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Automotive Recycling Association (ARA) does more than green the industry

Environmental concerns have become a major priority in the collision repair industry along with removal and reutilization of recyclable material. The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) is playing an increasing role in this movement.

Since it was established in 1943, ARA has been the only trade association representing the automotive recycling industry. It is dedicated to efficiently removing and reutilizing automotive parts as well as seeing to the safe disposal of inoperable motor vehicles. ARA has expanded to represent approximately 1250 companies through direct membership, plus over 3000 additional companies worldwide through their affiliated chapters in 43 states and 14 other countries.

CEO Michael Wilson explains their mission: ARA aims to further services and programs to increase public awareness of conserving the future through automotive recycling and to promote the industry’s value to the automotive consumer. ARA encourages aggressive environmental management programs to assist member facilities in maintaining proper management techniques for fluid and solid waste materials generated from the disposal of motor vehicles.

ARA offers many benefits to their members, such as networking opportunities, legislative representation, marketing tools and even discounts on liability insurance and training through their own university, ARAU. Their website features resources for members, and ARA publishes weekly electronic newsletters as well as a bi-monthly magazine, Automotive Recycling, to provide members with needed information on the latest industry trends, training and technological updates. According to Wilson, ARA serves members by offering a broad spectrum of programs and benefits for all sizes of automotive recycling operations: “business models for professional automotive recyclers include both full and self-service platforms, and our clients range from do-it-your-selfers to independent repair shops to large insurance based collision repair facilities.”

ARA also maintains two foundations for the benefit of their members and the industry at-large. Their Educational Foundation hosts a library of industry-specific training courses which are available through the ARA University. ARA’s Scholarship Foundation promotes continuing education by awarding over $30,000 in scholarship grants to the children of their members and their members’ employees.

Discussing the challenges ARA faces to maintain operations, Wilson lists branding, consolidation within the industry, the exportation of salvage vehicles out of the country, the unlevel playing field at salvage auctions and with unlicensed or illegally operating entities, and advancements in technology. He says the industry needs to overcome the competition and barriers erected by auto manufacturers seeking to protect their market share.

ARA also deals with the common problems of adapting to the changes inherent as new generations come of age, such as how to get them involved with the association and its leadership.

Wilson explains their current focus: “the professional automotive recycling industry is not immune to the effects of the type of seismic events that have transformed the American automotive sector over the past few years. Our members must be equipped to adapt to the effects of this change in order to meet emerging markets in new and creative ways. We are also focused on providing our members with the skills and knowledge to meet the challenges that new, more complex motor vehicles bring to our facilities. A recent Polk report detailed that the number of vehicles older than 12 years has increased by more than 20 percent, and that percentage is expected to continue to rise for at least the next five years. These numbers predict a significant wave of inoperable motor vehicles that will be arriving soon at automotive recycling facilities throughout the United States. As an industry, we must seize the opportunities these increasing inventories create for the proper and efficient removal and reuse of ‘green’ automotive parts.”

ARA leadership held a strategic planning retreat earlier this year the purpose of which was “to articulate a future that realizes the full potential of members’ businesses. ARA is working continually to engage industry partners that want to help advance the automotive recycling profession and, at the same time, try to bridge gaps between us and those entities that have minimal interest in supporting policies that promote the utilization of OE recycled parts.”

Currently, ARA is planning for their upcoming 70th annual convention which will be held November 6 –9 at the Sheraton Convention Center in Phoenix, AZ. They are planning a robust program of educational and training opportunities for their members, such as the Certified Automotive Recyclers (CAR) program. ARA is currently working on the new CAR program in order to emphasize the industry’s environmental stewardship. ARA also looks forward to hosting automotive recyclers from around the globe for the International Roundtable on Automotive Recycling which will take place immediately after their convention.

Recently, ARA partnered with CIECA in order “to leverage expertise and implementation tools of both parties, develop standards and advance new business platforms. CIECA develops technology electronic communication standards that allow better connectivity within the industry. This partnership is increasing parts sales and reducing risk.”

Other pending projects include ARA9001, a quality control system specifically tailored to the automotive recycling industry that is based on elements of the association’s current Gold Seal program and continued recognition and utilization of the Green Recycled Parts trademark. The association also recently released ARA Direct, an online auction platform where members can purchase vehicles from various insurance companies, wholesalers, fleets, franchise dealers and others in a manner that significantly changes the means by which members’ vehicle acquisition demands are met and increases their inventory.

Though these matters are more than enough to keep ARA occupied, they work in the regulatory and legislative sphere as well. In addition to working with the EPA to make storm water permitting appropriate and effective for professional automotive facilities plus regularly educating members on OSHA standards, ARA has been working with the DOJ to increase compliance and enforcement of the National Motor Vehicle Title Information System (NMVTIS). Their work with DOT to combat the use of counterfeit airbags has led to ARA’s involvement in legislation on this topic as educate consumers about recycled OEM airbags. Wilson believes this legislation also “benefits body shop owners because they will be able to better identify counterfeit airbags and also understand the cost-effective option of using non-deployed recycled OEM airbags in repairs.”

ARA also supports evaluations on the need for and cost of new regulations while keeping an eye on how these changes impact jobs which benefits collision repair shops. The current motor vehicle safety recall legislation under consideration in the Senate applies to rental fleets, “but ARA is taking the opportunity to educate policymakers on the need to include recall data into third party inventory management systems so recyclers can identify through their electronic inventory searches whether a particular part has been recalled; this benefits body shop owners because this would guarantee that the recycler wouldn’t unknowingly sell a recalled part to a repairer,” says Wilson.

Additionally, ARA has taken an interest in metal anti-theft legislation to prevent duplicative mandates on professional automotive recyclers. Though recyclers are already regulated by sales and reporting requirements, anti-theft legislation proposed in Congress protects city and municipality infrastructures as well as body shops and consumer assets. Wilson admits there are always challenges when trying to get legislation signed into law, beginning with misrepresentations about recycled parts. In order to educate legislators about the industry, ARA must combat those opposed to the proposed legislation, presenting a challenge since these competitors often have significantly more resources.

Wilson believes that OEMs need to embrace parts reutilization at the design stage. He says, “technological advances are eliminating past barriers to foster robust international commerce. Access to parts data that only automotive manufacturers can provide is crucial to enable the auto body industry as well as automotive recyclers to compete in emerging technologies and business platforms; this is a need both our industries share. Only with this important data can the automotive recycling profession efficiently and accurately identify OE recycled part matches for repairs and total loss determination calculations.”

Another challenge is the expansion of parts technology as electronic parts are all being added to the mix of collision and mechanical parts inventory, necessitating even more specific data to appropriately describe for reuse. Though ARA has not taken a formal position on PartsTrader, Wilson notes, “we continue to monitor and evaluate the program’s rollout. Several ARA recyclers are members on the PartsTrader Advisory Board, and ARA invited PartsTrader representatives to provide a presentation on the program at our upcoming convention.”

ARA is also monitoring initiatives related to Right to Repair, and Wilson explains, “ARA has long argued that car owners and independent repair shops need full access to the information, parts and tools necessary to accurately diagnose, repair and re-program vehicles. ARA staff has been actively coordinating with our affiliated state chapters in New England to monitor R2R initiative on the state legislative level as well as continued to dialogue with stakeholders involved in the national Right to Repair conversations.”

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