by Alana Quartuccio
The Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) sets out to support the industry by providing education and serving as a voice for collision repair professionals all across the nation ─ with the ultimate goal of protecting the consumer.
The conversations and collaborations shared during SCRS’ recent Open Board Meeting in Indianapolis not only supported the organization’s mission but bore the fruits of its labor as discussion included recent efforts supporting Right to Appraisal, Right to Repair, inspiring young technicians to maintain collision repair careers and then some.
Two days prior to the Open Board Meeting, SCRS contributed testimony on behalf of the collision repair industry to provide a national perspective during an open public workshop in Washington, which came about as a result of an influx of consumer complaints which was a cause for concern for the Washington insurance office.
“We provided some perspective on critical issues that they’re facing and how we see them unfolding across the country and the interactions that we’re having with other collision repairers and other state associations,” stated Executive Director Aaron Schulenburg during his report.
SCRS’ testimony focused on the importance of the Right to Appraisal, sharing the efforts states like Texas have made by way of proposed legislation which would require all insurance policies to include this language. Schulenburg shared the comments SCRS made regarding flaws in the claims process, as he read from the statement delivered during the July 17 Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner Public Workshop.
“The claims process works, but not as well as perceived, and not every failure results in a complaint. Our businesses are challenged with the complexity of performing safe, proper repairs that restore the increasing array of sophisticated technology found in modern vehicles, while under extreme pressure from businesses that often benefit when the consumer is not made whole…We all collectively witness these realities all over the United States. There isn’t a business sitting with me today, that hasn’t had consumers address these shortcomings through policy protections, such as an Appraisal Clause.”
SCRS highlighted the Appraisal Clause as “a viable non-litigious option that keeps from bogging down the court systems.” Without it, consumers may be forced to take on the burden of paying out of pocket or taking on costly legal fees by going to court while their vehicles remain unrepaired. It could also potentially open the door to safety concerns if repairs are not performed correctly, putting vehicle occupants and others on the roadways at risk.
In addition to vehicle technology complicating matters as there is “a growing disparity between cheap settlements and highly complex repairs,” SCRS pointed out that “there’s another technology fueling disparity as well.” Claims technology has further exacerbated the issue.
“I’ve often joked, since COVID, that I’ve never thought I’d see a day where collision repair centers pined for the days where they had insurance adjusters walking through their shop,” Schulenburg read from his statement. “They do; it’s frequent. COVID presented an opportunity for insurance companies to shed the costs of supporting field teams to settle claims. They leaned more into photo-based, virtual-based and artificial intelligence-based solutions.”
Consumers need a system that “ensures that if someone promises to make them whole, they do. And they need a system that allows them the ability to challenge those responsible for the cost of that promise.” The message SCRS shared resonated with many of the Washington consumers who referred to the information SCRS shared when it was their time to speak out.
“We are collectively responsible as an industry for the people who care, who show up, who come to these things,” Schulenburg added, addressing the audience in attendance at the Open Meeting. “And every one of you is a part of that. It’s our obligation to do more, to bring more into the market and to create more visibility into how we can do a better job.”
Mentoring young technicians plays an important role in helping to build out the next generation of collision repairers. But it can take more than training and giving them a place to work. Keeping young apprentices engaged can be quite a challenge for shop owners.
“Unfortunately, a lot of times, the young people are just walking around the shop with a broom,” shared Kye Yeung (European Motor Car Works; Santa Ana, CA). “It’s hard for the shop owner to pair them up with another technician because they really have nothing to work with. So, we found that if they were able to get their hands on some entry level tools, they could feel more like part of the team. They are then able to do things around the shop and feel proud of whatever achievements they might accomplish.”
Providing tools to up-and-coming technicians is a large part of the Collision Engineering Program, a program that supports several schools around the country in partnership with Ranken Technical College. Amber Alley (Barsotti’s Body and Fender; San Rafael, CA) explained the program provides students with a toolbox so they can walk into a shop with confidence. “They aren’t walking into the shop asking to borrow someone else’s tools. It gives them ownership upon arriving with their own tools. They look professional when they come in and don’t appear to be someone who just came in off the street.”
Other Board members shared their methods of organizing toolboxes to promote accountability and efficiency.
“For every toolbox I have in the shop, I have set up what is basically a visual standard,” shared Andrew Batenhorst (Pacific BMW; Glendale, CA) whose toolboxes showcase a photo of what the inside of the box should look like. “It’s a methodology about organizing a work area designed to increase efficiency. The average technician’s box likely has everything just strewn about, but it’s a lot easier to very quickly tell whether your tools are in or not.”
Conversations are vital toward finding the pathways toward solutions. Talking about industry issues in this forum is what helps SCRS keep their finger on the pulse and aware of issues which can lead to efforts like the blend study.
Schulenburg referenced the joint position SCRS has taken with the Alliance of Automotive Innovation and the Automotive Service Association on the Right to Repair.
“We all believe that consumers deserve safe and proper repairs and that independent collision repair facilities should be able to perform them,” shared Schulenburg. “And that is not a complicated statement. Consumers should be able to choose an independent repair facility. The independent repair facility should have access to information, and they do. They should be able to continue to have access to the information.”
The meeting concluded with a special presentation from Michael R. Greene, Executive Director of the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Repair, who shared how the organization goes about keeping collision repair shops legit by making sure they are licensed. Much of the information the office obtains about unlicensed shops tends to come from word of mouth from other shops. Their process includes fines, injunctions and lastly, locking down the shop, which tends to force these shops to comply and pay for their license, Greene shared.
SCRS Board members alluded to many exciting things coming down the pike at SEMA with its Repairer Driven Education series. Check out page 20 for a full preview of what is to come, and stay tuned for more in-depth information in next month’s issue of Hammer & Dolly.
Want more? Check out the September 2023 issue of Hammer & Dolly!