Recommended safety guidelines adopted this month by the National Auto Auction Association are aimed in part at preventing dealership employees from distracting drivers while they move vehicles, especially down the auction lanes.
A key provision: "Never open a door or hood on a vehicle when the vehicle is moving or when the vehicle is in the sale arena."
Buyers have been known to open a vehicle door as it moves slowly down the lane to insert and then remove a troubleshooting device that plugs into the vehicle's onboard diagnostics port, a practice the association recommends should no longer be allowed, said NAAA CEO Frank Hackett.
"I wouldn't say it was happening a lot, but it was a distraction," Hackett told Automotive News. "Cords could get caught. The door is open. The car is moving. It's just a distraction. It's prohibited. It's not allowed any longer."
Hackett said the association has had safety high on its agenda for years, but developing new guidelines took on added urgency after a fatal accident in May at Lynnway Auto Auction in North Billerica, Mass. Police said five people died, either at the scene or later, from injuries.
Authorities said a 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee driven by a driver for the auction apparently lurched out of control and crashed through a wall. The driver was not hospitalized, police said. A spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney's Office told Automotive News that the accident remains an active investigation. No one has been charged, she said.
Late last year, the Frederick, Md., association's executive committee asked members to consider a set of draft safety rules, with the idea of making them mandatory for NAAA members.
But at the association's 2017 national convention in November in Palm Springs, Calif., and in later conversations, many association members objected to making the rules mandatory. That was partly because auctions around the country have varying physical layouts, and one-size-fits-all standards couldn't be enforced.
As a result, the association's executive committee and safety committee, with the association's general counsel, instead toned down the draft resolution into proposed guidelines, recommendations and safety considerations.
Early this month, NAAA leadership approved the guidelines at the NAAA/Conference of Automotive Remarketing gathering in Las Vegas.
NAAA President Warren Clauss, who also is general manager of the ADESA Buffalo auction in Akron, N.Y., said he wasn't disappointed that the guidelines are not mandatory.
Reviewing the originally proposed standards, he said, NAAA members got worried about "what-ifs" in terms of assigning responsibility for compliance, and liability in case anything were to go wrong. He said he was pleased that the discussion surrounding the guidelines "created so much dialog" and awareness about safety.
"None of our other policies and recommendations are mandatory, so to the extent that we ended up — I wouldn't even call it a 'compromise' — we just did it like we do anything else," he said. "We were not disappointed."