EVs could result in government introducing more mandatory and onerous conditions on the service and repair sector, unless we get ahead of the curve

Lesley Yates, AAAA Director of Government Relations and Advocacy

Speaking with a group of auto component producers and repairers this week an adage I have heard so many times came up: “we’re not scared of EVs.” Effectively the view of this group, and the vast majority of our industry, is that the auto industry has already lived through and adapted to significant technology evolutions.
For example, the progressive introduction of Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) required new learning about the fuel system, a new approach to managing workplace hazards and an understanding at all levels that EFI would progressively become the dominant technology.
Similarly, conversations occurred during the introduction of airbags – first the single steering wheel to today’s environment of multiple airbags. In the first wave of airbags, we heard a great deal about the potential danger to technicians if they inadvertently set off the airbag trigger and what that meant for OH&S depending on where the technician was seated at the time.
The point here is that over and over I hear that we are ready to adapt to ADAS, to EVs, connected vehicles, telematics, and over the air software updates – whatever the future may hold. Our confidence is fuelled by first-hand experience that we adapted in the past and we will do it again. Changes to how the vehicle is powered, and how we supply replacement parts, how we modify and how we repair and service will evolve alongside the evolution of the car parc. I like our optimism here: a sense that EVs are just another change in a long journey of vehicle evolution is true. It is still a car. We can expect wear and tear due to heat and friction and sometimes inappropriate use. Nothing has changed there.
But our well informed and lived experience may not be enough here. We know we can adapt but other key actors in our future, including the public and the regulators – well they may not be so sure. In addition to feeling confident about our ability to adapt and respond to whatever the future holds, we need to pay attention to the perception of our industry and how we can influence that perception.
The public service is generally highly risk averse, and they clearly have their risk radar well and truly set our way. Before they get carried away with fear and trepidation about our abilities, we need to get ahead of that wave. It is our job to anticipate their tendency to worry and to overregulate. We need to make sure we have a plan to engage with the public sector now. This plan should be to bring them along the journey with us.
We are training up for EVs, working on dedicated bays, insulated tools and protective equipment.
We know we are getting ready, but do they know that? Because if the regulators feel that there is a risk, we can expect to see various OH&S work requirements developed that are a knee jerk reaction and in WA and NSW we can expect to see additional (mandatory) requirements for any workshop that services EVs.
The point here is that we are getting ready – but let’s not make that a secret. The time has come for us to turn our attention to how can we self-regulate or self-promote that we know how to service these vehicles and we know how to keep our staff safe.
Afterall, that’s what we have always done.