On Thursday, the Texas Senate voted to no longer require annual state vehicle safety inspections. By a vote of 27-4, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 1588 that would drop the current mandate that all personal vehicles undergo annual state safety inspections. However, Commercial vehicles still would have to have them.
“Vehicle inspections do not make our roads safer — it’s just a tax,” said state Sen. Don Huffines, a Dallas Republican who authored the measure, during debate.
"This is a tax cut that Texans will feel," said Huffines. "It will save Texans $130 million they're now having to pay for a procedure that has proven to have no discernible safety benefit to drivers." For most drivers, the annual savings from the change would only be $7.
Huffines said that more than nine million man hours are spent on the inspections, which affect more than 50,000 Texans a day. The change, which would take effect in March 2018, changes a statewide policy imposed in 1951. By the early 1970s, 31 state had mandatory vehicle inspections. After a federal mandate for those inspections ended in 1976, states began to repeal their requirements, as well.
Only 15 states, including Texas, now require annual vehicle inspections. Emissions testing is required of vehicles inspected in 17 Texas counties to comply with federally mandated clean air requirements. These emissions tests, even with the inspection law lifted, would still be required. Counties requiring emissions testing include: Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Ellis, El Paso, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Johnson, Kaufman, Montgomery, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant, Travis and Williamson.
Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, was among those who opposed the measure. Amendments he proposed to retain vehicle inspections them failed. "If this bill passes, I'm going to have trouble sleeping knowing that there will be thousands of dangerous vehicles on the road," Lucio told colleagues during an emotional but unsuccessful plea to defeat Huffines' bill. Lucio said it would not only make Texans less safe, but eliminate jobs for vehicle mechanics whose only responsibility is vehicle inspections.
Sen. Sylvia Garcia, D-Houston, echoed the concerns. "What happens if people can't maintain their cars at the level they should?" she asked. "I don't think that's good for everyday Texans ... because you're setting this up where even more people can get tickets."
Huffines dismissed the criticism, saying that other states that have repealed their mandatory inspection programs have seen no such problems emerge. "I look at this as an unnecessary procedure that should be eliminated," said Huffines, a conservative Republican who favors limited government and less red tape.
*Portions of information included in this article were originally posted on Chron.com and texastribune.com