The inspection shop cited by the Department of Public Safety the most is Bob’s Garage. Its owner, Bob Bright, has been cited at least a dozen times in the past three years. The majority of citations were for “not conducting proper safety inspections.”
State records show the 75-year-old Winnsboro garage owner conducted at least 2,813 inspections over the past three years and didn’t fail one driver.
He makes as much as $40 per inspection.
"I make sure they’ve got everything correct on there," said Bright in an interview inside his garage. “I try to do exactly what it takes to make sure ones safe," said Bright.
Bright admits he’s surprised he’s still in business after he claims an over-aggressive DPS inspector has cited him for unnecessary problems.
“If she could find anything positive, she’d [still] have my license," said Bright.
A KVUE Defenders investigation uncovered Bob’s Garage is one of 188 inspection shops across Texas cited at least three or more times for serious violations, allowed to stay in operation while conducting thousands of safety inspections a year. In all, DPS handed down at least 2,397 civil and criminal sanctions against inspection facilities since April 2013.
Groovy Automotive in Austin is one of those garages. Records show DPS cited three of its shops nine times for "failing to account for inspection certificates " and "not safe-guarding them."
DPS said missing paperwork could signal someone is illegally passing inspections.
"Yes, we are charged with keeping those things under lock and key, but just like in Walmart or in anyplace else, sometimes bad people do bad things," said Steven Smith, a Groovy Automotive store manager.
RenEarl Bowie is the assistant director of Regulatory Services at DPS and in charge of the state’s inspection program. He argues the agency will go after bad actors, but it has limitations.
"We do take it on a case-by-case basis. If the station has been cited multiple times, it depends on the infraction whether. It’s a major infraction or a minor infraction, but we would have to focus on the type of infraction that the station committed to determine," said Bowie.
Over the past three years, law enforcement busted at least 126 inspection shops after it found inspectors illegally passing vehicles for cash.
Not all them were cited by DPS. The KVUE Defenders found at least 12 of those shops were never cited by the state.
"That’s what statute allows for. Statute treats it as two separate entities, the station and the inspector are considered separate under the statute," said Bowie.
That means, the inspections shop owner can stay open, even if law enforcement finds rogue inspectors breaking the law.
By the numbers
Total licensed inspection stations: 11,431
Total licensed inspectors: 43,076
Suspension and revocations (for stations and inspectors) in 2014 and 2015:
Average audits conducted a year: 86,000
Go here for more information about the Vehicle Inspection Program.