Stickers out and off the window

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BEN TORRES
A mechanic prepares a state inspection sticker in 2008. <137>ORG XMIT: S0422284557 (PHOTO MADE 02/05/08) Mechanic Roy Salazar, with Starkey Service Center on West Davis street, prepares a state inspection sticker after a vehicle he inspected passed the tests, on February 05, 2008, in Oak Cliff. 127901 BEN TORRES / AL DIA 02072008xaldia 02092008xBiz<137>

State to eliminate decals for vehicle inspections in March

Texas drivers will enjoy a little better windshield view starting in March 2015 when safety inspections become tied to vehicle registration.

Texas’ inspection sticker — a front-glass fixture for more than half a century — will go away in the process.

The inspection itself is still required. Vehicle owners will have to get their inspection within 90 days before the registration, then provide proof the inspection was passed just like they provide proof of insurance.

“It’s actually going to make vehicles safer because they have to have both to get the sticker,” said Lon Craft, director of legislative affairs for the Texas Municipal Police Association, a statewide police officers union.

Those with widely different numbers, “5” (May) and a “11” (November) for example, will have to take care of the two needs in a closer time frame. Procrastinators will crowd inspection places at the end of months instead of the current first-of-the-month grace period.

The trade-off for any confusion is that most will get a grace period of several months during the transition.

For example, if a car owner’s registration expires in May and their inspection tag expires in June, they will not have to get their car tested until prior to renewing in May 2016.

But if someone’s inspection sticker expires in May but their registration is up in June, they will have to get an inspection.

The change will lead to millions of fewer inspections from March 2015, when the new rule takes effect, to the end of the transition.

So those in the business of conducting inspections stand to take a short-term loss — but not much of a loss.

“Inspections as a percentage of the business is pretty small,” said David Chenoweth of Northaven Auto, a general service garage in Richardson. “We do it more for customer convenience.”

The state charges the vendor $14.75 per sticker and mandates a $39.50 charge to the consumer. Factor in the cost of a certified inspector and a $45,000 emissions machine and the retailer is left without much profit margin.

“We don’t make money on inspections,” said Bruce Strickland, who owns SpeeDee Oil Change & Tune Up locations in Garland and Dallas. Unlike the general service garage, Strickland says 23 percent of his customers are there to get an inspection — though usually in combination with the oil change.

“If we weren’t having to pay for that $14.75 sticker and kept the price the same, for once we’d make money on an inspection,” Strickland added, noting that the regulators have made zero overtures toward any change in the per-vehicle charge from the state to vendors.

The state stands to save $2 million by discontinuing the stickers Texas has required since the 1950s. For decades, the safety inspection sticker rode the windshield solo. But that changed for some with the addition of the TollTag and for all Texans when registration stickers were moved from the rear license plate.

With toll roads spreading across the Dallas-Fort Worth area landscape, the three-sticker windshield has become commonplace.

Drivers will save a little clutter. And beware. There’s a little advantage for the officers as well.

“Having only one sticker to look at, it’ll be easier to spot than having the two,” said Craft, a 24-year veteran of local law enforcement. The officers’ association, however, took no position in the change.

TIMELINE: WINDSHIELD STICKERS

1935 — Texas Department of Public Safety established; soon thereafter, its patrol crews operate mobile Safety Lanes for random vehicle testing; those that passed were marked with a windshield sticker in the shape of Texas; those that failed were given a small red sticker.

1951 — Texas Legislature votes to require annual inspections.

1969 — Inspection sticker placement moved from lower right corner of the windshield to the lower left.

1989 — Dallas North Tollway’s TollTag debuts.

1994 — Registration stickers moved from the rear license plate to deter theft.

2015 — Inspection stickers to be eliminated as required inspections become a component of applying for registration.


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