MEMA's Wilson: This might be the year for right to repair

Updated Jan 20, 2023
Three people on stage at a conference.
Marc Karon, Total Truck parts, at left, moderates a panel with MEMA's Ann Wilson and the Auto Care Association's Lisa Forshee at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2023 in Grapevine, Texas.
Beth Colvin

Ann Wilson is as optimistic as she's ever been about getting a federal right to repair act through Congress. 

"There's a real window of opportunity," Wilson, MEMA's senior vice president of public affairs, told the audience at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week 2023 on Wednesday in Grapevine, Texas. "But we need each and every one of you and each and every business in this ballroom to be engaged." 

[RELATED: MEMA's Wilson: Washington gridlock could lead to more executive decision-making]

Marc Karon, president and CEO of Total Truck Parts, moderated the panel. He said the right to repair is about the conveyance of information from the vehicle to the scanner. There is a memorandum of understanding with manufacturers, Karon says, but it doesn't include transference of telematics information needed to quickly and efficiently diagnose problems and fix the truck. 

"That's one of the big reasons we can't rely on that MOU with the heavy-duty industry," Lisa Forshee, senior vice president of government affairs, Auto Care Association. "The trucks are shifting. They're becoming computers on wheels, and we have got to adapt to the new ways that we're going to get the data off those trucks to repair, maintain and engage in predictive maintenance." 

Another recent memo that farmers reached with John Deere raised hopes in the heavy-duty industry. But panelists said legislation was the only solution for this market. 

"It's always important when two parties come together to talk and try to solve a problem," Wilson says. Forshee agreed, saying collaboration was always the first choice. 

"But in our experiences in our industry, it will not be successful for the future," she says. "We unfortunately don't think that is the path that we can take collectively." 

There are a lot of concerns along the information pathway from truck to diagnostician to repair, the panel says. First up is connectivity. Forshee compared it to personal computers connecting to the internet. At first, there were only hard-wired connections, but now devices connect through Wi-Fi networks. Trucks are the same, and one concern with the right to repair is if data goes directly from the truck to the diagnostician or if it goes first to an OEM server, from which you can only access what the OEM says you can. 

"We want to keep that transmission path, that direct access to data, available to the industry," Forshee says. 

The key to getting legislation passed this session is to make it a "must-pass" piece of legislation, panelists say, and that will take a concerted effort by suppliers and distributors. 

"We've got to make this a local issue, too," Wilson says. "Let's make this a must-pass piece of legislation and (let Congress know) they have people at home that are counting on them to take it over the line." 

People interested in joining the grassroots efforts can visit repairact.com and sign up to help.