The new roadblock to Right to Repair

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Updated Nov 15, 2017

The Right to Repair debate has resurfaced again in Massachusetts.

Last month the northeastern commonwealth—the first state to pass Right to Repair legislation into law—held a public hearing regarding its House bill 2784. First proposed in January and backed heavily by the Auto Care Association, H-2784 is written as “an Act providing for an investigation and study by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation regarding the implementation of Chapter 165 of the Acts of 2013 (Right to Repair Act).”

In simpler terms, H-2784 would allow Massachusetts a method to check and make sure the OEMs impacted by its 2013 Right to Repair law are actually, you know, following the full scope of law.

To me the sheer existence of this bill makes me think they probably aren’t. And if that’s the case in Massachusetts, it’s probably true nationwide. The automotive and heavy-duty industries agreed to nationwide Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) with their respective independent service channels after Massachusetts’ Right to Repair Act was passed.

The thinking back then was obvious: once voters in one state showed overwhelming support for the Right to Repair movement it made sense for both sides to sit down and work out a national agreement. Better to fight one large battle than 49 smaller ones, especially considering the smaller battles could still result in a more disjointed but ultimately similar marketplace.

The commercial vehicle industry’s MOU was finalized in 2015. A landmark agreement from the start, the document was to ensure vehicle owners and independent repair facilities would have access to OEM-controlled service information, tools and parts they would need to safely and properly repair commercial vehicles. The MOU also was to allow independent service providers the ability to purchase OEM diagnostic equipment to use in their operations.

The good news for trucking is a lot of this has been done. OEMs have built web portals to house service information and created independent service provider-centric diagnostic software for purchase and use in the field. More data is released every month, and for an independent aftermarket that fought so hard and so long for single shreds of information, the windfall of information available now has not gone unnoticed.

But a lot also doesn’t equal everything, and as the independent aftermarket becomes more comfortable using the literature and diagnostic information OEMs are providing, they are also becoming increasingly more aware of what is still being withheld.

That’s why Commercial Vehicle Right to Repair Coalition President Marc Karon says he made the decision to testify at Massachusetts’ hearing last month. Karon says the independent aftermarket is grateful for the MOU it reached with trucking’s OEMs and hopes it will support the market for decades to come.

But a deal’s a deal, and Karon says the independent aftermarket needs to know the information OEMs agreed to release in the MOU but still haven’t will some-day become available.

“We are very grateful for what we have received from OEMs thus far. We believe our Right to Repair effort has been somewhat successful, but we have yet to receive everything we were promised,” he says. “We are trying to get to the finish line.”

I think this is the right call for the independent aftermarket.

The CV Right to Repair Coalition worked too hard for too long to get an MOU in place only to see it be casually followed by those who agreed to it. My hope would be more legislation wouldn’t be necessary to make this MOU hum, though I understand the draw for some level of monitoring.

Here’s hoping last month’s nudge was enough to bring trucking’s OEMs back in line with the industry’s agreement.

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