A provision included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the five-year highway and transportation bill recently passed in Congress, will give states the ability to start accepting electronic signatures for car purchases. The provision effectively makes an end run around rules that were supposed to be authored 18 months ago, but have gone nowhere.
The provision will allow state Departments of Transportation to move forward with programs that would implement “electronic odometer disclosures, notices, and related materials,” which is a stuffy way of saying all of the things you do when you buy and register a new car can now be done online. According to John Brueggeman, a former state senator from Montana and executive vice president of the California-based Motor Vehicle Software Corporation (MVSC), dealers are willing to put the software in place, but haven’t been able to get around reporting requirements already on the books.
Existing federal law requires odometer disclosures to be hand-written, slowing the efficiency of all vehicle-related transactions, including sales and registration. While a provision in the 2012 federal transportation bill called on the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to implement new rules to allow for electronic odometer disclosures, the agency has yet to propose those rules.
“When I bought my last house I did everything from my phone – all the signatures, transfers, paperwork, but if you buy a car you still have a paper-based process,” Brueggeman tells CivSource in an interview. “Some of these states are still putting vehicle registrations on microfilm when we have the technology to do everything while you’re still at the dealership.”
He adds that his company has a handle on how to implement the systems securely and has the support of dealers nationwide.
The provision was included as part of the FAST Act by Montana Senator Steve Daines. “I come from a technical background,” he said in an interview. “DOT was supposed to start getting rules in place for this 18 months ago, but they haven’t even put a draft together. We have the technology to do this, and we need to get the government out of the way. This change will allow states to give their blessing to these systems and start modernizing.”
When asked about the upfront cost to states who want to move to electronic registration, Brueggeman says it should be minimal. “Customers want this, and dealers want to do it. The cost should be on the dealers to get this implemented, all states have to do is say ok. We can implement these systems cost effectively and securely.”
CivSource reached out to both the Department of Transportation and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for comment but was unable to get a response by press time.
From CivSource and Bailey McCann, December 21, 2015. Reprinted with permission.