Did you shudder when reading the story recently in Tire Business about the Vermont auto technician arrested for manslaughter following a car crash that killed a woman?
According to the Alliance of Automotive Service Providers of New Jersey (AASP/NJ), the mechanic was arrested and charged with manslaughter and reckless endangerment for approving a state vehicle inspection on a defective car.
This has to be every tech's, tire dealership's and auto service shop's biggest nightmare.
The story began in May 2014 when the technician allegedly performed an incomplete inspection on a 1992 Chevrolet Corsica that led to a woman's death two months later, according to police officials. In a warning sent to its membership, the AASP/-NJ said that an investigation into the accident uncovered that the brake lines and rocker panels in the vehicle were rusted and corroded, classifying them as being in a visibly unsafe condition.
The technician, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, faces up to 16 years in jail should he be convicted on all charges.
This is heavy stuffand not something most auto technicians likely think about when coming to work each day or when performing vehicle safety inspections. But the reality is, if technicians and shops are not careful, something similar could indeed happen to them one day.
It may seem overdramatic, but working on cars probably should be viewed as a life-or-death matter, just as it is with a doctor and his or her patients. The work requires vigilance because a mistake, a wrong diagnosis or an overlooked problem could have tragic consequences. Being a little paranoid about this is not necessarily a bad thing.
As AASP/NJ Executive Director Charles Bryant said in the group's warning: It's one thing if you allowed a bad job to get out of your dealership and were suedthere's insurance to cover thatbut to go to jail for doing a careless job is a whole different story. His point is well taken: the stakes are way too high.
Mr. Bryant, in his message, also warned about using compromised parts due to Direct Repair agreements. The liability still remains with the repairer, he said, adding that the insurer's refusal to pay will not count as an excuse in a court of law.
Clearly, most tire dealerships and repair shops do good work and cases like these are few and far between. But when they do happen, they should serve as a wake-up call as well as a stark reminder of the importance safety and proper repair procedures play in the day-to-day operation of a service shop.
Tire dealers and repair shop owners should remind their techs and service managers of this message regularlyfor the sake of their businesses and the safety and well-being of their customers. A life could depend on it.