SEMA News - November 2009
Law and Order is an update of some of the most recent federal and state legislative and regulatory issues that could potentially impact the automotive specialty-equipment industry. These include issues affecting small-business owners and their employees.
Raised Vehicles: SEMA submitted technical comments to a regulatory proposal issued by Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI) to regulate raised vehicles in the province. SGI operates the province’s driver’s licensing and vehicle registration system. SGI regulators claim that the number of raised vehicles imported into and operating in Saskatchewan has increased, prompting inquiries from the general public, raised vehicle owners, off-road enthusiasts, vehicle inspection stations and law enforcement with requests to clarify the existing regulations and standards for raised vehicles. Under the proposal, all aftermarket raised vehicles operated on Saskatchewan highways would be subject to a raised vehicle inspection after January 1, 2011. The policy would be rolled out in two phases to mitigate the impact on existing raised vehicle owners and provide time to train and inform the public, inspection stations and law enforcement. Regulators are considering requiring owners to carry a “Letter of Authorization” issued by the province in order to operate a raised vehicle. The letter would signify that the vehicle has passed inspection and would be shown to law enforcement during roadside stops to demonstrate compliance with the applicable frame height limit.
Antiques: State hobbyist groups, working with SEMA and SEMA-member companies, have reached a tentative compromise with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management on an agency proposal that originally sought to redefine the term “antique vehicle” in order to force more of these hobby cars into the emissions inspection program. Under existing law, an antique vehicle is defined as “a motor vehicle or motor scooter that is at least 25 years old.” Under the initial regulation, the definition would be revised to require that the vehicle must be at least 25 years old; registered and plated as an historic motor vehicle; driven a maximum of 3,000 miles per calendar year; and include federally required pollution control equipment for that make and model year. Under the plan, the vehicle would be periodically forced into a vehicle emissions test site to verify that these requirements have been met. Under the current compromise, vehicles 25 years old and older would be exempted from the 3,000-mile limit and the pollution control equipment requirement if they were insured under a collectible vehicle or classic automobile insurance policy.
Health Care Reform: Last August’s town hall meetings helped identify deficiencies in various approaches on health care reform legislation. Lawmakers were challenged to consider pursuing more incremental reform, tackle the root causes of skyrocketing premiums, preserve the private market and maintain fiscal responsibility. SEMA urged President Obama and Congress to focus attention on the structural changes needed to reduce costs and increase competition. SEMA coordinated member grassroots efforts to let lawmakers hear from their small-business constituency.
An estimated 27 million small-business owners, employees and dependents are now uninsured under the current system. SEMA continues to work with the National Federation of Independent Business and through the Small Business Coalition for Affordable Healthcare in pursuit of effective health reform changes. A common message has been the need to allow small businesses to pool their resources when shopping for insurance. This approach would spur competition for the small-group market and, in return, bring more choices for business owners struggling to afford health insurance for their employees.
Federal Tire Fuel-Efficiency Rating Program: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is developing a program for mass-produced replacement tires, whereby tire manufacturers would be required to rate the tires for fuel efficiency, safety and durability based on performance tests established by the NHTSA. The program is required under a 2007 law that included a SEMA provision exempting from the rating system those tires that have been produced or imported in annual units of less than 15,000 and do not exceed 35,000 tires in total brand-name production. The specialty tires at issue are mostly produced for classic and antique cars and for some off-highway vehicles. SEMA urged the NHTSA not to impose unnecessary reporting requirements on the limited-production tires for which manufacturers had claimed the low-volume exemption. SEMA emphasized that a reporting requirement would run counter to the law’s intent, which recognizes that limited-volume tire producers are small businesses and ensures that the specialty tires will continue to be available to the consumer. The NHTSA is expected to finalize the program by December 2009.
Transmission Interlock: The NHTSA will soon require all automatic-transmission vehicles be equipped with an interlock device that requires that the brake pedal be pressed before the driver can shift the transmission out of Park. The action is required under a law passed in 2008 designed to protect children from vehicle rollaways in which a car is inadvertently shifted into Neutral or another gear. The NHTSA is proposing to amend Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 114 (Theft Protection and Rollaway Prevention) to mandate a brake transmission shift interlock device on all passenger cars and light trucks weighing 10,000 lbs. or less.
Antilock Brakes: The NHTSA reported that antilock brake systems (ABS) have been generally effective in preventing crashes, especially when combined with an electronic stability control (ESC) system. However, the NHTSA observed an unexplained rise in accidents in which ABS-equipped vehicles have “run off the road.” The NHTSA notes that this may diminish as ESC systems are installed on all passenger vehicles by 2011. The report is based on crash data collected between 1997 and 2007. The report revealed significant reductions in collisions with pedestrians and other vehicles and noted that ABS is particularly effective on wet pavements and in improving overall vehicle stability during braking.