The Mudgeon Reappears

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

Okay, I have spent several weeks being a cheerleader, so now I have to display my other side. My state has a biennial vehicle emissions testing requirement, which I wholeheartedly support as a citizen committed to a cleaner environment. In our state this testing is conducted at state-owned testing facilities. We have two cars that require inspection at the same time. Automobile exhaust The hours that our testing facilities are open are clearly printed on the inspection notice. With our current notice there also was bold print across the listing of inspection stations and addresses that the station closest to us had been permanently closed.

 So, this past Saturday morning my wife and I headed out to the next closest station, about 30 minutes from our home. As we approached the station there appeared to be an unusually long line of cars not only inside the station, but out into the street and around the corner. State inspection stations have multiple lanes where you line up inside the station, so I had never witnessed this kind of line before. For the next ten minutes we inched our way forward, until we arrived at the closed gate for the inspection facility. The line was from cars turning around in tight quarters at the entrance gate (inside the facility entrance ramp).

We drove back home, two cars, one-half hour each. I looked on the vehicle emissions testing website and found that state budget reductions have resulted in “service reduction days and some Saturday closures.” The first instance of this (at least in 2010) was January 2nd. Do you think between then and now, a notice of closures could have been added to the inspection mailing? Do you think they calculated how much exhaust is being added to the environment by the many drivers who travel to their inspection station on a service reduction day, not knowing it is a service reduction day? Do you think they care? Do you think I was frustrated (polite word)?

Do you think they could benefit from the Baldrige Criteria? How do you think they would answer questions like: “What are your key means of customer support, including your key communication mechanisms? How do you build and manage relationships with customers to meet their requirements and exceed their expectations?”

Are there any organizations you would like to ask these questions? As always, thanks for reading and responding!

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About Barbara Fischer

NIST Baldrige
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6 Responses to The Mudgeon Reappears

  1. Ryan M says:

    Harry, I feel your pain. I will say that Georgia’s emission process is much smoother due to the fact that the state government realized they aren’t in the emissions business and contracted with every oil change and repair facility around to provide the service – eliminating the supply/demand issue. Maybe VA/MD/DC can do this? We trust these private enterprises to change people’s oil and have faith their cars won’t leak oil all over the roadway – can we trust them to check emissions? I think so.
    I like to approach these scenarios with “What IF they had done….” and paint a picture of possibility. Then perhaps someone in that organization will see the opportunity to do something excellent for a change instead of checking a box. I’ve found that since everyone has a different background and understanding of what excellence is, it’s always good to provide people an opportunity to see what it could be like…if only…so here goes…
    What if the DMV (DOT) had evaluated the emissions generated by tens of thousands of vehicles and determined that the current process for customers to be services was defeating the intended purpose to begin with and authorized private, screened retailers to perform the task? I’m sure it costs the government less to screen private retailers than operate their own facilities.
    What if the DMV had evaluated the service experience while at one of these facilities and said “What can we do to make the 10 minute process (eternal in Harry’s case) actually enjoyable for our citizens?… We could pipe in music while they are sitting there. We could offer refreshments (even for purchase) as they drive through, providing another opportunity for revenue generation. We could educate citizens by handing out pamphlets about their community as they wait with pertinent information? We could offer to spray off their windshield or offer a paid car washing service (again more revenue). The possibilities are endless. If only…”
    In the end…what if they wrapped it up by sending a genuine “thank you for cleaning up our environment” email with receipt?? ok, sorry I got a bit carried away.

  2. Bryan Zak says:

    Another reason for living and registering my vehicles in Homer, Alaska – “no required vehicle inspections”. But thank you for living and working in the DC area as it still takes leaders like yourself that are willing to speak out and make a difference and thank you for the Baldrige program and how it provides the vehicle, excuse the pun, for communicating “how” to improve the systems.

  3. Jim Boisseau says:

    I think the states should eliminate the requirement of periodic testing for cars less than ten years of age. Just require a check (for the inspection fee/tax) be mailed in. Use roadside sampling with cameras to nab offending cars on the fly and all the inspection stations could be closed.

  4. Richard Apple says:

    Interesting. Wonder if anyone has done any research in terms of air quality in states with emissions testing vs those without testing. Illinois doesn’t have testing. Today on my drive into work I had to pass through a cloud of exhaust fumes from a late model car that was obviously having difficulty. Lots can happen between each yearly inspection. Maybe education of car owners regarding the damage to their car and the environment would be more effective. Once a state starts providing a “service” there is usually a very strong internal lobby for continuing that “service” regardless of cost and questionable effectiveness.

  5. Harry Hertz says:

    Thanks for the comments. Several of you raise interesting questions. I do wonder if any study has been done comparing air quality and auto contributions to the lack of quality in states with versus states without emissions testing. Or a comparison of state-run testing at limited sites versus commercial emissions testing at many repair facilities? Does it affect ultimate air quality?

  6. Devremülk says:

    i like to read your posts. thanks for this one.

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