Metro considers one-stop auto emissions testing, tag renewals

Monday, April 25, 2011 at 2:35pm

Davidson County residents could enjoy the convenience of having their auto emissions tested and vehicle registration tags renewed at a one-stop shop as early as this year.

John Arriola, Davidson County clerk, said he hopes to work with the Metro Council before August’s election to put the final touches on the pilot program, which would include a new vehicle examination site that allows individuals to renew tags at the same site their cars are inspected. He said the project could kick off in 2011.

“The idea that we can develop this pilot program somewhere in the city … we will be able to do the emissions and receive a sticker at the same time,” Arriola said. “It’s very exciting.”

The first step toward that end comes in the form an ordinance sponsored by Councilman Jim Forkum, who chairs the council’s Health, Hospitals and Social Services Committee, that would place the Davidson County Clerk’s Office in charge of overseeing the administrative functions of the vehicle emissions testing program, including the collection and processing of testing fees. Currently, fees go to an outside contractor.

The ordinance cleared the council’s first of three votes last week.

“This would give the county clerk the chance to not only be the person or agency in Metro that collects the money, but it would also let them implement some of one-stop shopping,” Forkum said.

Arriola, who characterized the concept as still in the planning stage, said the one-stop shop could add an extra fee charged to drivers, who already pay $9 for vehicle inspections and another $79 to renew their tags. He said he doesn’t have a handle yet on the amount of the additional payment.

The new program would be an alternative to the current system, which would remain in place for those who prefer it.

One hurdle for the one-stop shop is landing a new location, which Arriola said would likely need to be Metro-owned. Davidson County currently has six vehicle inspection sites, but none is equipped to handle both auto-emissions tests and tag renewals.

“I envision it being at a totally new location that would give us plenty of room,” Arriola said. “At the current sites, there are some restrictions. And that has been part of our problem. There is not a lot of room there.”

Finalizing the pilot program would likely require future legislation, he said, with plans of writing the new project into Metro’s code. 

“I would like to see us [work] with this current council before the election,” Arriola said. “I could see us trying to roll something out this coming year.”

Metro has a contract with SysTech International through June 2012 to carry out the city’s auto emission services.

SysTech has sought to extend its contract with Metro, but a second group, Envirotest Systems, is vying for that contract and has pitched the idea of using new technology to allow the testing of vehicles while in traffic. 

Lobbyists representing both groups are registered with Metro.

10 Comments on this post:

By: revo-lou on 4/25/11 at 1:03

Testing/renew via "one stop shopping" is a great idea, and one that many have talked about for some time. The current testing group in place seems to be doing a fine job, and I haven't had any problems getting in and out quickly with the three vehicles I do each year, and it seems that adding a clerk or two at each location to handle those that pass the test and are able to get their tags would be very doable.

It would seem simple enough to restrict those clerks to renewals of those being tested, to facilitate a reasonable pace. I am sure, given the state of technology, it would not be too hard to link the testing with the renewal and allow the clerk to have the paperwork ready just about the time one pulls out of the testing station.

As to the “on the fly” in traffic testing, why would that be easier? We can’t have a clerk at each corner of the city, nor do we have the room to receive the PASS form on the side of the road. Which means electronic tagging, which seems like a step in a bad direction to me.

By: Editor on 4/25/11 at 3:44

A better solution would be to allow vehicles within the last 5 model years to be exempt from emissions testing, and allow police to verify emissions compliance during a traffic stop. This would allow those new vehicles (certified to meet emissions compliance by the epa and car company) to bypass emissions testing and reduce the number of vehicles forced to wait in line and pay the testing fee.

It would also provide better enforcement by allowing the police to plug a portable emissions tester (plugs into the wiring harness under the dash for later model cars and trucks) or ticket driver to provide proof of re-testing to a judge. Like having a busted tail light or broken mirror.

This would also give government less power over your everyday life, so it must be impossible to get passed.

By: revo-lou on 4/25/11 at 3:58

The five year rolling exemption would be good, except that some folks can rack up 100k miles or more in that time and a vehicle may very well need maintenance for emissions systems in that time frame. Three years seems more reasonable.

By: house_of_pain on 4/26/11 at 4:58

How in the heck would they test vehicles while in traffic?

By: HokeyPokey on 4/26/11 at 5:11

It would also allow John Arriola to plaster his name in more places all the time.

I'm personally in favor of calling the County Clerk's office "Davidson County Clerk" instead of "John Arriola."


"that's OK, just make out the check to ol John..."

By: FCMullins on 4/26/11 at 6:53

Having everything in one place does sound a lot better but why would it be
necessary to charge more? Where does the testing money go now?

By: Community-carl-... on 4/26/11 at 7:32

It makes too much sense for local politicians to easily approve and implement. And if they do, they will definitely find an excuse to charge us more......government has an insatiable appetite for our hard-earned dollars.

By: OHSMAN74 on 4/26/11 at 9:47

While considering changes, the inspection should be expanded to include a check to assure that headlights and brake lights are working. Dead bulbs pose a greater risk of immediate harm than emissions. Standard size bulbs could be available for sale for a quick fix to generate revenue, also. Marginal cost almost zero. This would be a service to the drivers (don't we want to know if brake lights aren't working? almost impossible to check by yourself, even if you remember) as well as to other motorists. Other states require safety inspections; WHY NOT TENNESSEE???

And while we're at it, maybe they could even check for compliance with muffler laws. Why aren't muffler laws being enforced???? Motorcycles are not exempt, but it seems that there is NO enforcement of laws preventing this needless noise!

Police chief, what gives? Have mufflers become optional equipment? Let's ALL get rid of mufflers and see what a nice city it makes. Here's your chance for easy enforcement...

By: JohnGalt on 4/26/11 at 10:23

The current system could not be easier. Visit one of the mobile sites where your emissions test will take less than ten minutes. Mail in your renewal and pay two bucks for mail return.

By: DeLaney3840 on 4/26/11 at 2:14

I agree with OHSMAN74 regarding lights that work - front and back! Normal safety issue! Also, think they should ask for proof of insurance while they are at it. No insurance no tag and that would give us drivers a heads-up the person in front of us doesn't have insurance.