By CHELSEA JENSEN
Stephens Media Hawaii
Get ready to dole out a few extra bucks for a more high-tech vehicle safety inspection starting Friday.
The state Department of Transportation that day rolls out its new vehicle safety inspection program, increasing the cost of a safety inspection for passenger vehicles and pickup trucks to $19.19 plus tax, up from $14.70, and for motorcycles and trailers to $13.24 plus tax, up from $8.75. Fees for motor vehicle inspections have not been increased since the 1980s.
The program also creates new requirements for inspection stations that include photographing vehicles and registration and insurance information, among others. The photos, said DOT spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter, will be another means for deterring fraud as well as keeping people whose vehicles may not have passed at one shop from going to another to secure an inspection there.
“It’s a check-and-balance system that documents the car was here and it is the car the record is saying it is,” Sluyter said.
State officials said, during an Oct. 10 public hearing, the new program will help alleviate a six-month backlog in updating safety inspection reports in the vehicle registration database. It will do away with monthly reporting by the inspection stations and will provide immediate recording and proof of a vehicle’s inspection status.
“With this program, we enter the new age of wireless computerization, instant recordation and protection from fraud and theft,” said transportation Director Glenn Okimoto in a statement.
The fee increase will be split with the state receiving $1.70, the contractor, Parsons, for the electronic tablets and printer system receiving $1.69 and the inspection station receiving an extra $1.10. Parsons, an international engineering and management services firm that does a lot of work for the military in Hawaii, provides tablet computers, printers and routers to each inspection station. The company’s compensation comes only from its share of the inspection fee.
The electronic system will print decals bearing the vehicle identification number (VIN), license plate, and the station at which the inspection was conducted. The decal, which is a single sticker and white, also feature an adhesive to deter removal.
During a recent visit to the Dixson 76 station at the intersection of Hualalai Road and Kuakini Highway, it took owner Bob Dixson about 20 minutes, give or take, to complete a basic safety inspection — one for a small passenger vehicle with no issues other than a lack of windshield washer fluid. It was his third inspection with the new equipment.
Like many new things, Dixson said, it will take a little time to get used to the new program — he anticipates vehicles will likely need the full one hour he schedules for a safety inspection. However, once there is some familiarity with it, it’s likely that the actual inspection as well as compiling of reports will be more efficient.
“Overall, it could be a good thing,” he said Tuesday. “But, I’m sure there will be some bumps along the way.”
However, the cost of the inspection is in need of an increase, he said, noting that while under the new rules inspection stations would get to keep $15.80, hourly fees for work in West Hawaii shops start around $80 with some reaching nearly $100. With that in mind, it can make it difficult for some to justify being an inspection station.
“Do I really want to focus my time on a $20 safety inspection?” he said noting the shop’s $95 an hour labor rate.
Joe Simpson, shop manager at Ayers Automotive in the Old Kona Industrial Area, said his shop has yet to go online using the new program, but thinks it will be positive for the overall process. He also noted it will reduce the likelihood of a shop running out of monthly stickers because they will be printed on site.
“It will be a good thing,” he said, “once everyone gets used to it.”
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