Privatizing vehicle inspections could be an option, MVC head says

While he did not rule out the possibility, Motor Vehicle Commission Chief Administrator Ray Martinez said requiring residents to have their inspections done at private garages could be an option in the future.

Just this past week, MVC extended its contract with private vendor Parsons Corporation for three years to continue inspection services at the state inspection facilities.  The extension, Martinez said, was done because of the high satisfaction rate the company provides to motorists.

The extension will also provide the commission enough time to receive feedback from a consultant that’s studying best practices on motor vehicle inspections in other states.

One of the options may be “fully privatized environments,” Martinez said.

Currently, New Jersey has a “hybrid” model, giving motorists the option of having their vehicles inspected at centralized, state-owned facilities, or having the inspections done at private gargages.

Martinez said many states have gone the private route.

“The general trend has been moving away from centralized lanes.”

But the idea didn’t entirely sit well with some lawmakers.

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, (D-37), of Englewood, said lower-income residents who drive older cars would have to go to a private garage every two years to have their cars inspected. And unlike state inspection stations, they would have to pay a fee at a private garage.

But higher-income, well-to-do folks who tend to lease or turn over cars frequently would not be subject to as much scrutiny, given that newer cars are inspected every four years.

“These folks will never see an inspection station,” he said.

But Martinez said that it’s only an option, stressing that nothing’s planned yet.

“We want the opportunity to see what the best practices are to meet EPA requirements,” Martinez said.

Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, (D-15), of Ewing, also questioned the idea.

“Why fix it if it’s not broken…it’s almost like the Lottery.”

Martinez said at least 83 percent of all state motorists use the centralized state inspection stations.

The actual motor vehicle inspections have become a lot more streamlined. In 2011, the state eliminated mechanical inspections, focusing more on meeting clean air requirements and helping drive down costs. The savings amount to $1.2 million a year. The price-per-vehicle has slipped slightly from $21.95 in 2008 to $20.29 in 2011.

“We wish we could have achieved greater savings, but this is a negotiation and frankly that was the best deal we could get,” Martinez told the Assembly Budget Committee on Tuesday.

Martinez added that there is no hard data indicating a correlation between mechanical inspections and improved road safety.

Privatizing vehicle inspections could be an option, MVC head says