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Snyder v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

April 8, 2009

DONALD P. SNYDER, OPERATOR #16-651-787
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES, APPELLANT
DONALD P. SNYDER, SNYDER BROTHERS AUTO WORKS, OIS #4556
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES, APPELLANT
WAYNE HARRIS
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, BUREAU OF MOTOR VEHICLES, APPELLANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Simpson

Submitted: January 30, 2009

BEFORE: HONORABLE DAN PELLEGRINI, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JOSEPH F. McCLOSKEY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

In these consolidated appeals dealing with emissions inspections, the Department of Transportation, Bureau of Motor Vehicles (the Department) seeks review of three orders of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (trial court) sustaining statutory appeals by an official emissions inspection station, Snyder Brothers Auto Works (the Station), and two of its mechanics, Donald Snyder (Snyder), and Wayne Harris (Harris), from suspensions of their respective emissions inspection certifications for violations of the Department's emissions inspection regulations.*fn1

The Department asserts the trial court erred in sustaining the Station's and Harris' appeals despite finding that in March 2004 the Station and Harris issued a 5,000-mile exempt emissions inspection sticker to a 1979 Ford F150 pickup truck, registration #YAA6210 ("the Truck") that was driven more than 5,000 miles since the prior emissions inspection.*fn2 The Department further asserts substantial evidence does not support the trial court's finding that in February 2005 the Station and Snyder properly issued the same vehicle another 5,000-mile exempt emissions sticker. We affirm as to the March 2004 emissions inspection, but we reverse as to the February 2005 emissions inspection.

By order dated and delivered March 16, 2005, the Department, acting pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S. §4724 (relating to suspension of certificates of appointment), suspended the Station's certificate of appointment as an official emission inspection station for two years and imposed two fines of $2,500 each. It suspended the Station's certificate one year for a violation of 67 Pa. Code §177.602(a)(1)(ii) (furnishing an emissions inspection sticker without inspection) and one year for a violation of 67 Pa. Code §177.602(a)(1)(iii) (fraudulent record keeping). See Reproduced Record (R.R.) at 8a.

Simultaneously, the Department, acting pursuant to 75 Pa. C.S. §4726 (relating to certification of mechanics), suspended Snyder's and Harris' certifications as official emissions inspectors for a two-year period. It suspended their certifications one year for a violation of 67 Pa. Code §177.603(a)(1)(ii) (furnishing an emissions inspection certificate without inspection) and one year for a violation of 67 Pa. Code §177.603(a)(1)(iii) (fraudulent record keeping). See R.R. at 24a, 40a.

I.

The Station, Snyder and Harris filed separate statutory appeals.*fn3 In April 2007, the trial court held a consolidated de novo hearing on the three emissions inspection appeals at issue here and two safety inspection appeals also involving the Truck.*fn4 At hearing, PennDOT presented testimony from Clifford Eastly (QAO Eastly), a former inspection station supervisor for the Pennsylvania State Police. QAO Eastly is currently a quality assurance officer employed by Parsons Commercial Advanced Technologies, a private contractor that conducts audits of emissions and safety inspection stations, a duty formerly performed by the State Police.

On February 9, 2005, Parsons Technologies received a phone call from Tony's Auto Services, a garage in Etna, PA, where the Truck was in for repairs. The inspection sticker indicated the Station inspected the Truck four days earlier. The garage had questions about the safety inspection and asked that a quality assurance officer look at the vehicle. Later that day, QAO Eastly inspected the Truck. He testified the Truck needed to undergo and pass an emission inspection on February 5, 2005. Due to the Truck's age, more than 25 years, it needed a visual inspection of the exhaust system and a check of the gas cap. However, the Truck had an exempt emissions sticker. QAO Eastly testified that if a vehicle traveled less than 5,000 miles in the last 12 months, it would not need a visual inspection or gas cap check. In such case, it would be issued an exempt sticker based on the mileage alone.

Here, the parties stipulated the Station and Snyder issued the exempt emissions sticker to the Truck on February 5, 2005. The sticker indicated an odometer reading of 95,992. On February 9, four days later, the odometer read

[1]00,463, a difference of 4,471 miles. QAO Eastly testified that to travel 4,471 miles in four days, the Truck would need to be driven 93 miles per hour for 48 hours.*fn5

QAO Eastly further stated a visual inspection of the Truck indicated a missing air pump belt, one of six items needed to pass a regular emissions inspection. The catalytic converters from the Truck's exhaust system were also missing. If the Truck needed to undergo a normal emissions test, it would not pass with these items missing. However, with an exempt sticker, emissions inspectors are not required to open the hood or look under the vehicle.

QAO Eastly also testified the Truck did not receive a 5,000-mile emissions exemption in February 2003. The Station's 2004 MV-431 inspection record indicates a 2003 odometer reading of 86,444. R.R. at 93a. Harris performed the 2003 emissions test at the Station. In March 2004, Harris again tested the Truck at the Station. The Station's 2004 MV-431 inspection record showed a 2004 inspection odometer reading of 91,742 reflecting a difference of 5,298 miles. Notwithstanding, Station and Harris issued the ...


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