The right-to-repair issue has been a topic in Construction Equipment and elsewhere, and a development this fall in California on the agriculture side of the equipment business may have ramifications for construction —and even if it doesn’t, Wired has an interesting bone to pick with John Deere Ag.
Wired says a California lobbying group signed away farmers’ right to access or modify the source code of any farm equipment software. The California Farm Bureau also gave up the right to purchase repair parts without going through a dealer.
Farmers in California now cannot change engine settings, retrofit old equipment with new features, or can’t modify their tractors to meet new environmental standards on their own—and California is often the wall cloud in front of any new environmental standard storm.
The Wired report laments that as ag equipment becomes more sophisticated, particularly with electronics, the tools farmers need to repair equipment become increasingly out of reach. Further, it says that John Deere and other companies represented by something called the Far West Equipment Dealers Association have been “exploiting copyright laws to lock farmers out of their own stuff.”
It goes on to compare “Big Ag” to Apple, which has lobbied against making its repair parts and info available to Tom, Dick, and Harry’s Computer Repair, i.e. third-party fix-it shops.
One can see where such efforts by manufacturers to protect their repair income and proprietary software might be a slippery slope. Could the availability of repair manuals ever be in jeopardy?
The California Farm Bureau actually touted its move as positive because equipment dealers have agreed to provide “access to service manuals, product guides, or onboard diagnostics and other information that would help a farmer or rancher identify or repair problems with machinery.”
But, as Wired points out, what good is that without access to parts and diagnostic equipment? Right-to-repair issues should be on maintenance managers’ radar.
The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) position is in line with the California Farm Bureau; it deems right-to-repair legislation unnecessary. The Association, which represents agricultural and construction OEMs, is currently traveling across the country holding demonstrations on repair technology and diagnostic tools for farmers, and talking up the industry's "commitment to provide diagnostic and repair tools by 2021."
A number of states have considered or are considering right-to-repair legislation for equipment, but nothing has passed—yet.
Massachusetts passed a right-to-repair bill for cars in 2012.