Sarah Bruce
Public Relations / Member Engagement
Email: sarahbruce@ara.bc.ca
Phone: 604-432-7987

Just How Important is Trade Certification?

Compulsory trade certification is not only a way to elevate industry, it is a way to ensure every vehicle on the road is safely repaired to manufacturer requirements.

A car is driving 120 Km/h on the Coquihalla highway when a deer jumps onto the road. It takes over 100 metres to come to a complete stop—as long as the brakes are in optimal condition. However, are the brakes in optimal condition? When were they last serviced or replaced? Was it done by a technician that was properly trained?

While many automotive technicians complete the four years of training it takes to become Red Seal certified, currently in B.C., certification is not a requirement, which means some technicians do not take the time or initiative and thus may not be qualified to work on a customer’s vehicle. With today’s cars more electronic than mechanical, an automotive technician needs to be as technologically-savvy as they are “good with their hands.” Just as cars have evolved over the last century, so too should the skills of the technicians servicing them, and certification reflects this.

According to the Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, collision-related fatalities are decreasing—from 2,919 fatalities in 1998 to 1,841 in 2017. Even with twice the number of vehicles on the road since 1998, collision-related fatalities have declined. This could be attributed to modern structural integrity resulting in increased protection of vehicle occupants and technological advancements that can assist with preventing collisions, both of which have helped improve vehicle safety in the last 20 years.

Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) have revolutionized the automotive industry. Back-up cameras, lane-departure warning, automatic braking, blind-spot detection, and weather and road condition sensors are all examples of computerized safety features installed in modern vehicles. As cars become more complex, the operator of the vehicle will become increasingly more reliant on these systems to keep them safe.

However, with more complexity comes more opportunities for something to go wrong. Especially if one of these safety devices is not correctly serviced or calibrated following a repair.

Imagine a deer jumps out in front of a car and you slam on the brakes. But it is winter and the car slides on ice and, instead of hitting the deer, it slides into a snowbank. Thankfully, no one is injured and there is only damage to a headlight and the grille of the vehicle. No harm done, right? Wrong. Safety sensors enclosed within that grille and headlight are no longer functioning at optimum capacity and must be repaired to manufacturer specifications before relying on them again.

So, the customer takes the vehicle to a body shop—a good guy who has been in business for decades and claims that none of the fancy new equipment on the market can replace good old-fashioned know-how—and he replaces the headlights, grille, and fixes the minor dents. On the surface, the vehicle is good to go again.

Everything seems to be working just fine; however, the sensors were never recalibrated and are now off by a couple of millimetres in the wrong direction. Suddenly the field of view has shifted and the garbage can at the side of the road registers as an obstacle. The vehicle, sensing an imminent collision, even though this is not the case, brakes automatically and is rear-ended by the vehicle behind. The very systems designed to keep the vehicle’s occupants safe have failed because the person who performed the prior repair did not have the proper training nor equipment to repair it to the standard the vehicle required.

When your customer is driving a vehicle with the potential to harm them and others sharing the road, it is imperative that the vehicle is serviced and maintained by an automotive technician who is qualified to do so. “Qualified” means knowing where to find the correct procedures and specifications, having been trained and certified in those types of operations, and having the proper tools and equipment needed to ensure a complete and safe repair.

Certification is also a way to elevate the professionalism of the industry. Only those who have invested in training and tools and equipment necessary to perform safe repairs should be working on a vehicle. The ARA is working alongside stakeholders towards compulsory trade certification to not only ensure automotive technicians are repairing and servicing vehicles to optimal performance but also so everyone is safe on the road.

Learn more about the ARA’s certification programs.