Texas lawmakers are raising concerns about the possibility of millions of Texas vehicles receiving real license plates with fraudulent safety and emissions inspections. After an NBC 5 Investigation into the matter, two North Texas legislators are demanding answers from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). They want to know why the state’s inspection computer system fails to stop fraudulent activities at stations that pass vehicles with ease.
NBC 5 Investigates divulged the investigations of a group of Travis County officials who suspect that every year, about five million Texas vehicles receive illegal or “clean scanned” emissions tests. They allege that a state-licensed inspection station performed the fraudulent tests and then skipped the mandated inspection of the car’s brakes, tires, and other safety features. Our sources discovered that the inspection computer system does not report incidences of fraud immediately. Even though the system raises red flags for cases of fraud, it permits inspection stations to carry on passing cars despite these red flags.
Royce West, State Senator (D-Dallas, Dist. 23), said that the TCEQ must figure out the type of software required to identify fraudulent activities and respond in real-time. He affirmed that it is not possible to respond a year later. West promised to take the issue with the TCEQ since it runs the inspection computer system. The TCEQ acknowledged that its system does not alert law enforcement agents when suspected fraudulent inspections are recorded in the system. However, the agency confirmed that it is trying to find a solution to curb the fraudulent acts with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is responsible for enforcing the state’s inspection rules.
Texas State Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth, Dist. 97) echoed a similar sentiment to West, saying that the time to act is now. He thanked NBC 5 for raising the issue and pledged to bring it to the TCEQ’s attention. Meanwhile, Scott Morrisson, who operates multiple licensed inspection stations, also voiced his frustration with fraudulent activities. Morrisson, a board member of the Texas State Inspection Association, said that his station fails vehicles, and the driver takes it elsewhere, and it gets approved for a fee. He said this is a massive problem since criminals sell stickers just to make money.
Goldman believes that scrapping inspections would solve the problem. He believes that the responsibility of driving safe cars should rest with drivers, not the state. This suspicion compounded his existing doubts about the inspection program. Some bills are pending in the legislature to either scrap inspections or increase the years between inspections. Though there is extensive research on whether inspection programs reduce crashes and deaths, if, as investigators suspect, over five million Texas vehicles have fraudulent inspections, it may be impossible to assess if the inspection program is beneficial or not.
Fraudulent activities at licensed inspection stations remain a significant concern across Texas, and officials and lawmakers are working tirelessly to find a solution to the problem. It is hoped that the TCEQ will work with lawmakers and members of the public to eradicate fraudulent activities and make the roads safer.