September 19, 2012 8:15 AM, EDT

Large Trucks Excluded From Mass. Law Requiring OEMs to Share Repair Data

By Timothy Cama, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Sept. 17 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

Large trucks have been excluded from a new Massachusetts law that allows vehicle repair shops to access proprietary manufacturer information.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) signed in late August what supporters called the first “right-to-repair” law in the country, after state lawmakers exempted trucks of more than 10,000 pounds.

Truck makers testified that the information-sharing system would not work for trucks.

“We originally hoped that heavy-duty vehicles could be included in the legislation, but . . . the model of information and software sharing that we had developed for light-duty vehicles would have to be different for heavy-duty vehicles,” said Art Kinsman, spokesman for the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition.

Kinsman said his group’s goal is to get trucks included, and while the law currently applies only to smaller cars, a ballot initiative in November could require the information sharing system to include heavier vehicles.

Currently, the law requires auto manufacturers make all information and tools for repairing their vehicles available for sale to any repair shop in Massachusetts.

Auto makers initially opposed the move, because it would expose their dealer networks to more competition, Kinsman said.

Manufacturers frequently prevent independent shops from making some repairs by requiring certain codes or tools to make them, directing vehicle owners to dealer networks, he said.

However, the auto companies decided to negotiate with lawmakers and Massachusetts Right to Repair to develop an information system that they could work with, Kinsman said.

Truck manufacturers, on the other hand, told lawmakers they could not work with the same information-sharing system.

“There was testimony about this at the hearings — that perhaps truck manufacturers would not be able to comply with this type of information delivery, that it would have to be a different type of system,” Kinsman said.

The Automotive Aftermarket Industry Association has pledged to push forward to make truck repair information available. It lobbied for the law along with its affiliate, the Commercial Vehicle Solutions Network.

“This could occur either voluntarily through an agreement with the manufacturers or through a legislative requirement that would mandate such access,” Aaron Lowe, vice president of government relations for AAIA, said in a statement.

In November, an initiative on the Massachusetts ballot could require a right-to-repair system in the state for every vehicle, regardless of size.

If that passes, legislators will have to figure out how to include trucks when they come back into session in 2013, Kinsman said.

“Taking heavy-duty trucks out of the bill was not easy,” said Kinsman. “We’ve always been concerned about the absence of information and tools for all motor vehicles, and it stands to reason that if it’s this way for passenger vehicles, it really should be that way for all types of vehicles.”

The Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association did not return a request for comment by press time, nor did Sen. John Hart (D), the bill’s sponsor.