Is Registering Body Shops with the Department of Transportation a Good Idea? No. - BodyShop Business

Is Registering Body Shops with the Department of Transportation a Good Idea? No.

While I do believe we need a better system of coordinating the true number of collision repair facilities out there and ensuring that they've all achieved the proper education and compliance, I also believe that national registration with the DOT has unfortunately not just run late but completely missed the airplane.

Bob Smith — Opinion: NO

Read Jeff Hendler’s counterpoint arguing why shops should register with the DOT.

Before getting on my soapbox, let me first say that I’ve long considered Jeff Hendler, who came up with the idea of registering body shops with the Department of Transportation (DOT), a friend. He has been a mentor to me, and I wouldn’t be where I am today in the industry without him. Above all, I have the utmost respect for what he has done for the industry, which is one reason why this article was difficult to write.

Missed the Plane

While I do believe we need a better system of coordinating the true number of collision repair facilities out there and ensuring that they’ve all achieved the proper education and compliance, I also believe that national registration with the DOT has unfortunately not just run late but completely missed the airplane. 

I was sorry to hear that someone like Jeff who has done so much for the industry is working on something that could undermine much of what this industry stands for. I believe he has good intentions but has totally missed the mark. Why? Because we have enough distrust and skepticism now in the industry. Why build something that will have everyone looking over their collective shoulder at not just the competition anymore but the Feds as well? This will distract them from what they should be doing: performing quality repairs. 

Examining the Feds

Let’s look at the Federal Government’s track record at managing things. Does anyone think it can come close to managing something as complicated as the collision industry considering the involvement it has from outside interests? From what I know of Jeff’s proposal, the Feds would have no jurisdiction over insurers or vendors. So why single out the repairer for federally controlled mandates?

The federal government’s track record of running catastrophes, the economy and just about anything else it has control over has been suspect at the best. For proof, look no further than at industries such as medical care, agriculture or the United States Postal Service.

Even when everything is in order and correct, do you really want the IRS or any federal agency going through your business on a regular basis due to an anonymous phone call? Even if nothing is discovered, the repairer will have to spend time and money to show they’re operating correctly.

Regular actions by established agencies already provide remedies for infractions. Remember, when those agencies come in, it’s not a matter of, “I’m right and you have to prove me wrong.” They’re there because they feel, or someone told them, that you’re guilty of something, and you must prove yourself right. 

Enforcement vs. Recordkeeping

If a repairer fixes a damaged or broken vehicle and returns it to the roadways of his state, then he should be held fully accountable for the quality of the work performed at that facility. No one will argue that. There are laws in each state now that cover this. So maybe we have an enforcement problem rather than a recordkeeping problem. Where these laws are not in place, we should work to get them there in such a way that repairers are stewards of their own industry.

As far as I know, registering with the DOT would establish no rules or guidelines except EPA and OSHA numbers. I don’t see it incentivizing shops to pursue continuing education or provide vehicle owners with quality work. Don’t tell me this will come by default, because if you believe that, then I need to talk to you about a parcel of land next to the river.

All federal agencies have more on their plates than they can say grace over, so asking them to be the gatekeeper is just plain a bad idea. I fail to see how this will benefit the consumer at all. If anything, I think it will be confusing to them.   


Paranoia Takes Over

I foresee a third-grade playground mentality taking over if this idea ever comes to fruition. For example, I tell on my competitor and have the Feds, if they get around to it, harass him until he goes out of business. Thus, there’s one less competitor I have to deal with. If you think that this isn’t being done now by some of your competitors, then you’ve been asleep at the switch. It puts our industry in a position I don’t believe any reasonable person wants to see. The industry will suffer from paranoia like it never has before. 

It’s not that difficult to develop state-by-state repair boards populated with repairers from all levels to coordinate the needs of licensing, education and compliance to existing laws. In those situations, the repairer maintains control of the industry. This would also increase consumer knowledge, awareness and acceptance of our industry. 


Less Government Involvement

This year’s election surely sent the message that the public isn’t satisfied with the way the Federal Government has been handling the country’s business in Washington. What’s next? Will everyone get a microchip implanted in them? It sent a message that people want less federal government in their lives and do not want a police state like those we’ve fought wars against.     

Saying that shops would oppose such registration because they’re not complying is an unfounded scare tactic with no basis of actuality. We have speed limits posted everywhere, and does everyone comply? It would be the same way with registration on a national basis, except it would look something like a fire drill at a drunken frat party.

Proper Licensing

What’s the agenda with registering shops with the DOT? Some believe the agenda on individual state licensing falls in the same category, but when properly presented, it’s controlled by a board made up of the full spectrum of repairers in the marketplace. In that case, it’s a tool that’s workable.

Does everyone want licensing? Heavens no! It would be great if we could get by without it, but it’s being forced on the industry. That being the case, all repairers should have input and not just a select few or – even worse – outside interests when the state boards of repair are established.

You make the choice, and remember: You’ll have a long time to live with the one you ultimately make.


Read Jeff Hendler’s counterpoint arguing why shops should register with the DOT.

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