by Bob Beranek
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Is licensing of technicians a benefit or a detriment to the industry? I have heard strong opinions from a number of sources, including technicians, shop owners, the insurance industry, the government and lastly the consumer or end user.  What I intend to do these next few weeks is to discuss the issue through the eyes of each group. I will give my opinions based on what I see as a member of three out of the five interest groups named above. I am a technician, owner and consumer. Some readers may disagree with my conclusions so I welcome them to share their own opinions.

Let’s start with the technicians. What are the pros and cons of licensing for the technician?

—There may be more training or apprenticeship required;

—There will be fewer technicians, so salaries will rise with demand;

—There will probably be an annual re-licensing fee involved;

—It should raise the auto glass technician in the eyes of the consumer to a higher level of professionalism;

—It may require the need for each tech to purchase liability insurance for protection.

State governments that mandate professional licensing usually require some proof of competence. This proof usually consists of an amount of dictated training and then testing to assure the public of minimum competence. How that training is developed, sanctioned, administrated, delivered and paid for is the big question.

Obviously, training is not free. It will take money and effort to comply with state licensing regulations no matter how user-friendly the programs are. However, compliance may pay for itself by reduced competition and higher product and service prices.

I think it goes without saying that a licensing program will reduce the number of auto glass installers in the states that adopt the program. Of course, the actual number will be dependent on the type of program and how it is administered. The easier it is to obtain a license, than the fewer the installers who are lost.

Conversely, the more demands put upon the licensees and the more expenses there are, the fewer qualified techs there will be for hire. Having fewer licensed techs available means higher salaries for those that go through the process. Though this may look like a big benefit for the technicians, it may be a wash because of training costs and annual licensing fees.

Licensing means annual costs. Each year there will be either added training requirements or licensing fees or both. Some of these costs will be minimal, but depending on a program’s training requirements, the money spent can be higher.

Anyone who has spent any time in our industry knows we are sometimes thought of as unskilled service providers that rank near predatory mechanics, roofers or used-car salesmen. We know differently, but the recent press we have received from the media and the insurance fraud cases that have been made public, do not bode well for our industry and our reputation. Licensing would raise our status to the consumer. Think about how it would look to our customers to have a government issued license to prove our worth. Wouldn’t that be easier to sell? Wouldn’t there be a certain sense of pride?

Licensing does somewhat individualize the process of installation. The technician is a state licensed individual that installs glass for the driving public. The technician replaces a safety device that protects the occupants of the vehicle. The technician works for a company but the company is not licensed the tech is, so there is some level of liability that will fall onto the shoulder of the tech. That individualization comes with a certain amount of responsibility that might require some protection for the technician. Does that mean another expense is required for the technician in the form of a liability insurance policy? Possibly, that would be a question that would have to be asked of an attorney or the legislator writing the bill. How much liability would be placed at the feet of the technician? That is the question that must be answered.

Next week I’ll put on my owner’s hat and see where this subject leads. I would love to read your comments to get a feel for how this subject is playing in the real world.

I received my usual monthly notice of recalls yesterday and I saw an interesting item. Several GM models, as well as a few other models GM has interested in, have some problems with the window switches. Involved models include:

  • BUICK RAINIER 2006-2007;
  • CHEVROLET TRAILBLAZER 2006-2007;
  • CHEVROLET TRAILBLAZER EXT 2006;
  • GMC ENVOY 2006-2007;
  • GMC ENVOY XL 2006;
  • ISUZU ASCENDER 2006-2007; and
  • SAAB 9-7X 2005-2007.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) summary of the problem states, “Fluid may enter the driver’s door module, causing corrosion that could result in a short in the circuit board. A short may cause the power door lock and power window switches to function intermittently or become inoperative. The short may also cause overheating, which could melt components of the door module, producing odor, smoke, or a fire.”

The interesting part is all the “mays” and “coulds” used in the summary. If this is a serious issue, and I think fire is a serious issue, the tone of the recall is unusually tempered in its wording. As far as I’m concerned, a recall is a recall and if danger is present for the occupants it must be fixed not “may” be fixed. NHTSA goes on to say, “…A fire could occur even while the vehicle is not in use. As a precaution, owners are advised to park outside until the remedy has been made.” Ya think? I think it is severe enough to make a serious effort to be unequivocal.

How does this concern us as auto glass technicians? We, as responsible professionals, must make sure that the owners of these vehicles are made aware of the issue and urge them to have their dealer complete the fix.  If we fail to do that, we could be held responsible for our indifference and negligence. Especially if we just finished working on their car. Here is the link to the notice so you can print it and give it out to your customers,

http://www-odi.nhtsa.dot.gov/owners/SearchResults.action?searchType=ID&targetCategory=R&searchCriteria.nhtsa_ids=13V248&refurl=email.

I would suggest that it be placed with and/or attached to the work order that goes out with the technician so he is reminded to discuss it with his customer, whether it is replacing the door glass or not. Also put a couple of copies in each service vehicle for distribution as well.

Let’s be the auto glass professional our customers hired.  Professional means expert, qualified and skilled; how about proving that is a fact and not simply a term we use to market ourselves.    

I recently have heard reports that some third-party administrators (TPAs) are refusing to pay for the re-calibration of lane departure systems (LDS) built into the vehicles after a windshield is replaced. If true, it is up to the glass replacement company to communicate the importance of re-calibration to their customers and urge them to have the re-calibration completed by their vehicle dealership. It could be a matter of life or death.

First of all, there are several ways to mount the LDS sensing device. Some are mounted to the roof’s header and view through the windshield (Volvo); some are mounted to the outside rearview mirrors (BMW); others are mounted in the front grill of the vehicle; and still others are mounted to a glass bracket on the inside surface of the windshield.

Any vehicle that mounts the LDS camera to the glass requires that the camera be re-calibrated to assure proper operation. The vehicle brands that have voiced the most concern are Mercedes and Honda, but I am sure that other vehicles that have introduced this safety device will voice the same directive depending on where they decide to mount the camera. The camera shoots the center line to the left of the vehicle and vibrates the steering wheel to warn the driver when needed. Some will even begin the braking system. If the camera/sensor is misaligned, the sensor will not pick up the warning signal thus allowing the car to veer into the other lane. This is an important issue, and it must be communicated to the customer and their insurers.

Lane departure image

What do you do if the TPA refuses to pay for re-calibration? To assure that you are talking intelligently about the issue, I would suggest that you:

—Make sure that the vehicle has a glass mounted LDS and not one of the roof or grill mounted units that will not require re-calibration.

—Talk to the vehicle dealer and get a quote for calibrating the system. In our area it costs $75.00

—Get pre-authorization for the re-calibration from the TPA involved.

 —If the TPA refuses to pay for the re-calibration, ask for a written refusal letter to show your current and future customers.

—Explain the importance to the customer and charge them for the re-calibration.

—If everyone refuses to pay for the re-calibration, it will be the responsibility of the glass professional to make the final decision of refusing or accepting the job.

Remember that deviating from the vehicle manufacturers’ recommendations for safety means accepting the liability. You are the responsible party and you make the final decisions. Please let me know if you have had TPAs refuse to pay for re-calibration of lane departure systems.