Sticker shock: New inspection system off to slow start

Registry says new system is operational, but Island shop owners had difficulty getting theirs to work.



At least two Island inspection stations are still unable to issue stickers under a new system that was supposed to kick off on Monday and have had little luck getting through to Applus, the company hired by the state to implement the new program. The new equipment includes cameras in an effort to deter fraud.

While the state Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) issued a glowing press release Monday about the implementation, it’s been disastrous.

The RMV promised to send at least 30 employees out to stations on Wednesday to fix the issues, State Rep. Dylan Fernandes (D-Falmouth) told The Times in an email. “I don’t know the full scope of the issue statewide, but it sounds like 30 more people helping isn’t enough, especially since many folks can’t get through to Applus,” he wrote.

Station owners on the Island are reaching their frustration threshold.

“They say it’s our fault,” said David Pothier, owner of Cars Unlimited. “The state screwed this up. They had a year to implement this. They dropped the ball.”

Mr. Pothier said he’s had a guy working the phones eight hours a day trying to get his system up and running.

“It’s a nightmare,” Angel Figueroa, owner of MV Autoworks and Angel’s Auto Body, said on Tuesday. Mr. Figueroa had a nonchalant attitude on Monday, but by Wednesday he was equally frustrated. “I had to go a roundabout way to get someone,” he said. “Finally, someone called me back.”

What he learned is that he won’t be able to do commercial stickers for a while and that the other stickers weren’t properly loaded in the new machines. “We’re getting closer,” he said.

The cameras, which inspection garages had to install at a cost of $5,810 (more than $8,000 if they inspect heavy duty trucks), are required as of Oct. 1 as a safeguard to make sure that safety inspections are done properly. At the outset, inspections will include still cameras that will photograph VIN numbers, license plates, and the employees doing the safety and emissions checks. As of January, video cameras will be installed.

The $35 price for a new sticker remains the same, with stations receiving $23 of the fee, according to a registry press release. The RMV Monday press release said that the inspection equipment is up and running across the state.

“Some station owners today have needed to be told how to enable the printing of stickers. They were taught this in training, but the message is being repeated to them today and then they can enable stickers to print,” Judith Riley, a spokesman for the RMV, wrote in an email. “Applus has a team of people available to answer calls and support the stations to remind them how to complete this step.”

The Times asked about the troubles at the Vineyard stations and got no answer from the spokesman.

The shop owners understand the need for the changes. “The regulations for state inspections have not changed,” Mr. Figueroa said Monday. “The rules are still the same rules. What the cameras ensure is that the state inspections are done properly.”

If you do them the right way, having a camera is no issue, he said. “If you don’t, now there’s evidence.”

“It was time for a change,” said Mr. Pothier, whose shop is located in the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park. “I’m just pissed at the company for not having enough time to work this out.”

The machines were delivered to his shop Wednesday, Mr. Pothier said. “Then Monday comes and the whole system is down,” he said. “This is like truck month — it’s a busy time.”

At Buddy’s in Oak Bluffs, the garage had decided to stop doing inspections, but after hearing from a lot of customers, owner Allan deBettencourt said he will now spend the money on the new system. The requirement to be on email was a drawback, Mr. deBettencourt said.

“I am going to replace it,” he said on Monday. “I’m trying to deal with the people in Boston…. I’m not going to let up until it’s done.”

Several other shop owners did not respond to calls from The Times.

Larry Conroy, owner of Courtesy Motors in Vineyard Haven, doesn’t do inspections, but he realizes the need to have safe cars on the road. “There will be no such thing as an Island car anymore,” he said. “That’s not a bad thing. Safety is important.”

Still, Mr. Conroy said he wouldn’t want to do car inspections with “Big Brother staring over your shoulder” waiting for you to slip up. “I want to fix cars, and I don’t want to feel nervous doing it,” he said.


  1. Its a hassle, its a tax, and most accidents do not come from safety defects in cars but from careless driving. this is just another MA regulation to collect money and the use of cameras means that some companies doing the testing are claiming falsely in order to get repair work.

    • Yeah, I don’t have a problem with the safety aspect of the inspection, but where it really goes south is the emissions monitoring. It is possible for a vehicle to be totally in compliance as to emissions and yet fail inspection due to a code popping up due to the emission monitoring equipment failing or giving a false signal to the OBC. Fuel tank pressure sensing switches are a good example of this. In the olden days emissions were tested by sticking a sensor up the tail pipe (an exhaustoscopy, if you will). PPM was easy to read and compare to the standard.

  2. Vehicles that fail inspections are not allowed on the road, therefore your argument actually supports that inspections are necessary.

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