser has to have a license to cut hair, but anyone can call themselves a collision tech and cut your car in half. The fact that is even sadder is that an insurer will pay them (anyone who says they are a body shop) the same rate that they pay the shop who is trained and has invested millions in equipment. This will not change until our industry begins to work together and develop some sort of license or standards.”
One of the ways that TCRA is promoting education to members is through participation in the annual Southeastern Conference which includes TN, AL, GA, MS and FL. They have been involved with the conference since 2012 and hope to see an increase over the 250 attendees from last year when they meet again in April 2014 in Biloxi, MS.
TCRA also believes that communication is vital in this industry, and Nethery explains, “we believe the biggest problem in the industry is the division of the shop owners. Even fierce competitors need to stick together on key issues that will hinder the freedom to do business in the future. That is the value of being part of an association.”
TCRA’s most relevant short-term goal revolves around PartsTrader, and they are currently trying to exert influence to dissuade PartsTrader from spreading in their state. TCRA does not believe that PartsTrader will improve cycle time, but it will allow insurers to exert control on parts profitability in the future, just like they control labor rates today. “All of the group hopes that somewhere along the way that Parts Trader will be stopped but also believe that it is not likely that it will. We are encouraging all the OEM parts venders to not sign up on Parts Trader. The only thing that will stop Parts Trader will be if enough venders do not sign up for it to work,” Nethery explains.
The topic of Right to Repair yields mixed views amongst TCRA members since the association consists of dealership shops and independent shops, but Nethery notes that it is not really a big issue in TN at present. Though TCRA is not currently involved in any legislative matters, Nethery explains that when they’ve pursued legislative reform in the past, the challenges they’ve faced are acquiring the revenue to combat insurers’ lobbyists and, once the law is passed, making sure that it is enforced.
PO Box 66
Jackson, TN 38302