SEMA News—November 2011

LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS

Law and Order

By Steve McDonald
 
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.

State Update

California Tire Pressure Checks:

   
   
All California automobile service providers are required to check tire pressures for every vehicle being maintained or repaired at their facilities as of September 2010. The law applies to auto maintenance/repair providers but not to auto parts distributors/retailers, auto body/paint facilities, auto glass installers or wreckers/dismantlers.

The California legislature recently unanimously passed a bill to clarify that tire-pressure gauges used for these purposes must be accurate within 2 psi. The legislation also allows the service provider to refuse to check the pressure if the tire is “unsafe” or damaged. Under the law, service providers are required to inflate the tires to the recommended tire-pressure rating. The provider must note on the invoice that the tire inflation service was completed and then keep a copy of the service invoice for at least three years. The rule applies to all vehicles weighing less than 10,000 lbs.

Illinois Antique Vehicles:

   
   

SEMA-supported legislation to provide for an expanded-use antique vehicle registration class that would allow antique vehicles and replicas to be driven without limitation during the warmer part of the year (April 1 through October 31) was signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn.

Under the new law, expanded-use antiques are limited to traveling to and from car shows, exhibitions, servicing or demonstration during the colder months (November 1 through March 31). Regular antique vehicle registration is still available for a lower fee to hobbyists who would prefer to operate their vehicles on only a limited-use basis throughout the year.

The expanded-use antique registration plate will be available at an annual fee of $45. The limited-use antique plate remains available at a fee of $13 for a two-year registration. In Illinois, an antique vehicle is defined as a motor vehicle more than 25 years of age, a bonafide replica or a fire-fighting vehicle more than 20 years old that is not used as fire-fighting equipment. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2012.

Nevada Emissions Exemption:

SEMA submitted comments to the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles in support of a proposed regulation that would exempt classic vehicles and classic rods, among other hobby vehicles, from emissions testing if the owner certifies that the vehicle has not been driven more than 5,000 miles the previous year. Currently, these vehicles are subject to a 2,500-mile-per-year limit to qualify for an emissions exemption and must pass an initial two-speed idle emissions inspection to qualify. The proposal is the product of legislation passed earlier this year by the Nevada State Legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval.

Michigan Vehicle Miles-Traveled Tax:

   
   
SEMA is supporting Michigan legislation that would prohibit the state from imposing a vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) tax or mileage-based user fee on motor vehicles. This prohibition would also include any toll based on global-positioning satellites or similar programs that would provide for the locational tracking of private motor vehicles or users. In addition, the bill prohibits the state from accepting funding to implement a study or pilot program for the same purposes. As a general matter, SEMA opposes VMT taxes but supports policies that balance the interests of the motoring public with reasonable means to reduce reliance on foreign oil and create incentive-laden programs to help clean the air.

Federal Update

Federal Red Tape: Last January, President Obama issued an Executive Order directing all federal agencies to identify unnecessary regulations that hinder economic growth. In response, the agencies have identified more than 500 regulatory requirements that can be dropped and would potentially save $10 billion in productivity and reduced paperwork. A few of the regulatory changes would impact the auto industry. For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) intends to reduce reporting and record keeping for its gasoline/diesel regulations and to harmonize its greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards. Nevertheless, SEMA and many in the business community contend that the reforms do not go far enough in lessening regulatory burdens, pointing to other candidates for change such as health care reform and greenhouse gas regulations for stationary sources.

Ozone Standard: In a move welcomed by SEMA, President Obama directed the EPA to withdraw its proposal to tighten the national air quality standards for ozone, the main ingredient in smog. Ozone forms when nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compound emissions from smokestacks, tailpipes and other sources combine in sunlight. Smog is created when particulates are added to the mix. The current ozone level is 75 parts per billion. The EPA was seeking to reduce the level to 60–70 parts per billion, contending that this range was necessary to address heart and respiratory illnesses associated with smog. The President cited the need to reduce regulatory burdens and uncertainty while the economy continues to recover. The standard could have cost as much as $90 billion a year to implement, with manufacturers, oil refiners and utilities bearing most of the costs.

   
   
Heavy-Duty Vehicle CAFE Standards: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and EPA have established fuel efficiency and carbon dioxide (CO2) standards for work trucks, buses and other medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. The first-time standards begin in model-year ’14 and cover a diverse range of vehicle types and uses. The vehicles are divided into three major categories: combination tractors (semi-trucks), heavy-duty pickup trucks and vans, and vocational vehicles (such as delivery trucks and transit buses). There are additional subcategories that are intended to provide a flexible structure for achieving specific goals. The standards are expected to achieve 10%–20% savings in fuel consumption by model-year ’18. The fuel-efficiency standards will also reduce CO2 emissions, since carbon dioxide is a direct byproduct when carbon-based fuels are burned.

Employee Rights Poster: As of November 14, 2011, businesses will be required to display a poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively with the employer. The 11- x 17-in. notice is required under a rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) following an extensive rulemaking procedure. The poster can be downloaded for free from the NLRB website. The U.S. Department of Labor already requires companies to display workplace posters for federal minimum wage, polygraph protection, OSHA-job safety rules and several other federal labor laws. State agencies that regulate employers/workers may also have similar posters covering compensation, leave, job-safety and similar workplace issues. The posters are usually available at no cost from the agency or may be purchased from a commercial supplier.

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