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Bill would allow dealers to do emissions tests

March 02, 2005|by TAMELA BAKER

tammyb@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Del. LeRoy Myers, R-Washington/Allegany, on Tuesday defended his bill to allow car dealerships to conduct the state's vehicle emissions inspections on later model cars, telling members of the House Environmental Matters Committee that letting dealerships do the tests would make life easier for the average Maryland driver.

Dealerships might be closer to home and would allow for any necessary repairs to be made.

"Most working people have to go on Saturdays," Myers said, and make their way to the state inspection site only to "wait in long lines and get very aggravated."

Myers' bill would be limited to those vehicles that have on-board diagnostic capability.

Travis Martz of the Maryland New Car and Truck Dealers Association told the committee that letting dealerships do the tests was "a convenience issue." He said most dealers have the necessary equipment, and that conducting the inspections would require minimal setup.

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It would also eliminate what Martz called the "ping-pong effect" - if a vehicle fails the emissions test, the owner must take it to a garage for repairs then take it back to the test site for a new inspection.

Martz said Pennsylvania and Virginia have decentralized testing systems, and that approval of Myers' bill potentially would allow for 360 more testing sites.

The state has about 20 now, but none in far Western Maryland and few on the Eastern Shore. Vehicle owners in Garrett and Allegany counties must drive to Hagerstown for emissions tests.

Del. Richard A. Sossi, R-Eastern Shore, wondered whether decentralizing the tests could set drivers up for "unscrupulous dealers" who would "find" things wrong.

Myers replied that their diagnostic equipment would be certified.

He had the support of several committee members, one of whom said he was pretty frustrated with the state's emissions inspection program.

Del. Michael H. Weir, D-Baltimore County, complained that he'd had to make four trips to the testing center before his truck passed. Each time it failed, he said, meant another repair bill. He finally took the truck to a dealership, he said. "They were the only ones who could tell me what parts I needed."

Marcia Ways of the Department of the Environment opposed the bill, saying the state has a contract for conducting the tests through 2009, and trying to decentralize the program now would take time and resources away from preparing a more comprehensive program to use after the contract expires.

Holding off on the proposal would give both her department and the Motor Vehicle Administration time to implement the proper software for a central computer network and develop quality assurance standards.

Del. John W.E. Cluster, R-Baltimore County, was unimpressed.

"I thought we were in the business of trying to help the citizens of Maryland," he said. "I have a hard time believing it would take four years to put this program together."

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