Point. Counterpoint. Where trucking stands on the REPAIR Act

Truck in a service shop waiting to be worked on

Last February, Rep. Neal Dunn (R-Fla.) introduced House Resolution 906 to Congress.

Also known as the “REPAIR Act,” H.R. 906 would require motor vehicle manufacturers “to provide to a vehicle’s owner certain direct, real-time, in-vehicle data generated by the operation of the vehicle that is related to diagnostics, repair, service, wear and calibration or recalibration of parts and systems of the vehicle.”

Though the bill’s text is different than state efforts in Massachusetts and Maine and the national heavy-duty Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in 2015, its focus is not. If passed, H.R. 906 could create a federal law around vehicle right to repair.

As such, the bill has been hotly debated in the automotive and commercial vehicle industries. It’s up to 50 cosponsors in Congress — 25 on both sides of the aisle — and has been moved to House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Innovation, Data and Commerce.

Within trucking, especially, right to repair has been one of the independent aftermarket’s biggest crusades for more than a decade.

Associations and businesses in support of right to repair and have advocated for transparency and access to technical information of vehicle systems for the benefit of consumers — that vehicle owners should have the freedom to have their vehicles repaired and serviced how they so choose.

Conversely, truck and engine manufacturers have opposed right to repair legislation, stating the highly advanced technological systems found on today’s commercial vehicles should only be serviced by licensed dealer professionals trained on the technology. OEMs also have voiced concerns about publicly releasing proprietary design information, stating fears their technologies could be reverse engineered to create aftermarket products that lack the safety and performance levels of genuine first-fit components.

In an effort to better understand these positions, Trucks, Parts, Service has connected with associations on both sides of the debate. Responses below come from representatives from the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network (CVSN), Auto Care Association, MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers, the National Automobile Dealers Association/American Truck Dealers (NADA/ATD) and a document produced by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Why does your organization support H.R. 906?

CVSN: “Historically, the commercial vehicle aftermarket has had access to repair and maintenance data but advances in technology are raising new challenges for access to in-vehicle data that did not exist previously and present an existential threat to independent shops. Heavy-duty truck manufacturers are now building proprietary firewalls around their on-board diagnostic systems … Right to repair helps independent shops compete for our customers’ business.”

MEMA: “[MEMA] supports H.R. 906 because it aligns with our core mission of advocating for the rights of aftermarket suppliers and ensuring they have fair access to the tools, parts and information necessary to repair and maintain heavy-duty vehicles. It is important to address repair access for heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles — addressing key challenges for fleets, independent drivers and consumers.

CVSN: “H.R. 906 would make it unlawful at the federal level to prevent non-dealers from accessing repair information. That would enable us to go to the FTC for enforcement or actually file a lawsuit if an OE did not comply. Without it, we have to depend on the MOU, which works with direct data transfer but will not work with telematic transfer of data.”

Why does your organization oppose H.R. 906?

NADA/ATD: “First, it is critical to understand there is no need for H.R. 906 — independent repair shops currently have access to 100% of the information and training they need to repair, maintain and service vehicles, including heavy-duty vehicles.  

“The bill would create tremendous privacy and cybersecurity risks by requiring manufacturers to change the way they make their vehicles and allowing any third party to extract and send data to a vehicle remotely. Such broad, remote access would pose safety risks to the driving public. The bill would require OEMs to provide access to all the data the vehicle generates, which may include sensitive and private information, to anyone the vehicle owner designates.

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“In the end, H.R. 906 has little to do with repairing a vehicle. Instead, the bill aims to force OEMs to provide any aftermarket manufacturer with propriety information to produce or offer compatible aftermarket parts. In other words, the bill undermines innovation and intellectual property rights by allowing aftermarket manufacturers to replicate products developed by OEMs and sold by America’s franchised commercial dealers. America’s truck dealers have made investments over decades to ensure the proper servicing of commercial medium- and heavy-duty trucks, including the purchase of tools, special equipment and employee training. This bill undermines this investment.”

NAM: “The push for broad right to repair legislation is an inapt response to the efforts manufacturing companies have made to ensure customers are able to have their equipment replaced at cost or repaired by whomever they desire, whether that be through an authorized dealer, independent repair shop or self-repair. The debate tends to obscure the reality that most repairs can be completed by owners or third parties, and that manufacturers have taken steps to help clarify and expand precisely what their consumers can do on their own.”

Why do you believe other organizations oppose H.R. 906?

MEMA: “Organizations opposing H.R. 906 are often concerned with protecting proprietary information, preserving their own economic interests, and ensuring vehicle safety and security. They argue that opening access to diagnostic and repair information could lead to unauthorized vehicle modifications that compromise safety and environmental standards.

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“However, MEMA Aftermarket Suppliers believes these concerns can be addressed through technology already being used by OEMs and dealers and effective regulatory frameworks that ensure safety and compliance without unnecessarily restricting access to repair information.”

Auto Care: “Vehicle manufacturers want to control all the data generated by vehicles for financial reasons. Today, vehicle manufacturers are pulling volumes of data from consumers’ cars (e.g., precise vehicle location, biometrics data, driving data and browsing activities on devices interacting with the vehicle) and using it for their own purposes, including selling it to third parties.”

CVSN: “Vehicle manufacturers seek to monetize data obtained from vehicles, including via the sale of such data to third parties. This data, including repair and diagnostic information that is communicated wirelessly via telematics, is also being leveraged by manufacturers to ensure a competitive advantage is maintained by its dealer network.

MEMA: “[MEMA] has consistently supported access for legitimate entities and interests and worked with lawmakers to ensure that HR 906 (as introduced) included a requirement for the Department of Transportation to conduct rulemaking to protect the cybersecurity of the vehicle.”

Why do you believe other organizations support H.R. 906?

NADA/ATD: “The supporters of H.R. 906 tout that the legislation offers ‘consumer access’ and ‘consumer choice.’ However, heavy-duty trucks are not consumer products. The independent repair shop that services heavy-duty trucks often performs specialty work, and truck dealers will routinely sublet such repairs to independent shops.

“No data or evidence has been produced by the bill’s proponents showing that there is any information currently inaccessible that would prevent independent repairers from fixing heavy-duty trucks.”

NAM: “The basis of the right to repair movement hinges on the notion that equipment owners do not have the capability to repair their own equipment and that they are prevented from being able to do so. However, this assertion effectively misconstrues the status quo. For instance, many OEM websites already provide the necessary information — when and where possible — to consumers; OEMs also make manuals, tools and parts available to consumers who wish to do their own repairs.”

What is the most important feature of H.R. 906?

CVSN: “Currently, more than 70% of after-warranty vehicle repairs are performed by independent repair shops. H.R. 906 would provide independent repair facilities with the rights to critical vehicle diagnostic and repair data, authorized by the vehicle owner, without restrictions imposed by the manufacturers. Importantly, and to reiterate, access to this diagnostic and repair data is something that independent shops have historically had. In that regard, H.R. 906 seeks to maintain the status quo. Our members rely on a thriving aftermarket for their livelihood; this legislation will protect their future.”

MEMA: “The provision that ensures equal access to essential diagnostic tools, repair information and software for all stakeholders in the light- and heavy-duty vehicle ecosystem. This legislation embodies the principles of fairness and transparency, which are fundamental to fostering a competitive and innovative automotive aftermarket. It safeguards consumers’ privacy. Ensuring that independent repair shops, fleets, OES shops and vehicle owners have access to this information is key to maintaining a vibrant and competitive market that benefits everyone.

Auto Care: “H.R. 906 guarantees vehicle owners and the independent repair shops of their choice access to the repair and maintenance data necessary to safely repair and maintain those vehicles. Importantly, H.R. 906 ensures the aftermarket can access repair and maintenance data both through the wireline OBD port and wirelessly through the telematics systems.”

CVSN: “[H.R. 906] reinforces the premise of who owns the data on their vehicle or any other device. Without H.R. 906, anything we own could be subject to the pricing whims of the manufacturers and dealers. The only argument against H.R. 906 is safety. It is patently ridiculous to assume a dealer will be more secure than a repair shop. In addition, failure to provide repair information or access to telematic data will only encourage the development of counterfeit scanners, which are much less secure. Has anyone ever heard of prohibition in the 1920s?”

What is the most alarming feature of H.R. 906?

NADA/ATD: “The clear risks to cybersecurity it creates is incredibly alarming. The bill, if adopted as is, will raise direct risks to safety — not only to vehicle owners and drivers, but to the driving public. These risks are particularly acute as vehicles have more driver assist features and greater connectivity.

“As the Department of Commerce has outlined in a recently proposed rule, connected vehicles are increasingly ‘a compilation of on-board computers, sensors, cameras, batteries and other [hardware and software] tied together through software systems.’ These advances ‘rely on significant data collection’ and ‘may expose the vehicles and the sectors they support, to new cyber-enabled attack vectors and vulnerabilities, with the potential to create profound risks to national security and public safety.’

“The overly broad and unfettered bidirectional access to vehicle data and systems creates tremendous risks — risks that are completely unnecessary.”

NAM: “Allowing consumers to have access to a good’s software can potentially jeopardize manufacturers’ IP protections as well as create cybersecurity risks for consumers. One reason that manufacturers place limits on access to proprietary information for individuals and independent repair facilities is to minimize these potential hazards ... 

”The unauthorized repair of certain devices creates a greater risk for compromised information, due to either a lack of proper training or malicious action. Diagnostic tools provide access to the entire device, which often includes sensitive user information. Improper or insecure repair can result in the disabling of security features, making devices vulnerable to data theft. At worst, unrestricted access to user data can open the door for illintentioned unauthorized technicians to act malevolently.”

How would you recruit an impartial observer to your cause in supporting H.R. 906?

Auto Care: “Less choice in automotive repair and parts means higher prices, longer wait times and poorer quality. If vehicle owners (and independent repair shops of their choice) can’t access the data necessary to keep their vehicles running, manufacturers will control where owners have to repair their vehicles and the parts they have to use to make those repairs. Today, repairs are, on average, 37% cheaper at an independent shop than at the dealership and almost always more accessible. Allowing manufacturers to limit the vibrant aftermarket and consumer choice benefits no one except the manufacturers.”

CVSN: “Assume you had a light bulb fail in a lamp in your house, and you had to call the home builder to change it because it required a special tool or program. When someone buys something, they should also own the ability to repair it. Once you give up that freedom, everything is subject to lobbying and legislation.”

[RELATED: Associations supporting right to repair make their case at HDAW]

MEMA: “[MEMA] would emphasize the economic and environmental benefits of supporting H.R. 906. We would explain how broader access to repair information can lead to more sustainable vehicle maintenance practices, lower costs for owners, and stimulate competition in the repair market — all while protecting data privacy.

“Additionally, demonstrating the positive impact on small businesses and the overall economy, along with real-life examples of how current restrictions have affected vehicle owners and independent repairers. This would allow the trucking industry to maintain and repair vehicles efficiently supporting the transportation needs of the country.”

CVSN: “As we have learned in the recent past and continue to learn daily, keeping commercial vehicles running is imperative to a healthy and robust supply chain, and H.R. 906 will ensure trucks can continue to operate unimpeded by technological advancements.”

How would you recruit an impartial observer to your cause in opposing H.R. 906?

NADA/ATD: “An impartial observer should be aware that H.R. 906 is simply and fundamentally unnecessary to repair vehicles. Agreements and mechanisms have been and continue to be in place to ensure that independent repair shops have access to all information required to repair or maintain 100% of vehicles on the road today.

“Given that fact, the unfettered access to all vehicle data to any third-party raises unnecessary privacy, security, environmental and safety concerns by mandating that original truck equipment manufacturers redesign their vehicles to meet the bill’s requirements.”

NAM: “Supporters of right to repair legislation often insist that making it easier for consumers to do their own repairs would benefit the environment, claiming that cheaper maintenance costs would lead owners to keep their goods for a longer period of time, reducing waste. However, there is little evidence that right to repair would lengthen product cycles; in fact, the predilection of owners to boost horsepower and acceleration suggests that reduced product cycles would be a more likely outcome.

“Modifications or inapt repair can be damaging to the engine as well as the drive components. For instance, increasing the hydraulic pressure to gain more digging force on an excavator — a common modification on such machines — creates an imbalance for the entire machine.”

What is your assessment of the 2015 heavy-duty right to repair MOU now in place?

Auto Care: “Voluntary MOUs, whether on the light-duty or heavy-duty side of the ecosystem, do not sufficiently protect vehicle owners or the aftermarket. Some of the flaws include a lack of a binding enforcement mechanism, a right to exit the MOU without penalty, the fact that manufacturer participation is voluntary, that some vehicle manufacturers have not joined, and the fact the MOU does not address direct access to vehicle telematics data.”

CVSN: “The MOU does not adequately ensure the needs of the commercial trucking industry, as they exist today, can be met. An MOU is not a law; participation is voluntary. The MOU is nearly 10 years old and does not address direct access to vehicle telematics data. Other flaws include absence of a binding enforcement mechanism, the right to exit the MOU without penalty, and not all original equipment manufacturers are signatories or participants.”

MEMA: “[MEMA] views the 2015 heavy-duty MOU as an initial step but recognizes its many limitations, especially its lack of enforceability and narrow focus. The MOU does not fully address the needs of the aftermarket industry for access to all necessary repair information and tools. Additionally, it lacks a robust mechanism for resolving disputes and ensuring compliance, which can leave independent repairers at a disadvantage.”

NADA/ATD: “The MOU has and continues to be broad enough to allow access to information needed to service and repair vehicles. Given that such information is already available, H.R. 906 is simply unnecessary.”

With staunch supporters/opposition on both sides of H.R. 906, what do you believe is the best path forward for compromise and a permanent solution for the commercial vehicle industry?

MEMA: “[MEMA] believes the path forward involves constructive dialogue between all stakeholders, aiming for a compromise that balances the need for open access to repair information and strong data privacy with intellectual property protection. The Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission recently noted providing consumers access to their vehicle’s telematics data would pose a minimal threat to copyright holders and this data could be accessed without increasing cybersecurity risks.”

CVSN: “Having been involved in the original MOU, the motivation for compromise was the passage of the Massachusetts law. I believe the law in Massachusetts and the one pending in Maine will help to motivate the manufacturers to compromise. We could use more states to propose legislation.”

Auto Care: “Congress should pass H.R. 906. This bipartisan bill, with 50 co-sponsors as of March 18, guarantees vehicle owners the right to access their own repair and maintenance data and maintains the level playing field that allows the aftermarket to compete, driving down cost and increasing accessibility to timely and safe repair services.”

NADA/ATD: “We will continue to support legitimate access to necessary repair data. But any access demands a higher level of responsibility. As vehicles become more complicated and connected, it is going to require investment and training to protect data and vehicles.

“The notion of demanding unfettered access to critical data and systems is simply untenable. The industry should work together to ensure that access is limited to what is required to repair or service vehicles without raising unnecessary risks to owners and drivers.”

NAM: “The various iterations of right to repair seek to procure short-term consumer gains in the form of lower service fees, but at a steep cost: the very real damage to the environment, consumer safety and manufacturing innovation resulting from opening up unfettered access to complex equipment and devices ... Manufacturers are producing increasingly advanced products that benefit consumers — both individuals and businesses — throughout the economy. Right to repair threatens to slow these gains.”

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