Emissions specialists need to recertify as program begins to wind down

As emissions program is set to expire Jan. 1, 2020, techs can be unaware of need to recertify

Seattle, Wash.—Washington State began testing vehicle emission systems more than three decades ago with current testing in most of Clark, King, Pierce, Snohomish, and Spokane counties. Both personal and fleet vehicles that fall into the light-duty category in the noted counties are required to be tested annually based on certain model years (listed on the Department of Ecology (DOE) website www.emissiontestwa.com) for gasoline and diesel-equipped cars and trucks.

Administered by the DOE in response to federal EPA requirements, the test stations for motorists are operated under contract by Applus Technologies whose employees operate the test stations. There are also a handful of independent repair shops in Pierce and King counties that have been designated by DOE as alternative test facilities.

Since its inception, the state has had a program to train and certify independent technicians as an Authorized Emission Specialist (AES). When a vehicle fails an emission test, these techs can repair vehicles for re-testing or waiver if the consumer spends $150 or more on legitimate repairs (shops can also be an Authorized Test Facility but only DOE-authorized technicians at that shop can perform noted repairs).

While DOE provides a certificate to techs who get the proper training and qualify as an AES, they apparently do not advise those technicians when their credentials expire, said Ed Schaplow, an emission specialist who has instructed more than 300 training classes for AES techs. He has also taught more than 20 classes for Applus employees and “train the trainers” classes for other AES instructors.

“Because the emission program in Washington is going away late next year, many AES techs have not re-certified, and that can cause a technician and/or a shop some embarrassment if they provide repairs and send the consumer back to the test station for re-testing or a waiver and find out that the tech is no longer an AES,” he said.

Kerry Swayne, a DOE Air Quality specialist who works with the automotive repair industry on emission issues, confirmed that the gasoline-equipped vehicle testing program expires Jan. 1, 2020. He said the diesel program also expires on that date, and no decision has been made on any future diesel control issues.

“Training [for AES] is still required, but we have cut it back to a one night recertification or 20-hour class for new certification,” Swayne said. “Instructors may offer longer classes for re-certification if they like.”

Schaplow said he still offers longer re-cert courses “with a focus on no-code diagnostics in regards to monitor readiness failure, proper repair invoice preparation for a waiver, hybrid failures, tampered vehicles, and troubleshooting techniques.” Class schedules for those being offered in June by Schaplow and Bryan Kelley, a Covington shop owner and AES instructor, are available on the website noted above. 

Swayne was a speaker at an national I/M conference in Nevada in May “outlining our process for the orderly shutdown of the program.” A fellow co-speaker was Gerry Preston, program manager for Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) vehicle inspection program who was describing the expansion of their program. Schaplow, who also attended the conference, said emission program representatives from numerous states were surprised that Washington was ceasing the vehicle test program. “Several other states are expanding programs to include new late model vehicles that were generally not included in the Washington program,” he said.

While there have been varying views expressed on the overall effectiveness of Washington’s emission testing program in recent years, as well as the large number of vehicles that annually obtain a waiver based on spending $150 or more for repairs and not necessarily repairing emission problems, the program will cease Dec. 31, 2019 as DOE said newer vehicles are much cleaner and air quality from vehicle emissions has improved across the state.

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