ICBC extends review of service shops

by Julia Kuzeljevich

KELOWNA, B.C. – Dale Bieseck, who owns Interior Truck and Trailer Service, says he feels he’s being held responsible for the irresponsible.

Bieseck has been licensed to perform inspections since March 1999, but since he operated a mobile facility he couldn’t be licensed to hand out annual inspection stickers.

Now that he owns a stationary facility he has been trying to get it licensed, but has met head-on with a long-running moratorium on new licence applications imposed by the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC).

Bieseck says business is hurting because of the wait. “A year is fine, but it’s dragging into two,” he says.

The ICBC imposed its moratorium on the number of new Designated Vehicle Inspection Facilities – both for the commercial vehicle inspection program and the private vehicle inspection program – in December 1998. It didn’t want any new facilities to open while it addressed concerns about standards and reviews, performance measures, certification requirements, auditing procedures and sanctions for the sites.

But while a review of the program was initially supposed to last a year, ICBC announced in a letter dated Jan. 18 that the process will not be complete until July 1.

Bieseck is doubtful of even this date.

“I could hire two more mechanics,” he says. “It’s sure cramping my business.” To try and maintain his client base, he is actually moving his clients’ vehicles to another shop for inspections. And the 45-minute trip costs him about $50 a pop.

Still, the ICBC says a minimum of two facilities per community should be enough to ensure reasonable access and competition, and insists also that the number of existing facilities is more than adequate to meet vehicle inspection requirements in B.C.

“We have a policy group analyzing the whole program,” says Ben Mikkelsen, manager of vehicle inspections for the ICBC. “We have roughly 1,700 facilities. The number is adequate, but we need to fix the quality.”

New applicants waiting for this overhaul have little recourse of action.

Bieseck says he was told he’s in line with about 200 other people waiting for facility licences. Although he understands the reasoning behind the review of licensing procedures, his patience is running out.

“Walk-ins are asking what’s going on?” says Bieseck. “I could have had some big contracts that I’ve lost out on.”

“The procedures are good because we operate with CCMTA standards,” says Mikkelsen. “The qualifications of the inspectors may also be good, but the delivery is not (across the board). Accidents have revealed some shoddy inspections.”

Mikkelsen says some shops – commonly known as lick-and-stick operations – are selling decals and not conducting inspections at all.

Early this year, the ICBC started inspecting a random sampling of roughly 30 per cent of facilities, and this initial audit should end by late March.

“We’ve also been given the green light to continue the process past March, and we’ll be using 10 or so ex-RCMP officers,” says Mikkelsen. The ICBC is looking to audit “the bad guys” on some kind of regular basis.

“We may look at shutting people down altogether,” he says. “But there’s a lot of background to be gathered before we can take licences away.”

Once completed, the renewed process is expected to include fines for those shops that don’t properly complete paperwork or use the right tools.

Bieseck, though, is noticing that his clients are losing patience. He wrote a letter about his situation and had them all sign a petition in his defence, but the Motor Vehicles Branch sent back the unopened package.

“I’ve been doing double time on these issues,” says Bieseck. “I do all the repairs but I have to get a decal from someone.” n

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