The Big Brother Inspection Kerfuffle

My parents helped me buy my first car but that was entirely self-preservation on my mom’s part. See, I had had a Triumph motorcycle. She was driving behind me as we returned from the shop when an oncoming car cut a little into my lane as I drifted a little toward the centerline and just tapped my foot peg a little.


It didn’t break my foot. I didn’t drop the bike. It did bend the footrest. And, of course, it proved I was invincible. And immortal. To everyone but my mom.

The long and the short of this story is that not much time passed before I was in a Triumph with four wheels instead of on a Triumph with two.

How Our Car Looks Before InspectionThat first car was a sad, 8-year old Triumph TR-3A with side curtains and a cast iron 1991 cc four-cylinder tractor engine that allegedly produced 100 horsepower, and standard disc brakes. Although it had just 50,000 miles, it was a tired, little car. My dad and I built new side curtains for it using Chuck Weiler’s miracle Hypalon™ fabric. The Standard-Triumph Motor Company sold only 74,800 TR3s in all its flavors. Only some 9,500 of the original 58,000 3As built survive today so I really wish I still had that little car.

But it probably wouldn’t pass inspection in Vermont today.

Speaking of passing, SWMBO got out of state last fall before her “sticker” came due, saving us that $40. It was well and truly expired when she got back, though.

Vermont’s new “Automated Vehicle Inspection Program” (AVIP) has “integrated electronic data collection and management into” the state’s inspection process. Inspection regulations have not changed but drivers may notice fewer inspection garages. And higher prices.

Ya think?

Vermont inspections typically cost between $35 and $50 last year, up from $20-25 a few years ago when the state last forced mechanics to buy new gear, first one OBD-II reader, then another.

Gerald, the neighboring mechanic, gave up the business this year.

“It was too expensive and too intrusive,” he said.

AOL Commissioner Robert Ide expected some of the smaller stations like Gerald’s would throw in the towel.

How Our Car Looks After Inspection“Some” mechanics will need to offset the $1,500-2,000 cost of new equipment, including a tablet computer with a camera to photograph your license plate, VIN plate, underbelly, and any repair that needs to be made, that uploads all that vehicle data to the state. The system will also make the inspection take longer to perform. Mechanics have to charge by the hour.

“I wonder if the data collected includes the onboard GPS readout,” my friend Dean “Dino” Russell mused. Dino is a roofer here in the middle Keys. Dancing about on roofs all his life has made him the most physically fit man in the Home Depot; it also gives him an overview of the conspiracies of everyday life.

“No, it doesn’t,” Mr. Ide said.

Motorists will be able to access their own vehicle’s inspection history and the history of other vehicles, identified by the Vehicle Identification Number. Only vehicle information relative to safety and emissions inspections will be made available.

“Uh oh,” said Dino.

Vermont contracted Parsons Corp., a huge engineering services firm out in Pasadena, to provide the equipment, networking, maintenance and support, and a technical support hotline for Vermont mechanics. Parsons is the sole suppler for ruggedized tablets and auxiliary stuff like printers. The inspection stations are required to pay $1,624 for each tablet, additional for other hardware, plus a small fixed fee for each inspection. How much the entire contract costs the state was not immediately available.

“Yeah, sure. Competitive bids with a governmental RFQ, so they know they will pay too much,” Dino said. “And there is a ‘street price’ so the bids will all be close enough to choose the ‘right’ vendor.”

The average age of the cars and trucks we drive has risen once again, now to now 11.6 years, as we keep them longer and longer. My (topless)(white) car is 17-years old. SWMBO’s “new” car celebrated its tenth birthday last fall. Registrations for light vehicles in operation in the U.S. hit a record 264 million.

“I wonder if the state is just flush and wants to share with a favorite business, kind of like the Exchange debacle, or if there’s a bigger motive,” Dino wondered.

I raised an eyebrow.

“Like a back door ‘clunker’ program.”

G. Stone Motors does say the new Inspection program “will eliminate older vehicles.”

The cars and trucks we drive are better made than my Triumph was. Back then, that 8-year old car with was 50,000 miles was down to its last owner before getting recycled into washing machines. Last year, I sold my now-17-year old white truck to a neighbor when it had almost three times that mileage. Some rust. Runs good. He drives it to Daytona every other weekend. Pulling a trailer.

Nobody’s talking about how to inspect that TR-3A but I did learn that “the manufacturer or distributor of each device or lens designed to control lights on motor vehicles shall apply to the commissioner for his approval of the use of such device or lens in” Vermont. I doubt anyone has done that for a now-70-year-old British sports car.

SWMBO’s now-10-year-old American sedan passed.


For the record, Florida has no vehicle inspection. A fellow I know in Big Pine drives a 1910 Oakland Model 25 every day. There must be a lesson in there somewhere.


2 thoughts on “The Big Brother Inspection Kerfuffle

  1. That camera crap is spooky… but I suppose predictable for the People’s Republic of Vermont. At least PA doesn’t do that (I think.)

    But a number of years ago, PA made all the garages with State Inspection licenses buy and install $50,000 worth of chassis dynamometers so that they could get “real world” emissions testing. The Service Station Owners Association (whatever they are actually called) protested loudly, saying that very soon it would be possible to get the info needed to confirm emissions controls from the car’s computer, at 1-2 orders of magnitude less capital investment. The state said no, this is the way we will go.

    Just a few years later, the state rules changed to require OBD-II readings ONLY to determine emissions control operation. AFTER businesses either invested $50K for a dyno or went out of the inspection business.

    I am amazed that there was not armed insurrection. Or at least a tar and feathering or two.

    • The chassis dyno makers got a small windfall, though, just as Parsons is for selling the computer tablets (and services) to Vermont garages this year.

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