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January 17, 2013

Senators want state to drop emissions tests, inspections

NEW CASTLE — When Gov. Tom Corbett rolls outs his transportation plan, lawmakers hope two measures affecting inspection rules will be included.

Sen. John Wozniak said the measures — a bid to eliminate emissions testing in 25 counties in the state’s metropolitan areas and another to give new vehicle owners a two-year reprieve before they must get their cars inspected — could be addressed if the governor looks at transportation on a broader basis than just focusing on funding.

The inspection exemption for new cars was recommended by the governor’s transportation funding advisory commission, which estimated the two-year window would save motorists $24 million a year.

The emissions testing battle has been championed by Sen. Elder Vogel, a Republican from Beaver County. Wozniak, a Democrat from Cambria County, has been working to get new vehicles exempted from inspections.

Wozniak, the minority chairman of the Senate transportation committee, said the emissions testing has outlived its usefulness, arguing it dates from the days before almost all vehicles complied with cleaner air rules.

“Ninety-eight percent of vehicles tested pass,” he said. “The rule is archaic.”

While New Jersey, Maryland and Ohio have eliminated safety inspections, Pennsylvanians are still required to pay a private business to have vehicles inspected for safety and emissions problems each year, a combined cost of at least $50.

“There are more than nine million vehicles registered in Pennsylvania,” Wozniak said. “It adds up to a half-billion-dollar mandate. We can do something about that.”

Earlier this year, the Senate passed a bill that combined Wozniak’s legislation to exempt new cars from safety testing for two years with legislation to exempt new cars from emissions testing for ten years. The bills died without action in the House.

With transportation expected to be one of the top priorities of the legislature and the governor in 2013, there is a new opportunity for the emissions and inspection rules to revisited, Wozniak said.

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Auto Dealers Association said the trade group strongly opposes the proposal to eliminate inspections on new vehicles. The group commissioned its own study examining 123,000 vehicle inspections in 2010 and 2011 at 250 car dealers across the Commonwealth and found that 6,400 new cars failed inspection.

Mark Stine said the two-year window would not take into account other factors that may come into play, such as how rigorously or extensively a vehicle is used.

“You could have a taxi cab that is less than two years old, but because of the way it’s used, it would need new brakes.”

Stine said inspections also benefit consumers because they will compel vehicle owners to get needed maintenance repairs completed rather than delay until there is a more serious problem.

“If you need brake pads, it may be $100 to $200 job,” Stine said, “but if you need a new brake rotor, it could exceed $1,000.”

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

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