The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has vowed to tackle a major security gap in the state’s vehicle inspection program, as revealed in an exclusive investigation by NBC 5 Investigates. The investigation uncovered evidence of state-licensed vehicle inspection stations taking cash in return for falsely passing cars, with the state’s computer system failing to detect the fake inspections and prevent those cars from getting real Texas license plates.
Travis County law enforcement investigators estimate that up to five million cars on Texas roads may have undergone “clean scans” – fake inspections – where someone pays a state-licensed inspector to falsely pass an emissions test and skip the safety checks on brakes and tires. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) computer system, which maintains data showing fake inspections, does not prevent these cars from falsely passing.
For weeks, NBC 5 has sought to interview the heads of both the DPS and the TCEQ, to understand why the computer system is not programmed to detect and prevent fraud. Finally, in an interview with NBC 5 Investigates in the halls of the state capitol, DPS Director Steve McCraw acknowledged the vulnerability and promised to take action.
“We’ve got an obligation to enforce it, whether the system\’s working or not, and I\’m quite confident that we work very closely with TCEQ that we can get this vulnerability taken care of,” McCraw said.
McCraw expressed his frustration with the number of fraudulent inspections taking place across the state. “I\’m more frustrated by the fact that we have people that are doing this plain and simple, because they\’re always looking for vulnerabilities, and this is just one more vulnerability they found,” he said.
NBC 5 Investigates captured evidence of the issue in undercover footage taken outside a state-licensed inspection station in Dallas. The station issued inspections for more than 20 cars, even though no vehicles entered or left the premises. DPS later suspected the station’s license and an audit determined that the station had been conducting hundreds of fake inspections prior to NBC 5’s visit.
In response to the investigation, Rep. Craig Goldman of Fort Worth has also put pressure on TCEQ to find a solution. He told NBC 5, “We’re not going to stop, right? We’ll continue to follow what TCEQ and Texas DPS to see, you know, what a solution there is as well.”
In a statement, DPS said they have been working with TCEQ to develop a semi-automated approach to shut down inspection stations where fraud is occurring. Director McCraw promised to look into the Dallas case in further detail.
The investigation by NBC 5 Investigates has exposed a major security gap in the state’s vehicle inspection program, with the potential for hundreds of thousands of cars on Texas roads to have never passed emissions or safety tests. Director McCraw and the TCEQ have promised to take action, and it remains to be seen what changes will be made to the computer system and enforcement rules to protect the safety of drivers.