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Is it time for automotive technicians to be licensed?

Thursday, May 30, 2019 - 06:00
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Recently, there was an interesting discussion hosted by Remarkable Result's founder, Carm Capriotto, and featuring Scott Brown (Diagnostic Network), Jorge Menchu (AESWave), Matt Fanslow (Riverside Automotive) and Justin Morgan (LMV Bavarian). The podcast was entitled "RR 414: Elevating Our Industry’s Definition of Mechanic/Technician" and you can listen to it for yourself on Carm's site at http://www.RemarkableResults.biz.

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There were several points raised by the panel that caught my attention. One was how we evolved from being "mechanics" to "technicians". More importantly, is the term "technician" adequate to describe to the curious onlooker what it is that we do for a living. According to Menchu, today's competent diagnostic tech should be thought of as an "Automotive Scientific Investigator and a Diagnostic Reverse Engineer". That's quite a mouthful and may be a bit awkward when used to describe to someone you just met what it is, exactly, that you do.

But to his point, and to the point of the other commentators, the average consumer today still looks at us and thinks of us no differently than the "mechanics" of fifty years ago. And why should they, I thought? It is an unfortunate reality that there are many in our business who aren't qualified to change the oil in a lawn mower, let alone attempt to repair any of the complex systems on an automobile. And every time they leave a consumer with an improper fix and a deflated wallet, our image and overall reputation takes a hit.

Is it time?

That's when a comment made by Brown resonated with me. He related auto repair to aviation repair. Aviation technicians must be certified and licensed. Every repair or service they perform has to be recorded in the aircraft's logs. And, as a side observation, if there is a required service that needs to be performed that aircraft isn't going anywhere until it is. As someone who flies fairly often, I'm pretty happy about that.

Eric Ziegler presents to a full house at the 2019 VISION conference.

Now consider this — recalls issued by the OEMs are at record levels yet the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 30% of the recalled repairs are not completed. Add this little trivia fact to the equation. According to the most recent data I could find, only 15 states require annual or periodic vehicle safety inspections. That means the roads are full of vehicles that could potentially cause injury to the occupants or those around them. That is, my family and yours!

If we were to follow the template used in aviation, I think that would go a long way to accomplishing several things. One, we would all be safer on the road. Two, our professional stature would rise as those unable or unwilling to earn certification found other lines of work. Three, our value in the eyes of the consumer would rise.

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