AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Public Safety said it was cracking down on fraudulent vehicle inspections and inspectors through an operation it launched in August 2022 called “Operation Cinderblock.”

According to DPS, the regulatory and criminal operation focuses on vehicle inspection stations and inspectors who were potentially “clean scanning” vehicles instead of conducting the required emissions test during the inspection process.

DPS said clean scanning was the illegal act of a vehicle inspector that results in a fraudulent “pass” for a vehicle’s emissions test. 

“The fraudulent test involves performing the emissions test on a different vehicle or using a simulator, which then bypasses actual emissions testing of the vehicle being inspected,” DPS said.

According to the department, it originally identified approximately 270 vehicle inspection stations for having a high volume of questionable inspections, of those, 34 stations had gross misconduct and DPS quickly served administrative action notices.

“The notices informed the station owners and inspectors that the department was taking immediate action on their license ranging from a 12-month suspension to a lifetime revocation depending on prior enforcement history,” DPS said. “This action effectively disabled the ability for those offenders to log in to the system and continue conducting inspections.”

According to the department, as of Thursday, it has suspended or revoked 412 vehicle inspection stations and 532 inspectors as part of Operation Cinderblock, and some cases were also being investigated for criminal offenses. The department said it anticipates removing approximately 700 more inspectors by mid-April. 

DPS said it was increasing enforcement action over the next 60 days, working in partnership with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“Vehicle emissions inspections are currently required in 17 Texas counties to improve air quality and are integrated with the annual safety inspection program, regulated by DPS in conjunction with TCEQ.  The department licenses over 5,500 emissions inspection stations and more than 19,400 inspectors in those counties,” the department said.