Michael Jenkins, owner of Hitch World of East Texas, a state licensed inspection station, thinks the March switch to one sticker rather than inspection and registration stickers could be confusing, if drivers let it be.
Jenkins has been informing vehicle owners who get inspections that Texas will begin shifting to a registration sticker only. The registration sticker requires proof of a passed inspection.
He said state officials are considering different scenarios that might affect people with inspection and registration stickers that are in different months and appear prepared to ease on compliance of inspection stickers after March 1. He said he is being told that the focus by law enforcement during the first year of the program will be the new registration sticker.
"From what I hear, they're going to be a little more relaxed on the inspections after February and that a valid registration means a valid inspection," he said.
The cost won't go up for drivers. Inspections will still cost $14.50. Drivers will just pay $7 at the inspection station and the other $7.50, which goes to the state, when they pick up their registration. Registration costs will stay the same as well — $64.25 for cars and light trucks in Smith County.
So an owner of a car or light truck registered in Smith County would pay $7 at the inspection station and $71.75 at the vehicle registration office.
Smith County Tax Assessor/Collector Gary Barber has been preparing for the switch and different scenarios that might confuse vehicle owners.
During the first year of the program, beginning March 1, all drivers need to do is make sure they already have a valid passing vehicle inspection before renewing their registration in person, online or by mail.
"Smith County is prepared to make this transition as smooth as possible for our residents," Barber said.
When vehicle owners renew their registration, the system will verify automatically whether the vehicle has a valid inspection. The vehicle will not be eligible for registration renewal without a passing inspection.
During the second year of the program, beginning March 1, 2016, vehicles' inspection and registration expiration dates will align to the date that is on the registration sticker. Once the expiration dates align, residents will have a 90-day window to pass inspection first and then renew before the end of the month listed on the sticker.
The state is promoting the switch with a "Two Steps, One Sticker" program. The key is for residents to understand they must first pass inspection before renewing their registration.
The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles views the switch as favorable for the public, who will now only need to maintain one sticker, and will improve inspection compliance for vehicle owners.
Independent welder Tim Lange, of Tyler, said he hadn't heard about the state going to one sticker but thinks it will make things easier in the long run. He keeps his truck and trailer current and doesn't expect a problem with the switch, although it may cause an inconvenience the first time, he added.
"It might catch me (going to the vehicle registration office) to take care of my registration before I take care of my inspection because I'm used to taking care of (the registration) before it goes out, but it won't be that big of a deal," he said.