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Vermont’s electronic inspections system may yield safer cars

VERMONT — If you have to get your car inspected this spring to show it meets state safety standards, you’ll likely have to pay a few more dollars for the service than you did last year. But at least you’ll have an assurance that your vehicle and all of the others on Vermont roads might be a little safer.
That’s because the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) this spring rolled out a new, electronic system for performing vehicle inspections.
The Automated Vehicle Inspection Program, or AVIP, allows technicians to electronically obtain emissions-related data, enter safety inspection results and send the data back to DMV using a tablet computer — no more reporting with pens and carbon paper. The end result, state officials say, is more accurate and efficient reporting and a consistent inspection experience for every vehicle examined in Vermont.
Now that the AVIP system has gone live, motorists visiting an official inspection station will be provided a Vehicle Inspection Report that lists the detailed results of the safety and emissions test as well as any potential recalls on their vehicle.
“Many other states have already implemented electronic on board diagnostics and safety inspection programs with great success,” DMV Commissioner Rob Ide said in a press release. “While it will take some time for inspection stations to adapt to the new system, ultimately this is going to improve efficiency and help us do a better job of ensuring that every vehicle registered in Vermont is a safe vehicle.”
At Randy’s Middlebury Service Center on North Pleasant Street in Middlebury, introduction of the new system has gone smoothly, owner Randy Farnsworth said.
In some ways getting your car inspected using the new system is not so different from how it’s been in the past.
It’s the same list of things that have to be inspected, Farnsworth said. The most important new twist is the way it reports the step-by-step processing of the inspection to the state.
“What it does is make us accountable for everything,” Farnsworth said.
While a crooked inspector can usually find a way to outsmart any state inspection system, even honest inspectors — which is the vast majority of shops — can make mistakes. The new inspection system should help eliminate those inspection errors made because of misunderstanding or carelessness. The system stays on a particular entry if illogical data is tallied, or if a step is accidentally skipped.
“The computer won’t let you continue,” Farnsworth said.
Randy’s paid $1,700 apiece for two inspection systems. Stations are also assessed a fee of $2.21 per inspection to cover the cost of the development, support and maintenance of the AVIP systems.
While Farnsworth and other inspection station owners had to pay for the new equipment up front, ultimately it will be the consumer who pays for the new inspection system. Farnsworth raised the cost of a car inspection for $45 to $65, and he suspects others have also raised their prices, too.
But he cautions that it isn’t the technology that is the big reason for the cost increase, it is the increased amount of time it takes to complete each inspection — and, as in most businesses, time is money.
“To do the inspection properly (with this system) it should take more time,” he said. “And it does.”
Don’t expect there to be many fewer inspection stations because of the new state requirements. Farnsworth wasn’t sure of any of his competitors who had balked at purchasing the AVIP system, other than possibly a place that only did a very few inspection.
According to the DMV website, there are 41 inspection stations in Addison County. To find one close to you, go online to vt-avip.com/VTPublicWeb/stationLocator.
CONSUMER BENEFITS
The system promises to delete a whole lot of paperwork that has passed between the inspection stations and the DMV. With the data going straight into the state’s database, it should be easier for consumers to get up-to-date vehicle inspection results for every car inspected in Vermont — you just need the VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number.
State officials say this will allow car owners and car shoppers to make more informed decisions about maintaining their own vehicle and will equip them with additional knowledge when considering purchasing a used vehicle.
That centralized data should also help policymakers and state administrators make decisions with more complete information.
To look up a vehicle’s inspection history go online to dmv.vermont.gov/avip and click on “Look up the Inspection history of a vehicle by VIN.”

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