I’m a 30-year-old body technician who has been in the collision repair business for about eight years. I consider myself one of the new breed of bodymen in that I’m an educated person who truly wants to fix cars the right way and be proud of what I do.
The Atlanta area is infested with shops full of guys who can’t start a car, much less fix one properly. I keep asking why technicians don’t have to be licensed to repair cars, and no one ever gives me a valid response. I don’t know if that’s because the people I’ve asked frown upon licensing because they don’t feel they’re up to par or that they realize most of their peers are.
Change for the Better
I think licensing would drastically change the industry for the better. I don’t believe in unions because, in my experience, they only bring out the laziness in people. I do feel, however, that if techs were licensed, they would become accountable for their own actions. Shops would have less liability and more accountability.
Everyone knows the economic hardships the country is going through, and I feel that some insurance companies and shop owners are beginning to take advantage of the people who make this industry survive. At the end of the day, the guys in the back are who make this whole thing work.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s only the techs who play a major role in keeping the wheels turning. But in theory, we the technicians are the wheels.
State or Federal?
I think everybody would benefit from shops having a state or federal automotive license. Insurance companies would be getting a group of guys who weren’t out to steal from them. Customers would be getting cars that were as close to pre-accident condition as possible. Shops would have less competition due to the fact that most of the unqualified shops would have to close. Most importantly, the techs would be able to fix cars the way they’re supposed to be fixed.
Why should we care what insurers want when it comes to us doing business? They never have been, nor ever will be, our customer. They’re no different than our local bank. We give them money so that when the time comes, we have the ability to use it. Does anyone want their bank telling them who they can get their groceries or clothes from? Just because one store is cheaper doesn’t mean that it has the ability to not pay for what we as consumers want.
As for ASE and I-CAR, they’re both somewhat lacking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an ASE Master Technician and have achieved I-CAR Gold status. The joke is that at the end of the day, it doesn’t make me any more qualified in anyone’s eyes. I wish it did because I’m proud to say that I’m one of the few techs I know of who has both of those distinctions.
I think a government-run license program is probably the best way to go, only because it could be put together by the people who insurance companies have said do it the right way: ASE and I-CAR. But let’s make it a hands-on test. That way, there’s no argument over what it takes to fix the car. Insurance Company XYZ already specified it wanted technicians certified. If the licensing program is run by local business owners, it will be a giant scam, much like the one we’re already in.
We’re all standing around watching the industry collapse, and the only response you hear is, “Damn, insurance companies are ruining this business.” No, we all are. I take just as much blame as the next guy for what has happened in the time I’ve been in this business. So I’m on a mission to make it better.
Christian Rodgers is a body technician at Ed Voyles Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep in Atlanta, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.