Salvage Vehicles

May 2016

Virginia finds success with studies aimed at improving its salvage process

Salvage is often one of the more complex issues that motor vehicle agencies encounter. Salvage laws differ from state to state—there are more than 250 different salvage titles for which citizens can apply in the United States—and there are numerous players involved in the process: from recyclers, builders and demolishers to insurance companies, law enforcement and safety advocates. To make this process smoother, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles performed a series of salvage studies that involved bringing all of these disparate stakeholders together to discuss ways to improve efficiency.

“We decided that it was time to look at what the law says to determine what needed to be done to bring the process into today’s world,” says Karen Grim, deputy commissioner for Operations at the Virginia DMV. “We all know that vehicles are becoming more complex, so we decided to bring everyone together and find out if we could come to some sort of consensus.”

Among the participants in Virginia’s salvage studies is Copart, Inc., which manages total-loss claims for insurance companies and is also the largest online salvage auto auction house in the world. Copart’s relationship with the Virginia DMV goes back several years, and it was a natural fit to include the company when the salvage studies began.

“Virginia is really in tune with our industry and the different customers—not just in the public, but also in the private sector,” says Gerry Faries, general manager at Copart. “They promote security, safety and good service with all of their customers. They [really] listen.”

Participation is encouraged in salvage studies, and attendees discuss a wide array of salvage issues such as cosmetically-damaged vehicles or end-of-life reporting for vehicles, both with the full group and in smaller, breakout sessions. This open line of communication between the Virginia DMV and companies like Copart, which extends beyond salvage studies into day-to-day business communications, has allowed businesses and other stakeholders to streamline their salvage processes. For example, as a direct result of these studies, the method of abandonment for vehicles in Virginia was changed to an interactive online process, making it easier for people to fill out the necessary forms.

“In so many states, they treat the salvage transaction the same as a buyer-to-seller transaction,” says Jerry Sullivan, vice president of Copart. “Virginia is now the role model for streamlining the ability for us and our insurance customers to get salvage titles on every single vehicle so that everybody is protected.”

While it’s clear that Copart and other players in the salvage industry appreciate Virginia’s dedication to a better process, Grim explains that the feeling is mutual. “We have a good working relationship [with Copart], and we appreciate that if they have an issue, they’ll call and come to us directly,” she says. “That doesn’t mean we agree on everything, of course, but we’re always open to talking about it and involving them in that process.”