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Never Give Up

“Never give up” – the Auto Body Association of Rhode Island’s mantra – might just be the key to getting collision legislation passed.

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Jason Stahl has 28 years of experience as an editor, and has been editor of BodyShop Business for the past 16 years. He currently is a gold pin member of the Collision Industry Conference. Jason, who hails from Cleveland, Ohio, earned a bachelor of arts degree in English from John Carroll University and started his career in journalism at a weekly newspaper, doing everything from delivering newspapers to selling advertising space to writing articles.

At the July Collision Industry Conference in Boston, the Governmental Committee had an interesting panel discussion: “Are the laws and regulations governing the collision industry working?”

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Prior to that discussion, John Petrarca, president of the Auto Body Association of Rhode Island, talked about how collision repairers in his state got a total loss bill passed where insurance companies cannot designate a vehicle a total loss if the cost to rebuild or reconstruct the vehicle is less than 75 percent of the fair market value of the vehicle prior to the accident. One thing he said resonated with me: “We never give up.”

That really is the key to getting legislation passed. You have to be a bulldog. But you have to first believe that legislation indeed can make a difference.

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That’s not always easy. Many laws have been passed in this industry to protect consumer rights, keep the playing field level and ensure that the free market exists which insurers routinely ignore or find clever ways to circumvent. This has made some repairers understandably ambivalent about legislation.

But realize this: a wise old cowboy (and he knows who he is) once told me that even if the bill you’re trying to get passed dies on the floor, you still win. How? By educating lawmakers about the collision repair industry, teaching them our language and getting them to understand the daily business challenges shop owners face. And every time you go back to try to reintroduce the bill and push it through, they’ll get more and more educated. Before long, you won’t have to explain what “steering” or a “total loss” is.

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Beyond believing, it takes a lot of hard work and a concentrated effort by not one but many. That type of unity has been hard to come by in this industry, but when the magic happens, so can good things.

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