Northeast Ohio is getting a new-look E-Check vehicle testing program with more options.
Poised to play a key role in the decentralized E-Check testing that begins June 25 is the Lube Stop Inc.
The company’s 36 shops in the seven-county Akron-Cleveland testing area will, for the first time, be able to test vehicles 1996 and newer with on-board computer diagnostic and gas-cap-pressure checks.
“Becoming a certified E-Check provider is a great added convenience for our existing customers and gives us an important opportunity to deliver an outstanding service experience to non-Lube Stop customers visiting our locations for the first time,” said Thomas M. Morley, president of the Lube Stop, the largest quick oil-change company in Northeast Ohio.
Prentiss Taylor, Envirotest Ohio general manager, said “Lube Stop’s reputation as an industry leading and environmentally conscious automotive service organization and its status as a long-standing Northeast Ohio company makes it an ideal testing partner for the E-Check program.”
Also joining the program are 16 independent garages and shops in the seven counties. Joining in Summit County are David’s Garage Inc. in South Akron and Ken Chapman’s Garage in Barberton.
Four garages in Portage County and three in Medina County have also signed up.
Also new to the program are 16 self-serve, around-the-clock kiosks at E-Check test sites. Motorists can plug their car’s computer systems into the E-Check program to determine whether the vehicles are polluting.
At the kiosks, motorists will enter their vehicle identification numbers, connect a diagnostic device to the vehicles’ data ports and collect the inspection reports. They will not have to test gas-cap pressure.
A kiosk is available in Twinsburg outside the E-Check station. Another 15 kiosks will be added outside E-Check stations from early July to mid-August, said spokeswoman Heidi Griesmer of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the testing that is required to clean the air.
In the Greater Akron area, kiosks will be installed in Akron, Cuyahoga Falls, Medina, Kent and Rootstown Township.
The E-Check tests take about 10 minutes and remain free to motorists. Vehicles that are 4 years old or newer are exempt.
Coming soon will be drive-by roadside remote testing in which vehicles will pass or fail E-Check by driving past sensing equipment in two parked vans. Motorists would not have to stop or get out of their cars.
License plates will be photographed and motorists will be notified by mail of their test results.
Initial testing in that project, based on a program in Colorado, is expected to begin late this year or early next year, Griesmer said. It will benefit only a small percentage of Ohio motorists, perhaps 5 percent, she said.
Vehicles will have to be “really, really clean” to get approval from the two testing vans, she said. Only certain models and makes that are known as low-emission vehicles can pass through the tests.
The locations where the two vans will be testing will be posted daily at www. ohioecheck.org.
Still in place are 23 testing-only stations operated by Connecticut-based Envirotest Systems Inc., the company awarded the latest $9.28 million contract from the Ohio EPA.
Motorists with cars and light trucks older than 1996 will have to go to one of the Envirotest stations equipped with treadmills or dynamometers. Four of those stations are in Summit County, two in Portage and two in Medina.
Altogether, the new program, mandated by the Ohio Legislature last year, will offer testing at 75 sites in Summit, Portage, Medina, Cuyahoga, Lake, Lorain and Geauga counties. That includes 52 independent sites plus the 23 E-Check test sites.
There is one additional test site in Stark County.
The Lube Stop, with corporate offices in Berea, is offering the on-board diagnostic test at its one Stark County shop, on Whipple Avenue in Plain Township.
E-Check is not required in Stark County, but Lube Stop is offering the tests there for motorists from Summit and other E-Check counties who might work near that site, Morley said.
About 90 percent of motorists in the Akron-Cleveland area have vehicles that are 1996 models and newer and will be able to use the new testing options, Taylor said.
Saving time and money
On Feb. 1, the Ohio EPA approved a three-year contract with Envirotest, the company that has been conducting E-Check vehicle tests since late 1995 in the Akron-Cleveland area.
The state had been paying $11.55 million a year to test about 900,000 cars and light trucks in the seven counties.
“This contract will save Ohioans more than $2 million per year, while providing motorists with more testing options,” EPA Director Scott J. Nally said.
Taylor said the Ohio EPA challenged Envirotest to “significantly improve convenience for Ohio motorists with new and innovative approaches to delivering this service. This partnership with Lube Stop and many other program elements included in the new E-Check program deliver on this challenge.”
Envirotest declined to discuss the details of its contracts with Lube Stop or the private garages that will be conducting the tests, Taylor said.
His firm has provided testing equipment and training to Lube Stop and garage employees.
Seven counties in Northeast Ohio — Summit, Medina, Portage, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain — are under U.S. EPA orders to conduct E-Check tests because their levels of the pollutant ozone fail federal Clean Air Act limits. Motorists must take and pass the test every other year.
Ozone is created when hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds from vehicles, industry and coal-fired power plants combine in direct sunlight.
It can cause breathing problems for the elderly, children and asthmatics.
Tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks account for at least one-third of the air pollution in the United States and can cause major health problems.
E-Check is credited with removing about 74 tons of vehicles emissions per day, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide, by forcing specific vehicles to curtail pollution.
Ohio would lose hundreds of millions of federal highway dollars and industrial expansion would be barred if E-Check were dropped without other cuts in pollutants being adopted.
For information, call 800-CAR TEST or visit www. ohioecheck.org.
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or email@example.com.