Road Wary?

Dave Bartlett
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Is it time to bring back mandatory vehicle inspections?

A St. John’s mechanic says if others saw some of things he does, they would be scared to drive on the province’s roads.

Jerome Terry, owner-operator of Auto Care on Topsail Road, was reacting to news the RCMP in central Newfoundland held random, road-side inspections on Wednesday and found a myriad of problems.

According to an RCMP news release, 10 random vehicles were inspected on the highway near Grand Falls-Windsor in a three-and-a-half hour period. During that time, a total of 39 defects were found, two vehicles were deemed unfit for the road, five charges were laid for defective vehicles and another six warnings were issued. One driver was also charged for driving while suspended.

From busted brake lines to rusted out floors to leaky gas tanks, Terry has seen it all.

On Thursday morning , he replaced a gas tank on a pickup that was resting on the dust plate, as the straps had rusted through.

The same morning he also had someone come in with brake lines worn so badly the driver’s brake pedal was right to the floor.

Terry thinks mandatory annual inspections should not have been scrapped by the province in 1994.

“I don’t think they even should have been taken out, it’s as simple as that,” he told The Telegram.

Across town at Morris Service Station on Freshwater Road, co-owner John Morris said he wasn’t surprised by what police found on Wednesday, and agrees with Terry annual inspections should be brought back.

“The thing with motor vehicle inspections is it made people, once a year, have their car looked at, where as now people are getting in their car and they’ll drive it till it drops,” he said. “People aren’t doing maintenance like they once did.”

Morris qualifies that by saying most people take good care of their vehicles and have them checked regularly.

But he said a small group couldn’t be bothered.

“If you’re not forced to do it, you’re not going to do it,” Morris said.

Morris does a number of vehicle inspections and often fails a vehicle.

He said his garage has a “zero tolerance policy” meaning he will not certify a vehicle unless it is 100 per cent road worthy.

“If there is any defect whatsoever, we do not sign off on the slip,” he said.

While Terry said he sees three equally prevalent types of vehicle owners — those who want their cars fixed; those who do but can’t afford it; and those who just don’t care — Morris said 99.9 per cent of his customers want their cars fixed, once they are aware of a problem.

But Morris said people often don’t realize their cars have mechanical issues.

Between speaking with The Telegram Wednesday morning and allowing the paper to take pictures at his garage in the afternoon, Morris had a man come in with a 10-year-old Kia he just bought second hand.

“I don’t think they even should have been taken out, it’s as simple as that.” Jerome Terry, owner-operator of Auto Care on Topsail Road

When Morris put it up on the lift, he found all the brakes were seized, the gas tank straps had let go, the exhaust was attached by a twist of wire and the rocker panels were so rusted through he could put his hand right up through them.

The customer agreed the car wasn’t worth repairing and asked it be scrapped.

Government Services Minister Harry Harding said what the RCMP found on Wednesday was certainly alarming.

But Harding said changes to the Highway Traffic Act made by the province last year, which gives police the right to randomly stop vehicles, is the better way to catch unsafe cars, instead of bringing back mandatory inspections.

“In spite of (Wednesday’s) random checks, there is no really good evidence why mandatory annual inspections need to be put back in place,” said Harding. “We’ve had statistics since (1994) which certainly show that prior to and after the (inspections were scrapped) there’s been a major improvement in the number of accidents attributed to mechanical failure.”

He said from 1989 to 1993, only 2.96 per cent of accidents causing injuries or fatalities were blamed on mechanical failure. From 1995 to 2000 that number dropped to 2.11 per cent. And in 2007 that number was only about 2 per cent.

Of the 3,800 collisions in 2010 handled by the RCMP, the number of accidents blamed on mechanical failure is under 1 per cent.

The RCMP’s Sgt. Randy Pack confirmed that number and added almost all the crashes involving mechanical failure also involve other factors from alcohol to weather, driver distraction to excessive speed.

When Harding was asked to react to the mechanic’s comments, he said he can see where the mechanics are coming from, but suggested they may have a vested interest as they would be the ones making money on the inspections.

But Terry disagrees.

“The responsibility (for inspections) should be government’s,” he said.

Terry said if government inspectors did the inspections, but let people get estimates and choose their own mechanic to do the repairs, that would eliminate the perception mechanics are only in favour of bringing back inspections to make money.

For Morris it’s all about safety.

“I’d like to know the car coming at me, or coming at my children when they are coming home from school is safe,” he said.

Organizations: RCMP, Morris Service Station

Geographic location: Topsail Road, Newfoundland, Freshwater Road

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Recent comments

  • Dave
    March 16, 2011 - 16:19

    The problem with random roadside inspections by the police: The police are already too busy. How can we expect them to take on another workload such as this? How would we like our taxes to go up even higher than they already are? Garages that either a) rip people off, or b) sell safety slips out the back door can be remedied in two ways. One way is to have a government run facility do a final inspection of a car before a safety standards certificate is issued. This will curb a garage's enthusiasm for giving out false safeties because the signing technician and garage face losing their certificate/license for the offence. Two; to curb the rip-off garage, always always always get a second opinion. Unfortunately these suggestions present the vehicle owner with a larger bill in the end; however, safer roads means lower insurance premiums and other benefits. Getting rid of clunkers through this type of system also means benefits for the air we breathe and economic stimulus through the higher flow of currency due to car sales, repair services, etc.

  • ex- Patty
    January 22, 2011 - 05:23

    I currently live in another country where inspections can only be done by the goverment, and if there are issues with the car a list is given to you to go get fixed and when you go back its a short line and very fast check and your on your way.Most vehicals pass first time because people dont want the hasstle of going back. Also this country reward people for their choices of cars and trucks . A larger gas guzzling truck would pay more for yearly registration than a small car; for example mini cooper $200 per year and a extended cab truck $2000

  • Edmund
    January 22, 2011 - 03:03

    In Nova Scotia inspections are required every 2 years. It is a good feeling to know your vehicle is safe for you and the other people that share the roads and highways. The NS goverment should have a inspection station in North Sydney to inspect the vehicles traveling to NS from NL on Marine Atlantic. NL may not care about vehicle safety but NS does. Its not about the money

    • Ed. A
      January 22, 2011 - 13:37

      I would like to know who does the inspections in Nova Scotia and if it is repair garages are they all as honest as the NL. garages, also i would like to know who inspects the vehicles that come from other provinces and the united states. maybe while you are feeling so safe you can reply. but i would not brag about it until the RCMP did some roadside checks to make sure all vehicles are in good working order. have a nice day.

  • jay
    January 21, 2011 - 23:31

    Bought a used car (2005)for my wife last year knowing it needed a few repairs. Had everything done and inspection issued by very reputable garage.( $2500 worth of work) 6 months(10,000kms) later we decide to sell the vehicle as my wife won a new car on tickets. Decide that we should get an updated inspection slip as it would make it easier to sell the car. This time my wife brings the car to the same garage and they quote $3500 in repairs need to be done to certify! Funny thing was that it was all the same items as before plus a couple additional. Bring to the dealer after and dealer says car is perfect and needs nothing. So this is what regularly happens at garages even reputable places.

  • Ed. A.
    January 21, 2011 - 17:58

    I agree 100% with roadside inspections by the RCMP because it is the only way to have any honesty in the system. As soon as word gets around that these roadside inspections are ongoing in all parts of NL, people will start doing repairs on their vehicles. but if you allow the garages to do it they will be selling inspection slips within 6 months, the almighty dollar is all they care about. if safety was a concern the garage owners could have reported the people selling slips because everyone knew who they were. but not very many were innocent. Highway enforcement has lots of qualified inspectors and i believe they will do a good job even if it means hiring a few more inspectors or maybe use some of their own mechanics during slow periods. that would be money well spent. If people will not keep their vehicles in safe working condition take them off the road. Do not go out and nitpick people,please use some common sense.

  • K.D
    January 21, 2011 - 17:39

    There is a reason the annual inspections were eliminated plain and simple people were ripped big time as I saw on the news it was all older vehicles being checked and does not give a true reflection of all vehicles on the highway random checks by the police along with mechanics is the way to go on a regular schedule all across the province

  • Kent
    January 21, 2011 - 14:13

    Mandatory inspections were nothing more than a pretext for garages to fleece the consumer on an anual basis. I like how they use the public's safety as a guise to push this agenda.... The fact is, they'er more concerned about ghettign into the public's wallet's.

  • Robert
    January 21, 2011 - 14:00

    The inspection should be a totally independent transaction; the vehicle is inspected, a report is issued and a flat fee is paid. The vehicle owner takes the report to any shop of his choice for the repairs or even does the repairs himself. The repair shop/the owner signs off the inspection and is then accountable.

  • Anon
    January 21, 2011 - 12:08

    Harding actually got it right. Leave it to the police to stop unsafe drivers. That's their job. The government has no business subsidizing mechanics by forcing us all to get unnecessary annual inspections.

  • James Pike
    January 21, 2011 - 11:54

    Inspections are only acash grab by the garages.i go to the garage about four times ayear for oil change and a check over takes about 10 why to i need to go and have my car in spected that's done.Look at the evening news accidents are newer cars and trucks.there are lots of Rcmp rnc and highway enforement who can tell a clunker a mile away so that takes care of that. The brake jerome had there is rubber and didn't rust out but chafed with the turning of the wheel. so much is going to get away even with inspections. the prices in garages is such if you're low on money you run it as long as you can.

  • Sylvia
    January 21, 2011 - 11:34

    I have a vehicle that is more than 10 yrs old... every 6 months I schedule an appointment with a local garage ( I use the same one all the time) and get my vehicle inspected. It lets me know a couple of things a) if there is something that will require work in the near future but not right away, I can budget for it, b) it also give me a fully mechanics record of repairs, so that if I do see my vehicle the next person will know what has been done. I put my child in my vehicle, although there is no mandatory inspection, I definitely will not take the risk of injuring my child over something that could have been prevented. I know that repairs are expensive, and thank goodness that my mechanic will tell me what needs to be replaced now or later and knows that I compare prices of other garages to ensure that I am getting the best value for the excellent work that they do. it's a difficult predictemnt for drivers to be placed in, fix the car to get to work, or cut back on necessities to pay for repairs, maybe there should be an initiative for drivers who want to do repairs but cannot afford them. For those who do not want to repair the vehicle they drive, then those should be removed from the highway by whatever agencies is best equipped to make the determination.

  • Al
    January 21, 2011 - 10:54

    Insurance is higher on older cars for this reason, thay claim more of the accidents are because older cars are faulty. Not so its just there are more older cars and better profits.

  • Wayne Ryan
    January 21, 2011 - 10:41

    The greedy garaeges are at it again. The RCMP select 10 older cars on the highway pull them over and find some defects and right away they conclude that everyone is driving junk and inspections should be brought back, these garages care nothing about saftey the only thing they care about is how fat they can make their bank accounts by ripping off people with in most cases are unnecessay repairs. The mere fact that they can come up with evidence that they have taken defective parts from older cars evidences the fact that people are comming in to get their repairs done. Those pictures could have been taken anywhere. The only accident that I can recall recently from a defective vehicle is when one of these so called 'mechanics prepared a false inspection report' and a person died because of it. The Province has stats. to prove that the majority of accidents are NOT caused by mechanical problems but rather careless ness. If these garages cared about safe vehicles why do they not run free inspections as a goodwill gesture? Ya Sure. Stay the course Mr. Harding you have a good handle on things

  • holy smokes
    January 21, 2011 - 10:36

    When registration inspections were being done, garage owners would salivate at the thought of the EXTRA revenue that would be generated........In many cases that was the only thing that kept them going.....Having a good 'qualified' mechanic as a personal friend is a godsend.......HE'S the fella you can personally trust. Fortunately....I have been blessed to have known about ten very good mechanics.....and ALL of them gave me a heads up on upcoming needs.....I have known one mechanic in particular who has refused to put a car back on the road IF required mandatory work isn't done.....and HE gets lots of work!!

  • Bruce
    January 21, 2011 - 10:24

    Inspections or no inspections, you will still see the same number of unsafe vehicles on the road. Vehicle Inspections is only a money grab for garage owners. But, Random inspections on the highway is a good idea and would keep many unsafe vehicles off the roads. Most accident I see on the News involves new expensive vehicles(often SUV's), many you see turned upside down in the middle or on the side of a road. What can we do about that?

    • joe
      January 21, 2011 - 13:25

      I realize inspection would not get all the junk off the road but even if 25% were to be removed that would be that much less junk on the road............................ I know first hand suv's upside down in the ditch, take a look at the tires 75% are shot and need replacing..fact!..maybe an inspection would have picked up on that...

  • Topcat fr Bay of Islands
    January 21, 2011 - 10:20

    The time may come when insurance companies will require a mandatory vehicle inspection after the vehicle is over a certain age. If it starts to cost the insurance companies more money to pay out claims caused by non roadworthy vehicles, you can be assured they will take the neccessary steps to reduce these type of accidents. If the insurance companies are to be responsible for paying out damages caused by these vehicles, you would think that they would take steps to make sure the vehicles they are insuring are roadworthy - A motor vehicle inspection would appear to be the most likely place to start.

  • turry from town
    January 21, 2011 - 09:32

    Sure,let the garages inspect your car every year and see how much they will gouge you.Doing repairs and replacing parts while your at work wondering how much it is going to cost.Most people don't know much about cars so they will be at the mercy of garages at $65.00 per hour,plus parts and HST.

  • David
    January 21, 2011 - 09:20

    Yiu could have a 2011 car and bring it to some machanics and thay are bound to find something wrong. The inspections were a complete rip off and a lot of people know it ,even a lot of mechanics . Most of the today cars are in good shape. the only way we are going to stop the lack of maint. on autos is by roadside checks, the same way we catch the idiots with no insurance ,no stickers , no registration.

  • flash
    January 21, 2011 - 09:16

    The goverment turns a blind eye to Motor Vehicle Inspections,motor vehicle licencing ect.. Thats because they are sat behind a desk collecting a big fat check. Waiting to get a big fat pension. Time to OPEN your EYES

  • james
    January 21, 2011 - 08:51

    majority of cars are not inspected by qualified mechanics but by grease monkies

  • wayne
    January 21, 2011 - 08:19

    The principle of yearly inspections is good, but the reality does not work. Years ago you were required to have your vehicle inspected every year; but there were always garages who 'sold' the slips. The good people with well maintained cars will generally do the right thing.....the idiot driving a "junk pile" will just go and "buy a slip". Today you are required to have an inspection when you sell a used car. It's VERY easy to 'buy' an inspection slip. Cars on used car lots are often advertised as being "inspected". I always bring mine to a reputable shop (actually one of those in the article) and usually there will be at least one significant defect that COULD not have passed if a real inspection had been done. Bottom line......mandatory inspections will not work because dishonest people will always find a way around them. The honest folks who already maintain their cars will just be forced to pay for something that they did not need in the first place.

  • BI
    January 21, 2011 - 08:07

    Bring back inspections after a vehicle is more than 5 years old-I don't think so - I know I can't afford more money, other than too high a cost to purchase stickers; then insurance; and vehicle repairs. Another inspection yearly would cost too much and in my opinionan inspection certificate would be falsely filled out to help anyone who couldn't afford the inspection in many cases. Leave it alone as it is. People should be responsible enough to get their cars fixed themselves.

  • Calvin
    January 21, 2011 - 08:07

    First, Lindy, not everyone can get approved for a new car. They have to drive what they can afford, which in a lot of peoples cases is a piece of junk. Secondly, ask any mehcanic if they think inspections should be brought back and they will tell you yes, more money in their pocket. There is no simple answer here. If manadatory inspections are required, government should set up a program to do the inspections themselves and provide the owner with a list of work they need done to put the car back on the roads. Then mechanics are not reaming people on unneccessary work. But government will not do this, it would cost them too much money..... it's the great circle of life, revolving around the almighty dollar. Not to mention the seemingly endless list of people who drive without liscence, insurance and registration right now. The number of people who do this will climb if mandatory inspections are brought back, and to tell you the truth, I would rather someone hit me in a piece of junk with insurance over a piece of junk without.

  • McLovin
    January 21, 2011 - 08:00

    In addition to my comments, I understand that the mechanics have noone but themselves to blame for the negative attitudes toward their profession, but this is where government needs to step in and police the mechanics and put safeguards in place to weed out the scheisters in the profession!!

  • McLovin
    January 21, 2011 - 07:56

    I hope everyone has paid close attention and read carefully the comments by Mr. Harry Harding (who woke him up, anyway?), our Minister of Government Services. Am I correct in understanding that he would rather have our local police forces conduct routine inspections, than a trained and qualified expert because he thinks the mechanics are only in it to make money? Using this logic, the next time I need a plumber, I'll call the fire department, The next time I need an electrician, I'll call an ambulance. Afterall, I can't have anyone making money off me!!! Not to mention the fact that crime (armed robberies, break and enters, drugs) is skyrocketing in this Province and as a Citizen and Tax Payer, I would rather have our local police force fighting against crime than out doing random checks on the highway. Think about this for a minute, this elected official is suggesting that an RCMP Officer (most have only 6 months training) is better equiped to conduct a vehicle inspection, on the side of the road....with no garage....with no rack.....and no the middle of the winter...... in Newfoundland...... If I was a mechanic, I'd be going mental right about now.

  • Taxpayer
    January 21, 2011 - 07:40

    Both your mechanics are disingenuous when they state that they only care about safety. If that were true then they would be advocating for the govt to run inspection stations so that the customer was protected. Is this not the way it is done in Ontario? Inspections are all to do with fractional tolerances and these can be interpreted differently by a mechanic who would like to make a little more money. If you are going to do this, then it would also be important for safety to retest ALL drivers before they can renew their licenses. When the taxpayer sees the costs for these measures I am sure they would revolt. But if you want to do something, this is the only way to do something that will work. I see that a motorist in CBS ran into a container and was seriously hurt. Is Ches Crosbie suing the govt for not increasing the quote on containers. It couldn't be the drivers fault.

  • Robert
    January 21, 2011 - 07:25

    Yeah sure, and when was the last time that you heard of an accident that was caused by a faulty vehicle? The last one that I recall was when a mechanic falsified an inspection. Speaks volumes, doesn't it?

  • Bob
    January 21, 2011 - 07:21

    Everybody knows there is junk on the road. We don't need a mechanic to tell us. Inspection should be required after 5 years. If it needs to be done by govt inspectors, do it randomly. Require cars be brought to an govt inspector and if any repairs are done ahead of that, then good. Random checks on the highway are not enough. RCMP should be fighting crime. Brake lines worn????? Brake lines rust.

  • lindy stratton
    January 21, 2011 - 07:11

    you can purchase a vehicle now with payments spread over seven years-for the last four years you can buy extended warrenty which is included in the price of the vehicle so at the end of seven years your vehicle should still be in pretty good shape-mandatory inspection not needed.

  • Jeremiah
    January 21, 2011 - 07:05

    If the govt. is fool enough to bring back mandatory inspections the same thing will happen again as happened before. (1) Garage owners will issue inspection slips to anyone and not do inspections. (2) Garages will force car owners to have unessary work done to improve the bottom line. One thing for sure is that the roads won't be any safer. What is needed is more inspections on the highway, simple.