SEMA News—December 2011 

Law and Order
By Steve McDonald

2011: The Year in Review

The laws and regulations that govern how SEMA members do business have an increased and growing impact on the way automotive specialty-equipment products are made, distributed and marketed. As the nation and our industry struggle with a still balky economy, SEMA’s charge is to stay on top of every relevant state and federal matter of consequence to its membership to ensure the best possible outcome.

The following are just a few examples of critical legislative/regulatory issues that the SEMA government affairs office was involved in this year.

State Update

Arizona Emissions Test Exemption:

Governor Jan Brewer signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt all vehicles manufactured in the ’74 model year and earlier from the state’s mandatory biennial emissions inspection program. Under previous law, only vehicles manufactured in 1966 and earlier and collectibles (used primarily for hobby activities, insured under a collector-car insurance policy and whose owners have registered an additional vehicle for general transportation) were exempt.

Arkansas Inoperable Vehicles:

SEMA helped defeat legislation that would have allowed cities to remove inoperable vehicles from private property if the vehicle was deemed a “nuisance” under a local ordinance. Among other things, the bill provided no reasonable safeguards for legitimate automotive hobbyists to work on inoperable collector vehicles on private property, even those located out of public view.

Arkansas Bonded Titles:

Governor Mike Beebe signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to create a less expensive bonded title procedure for assembled vehicles. The new procedure calculates the amount of the bond as equal to the value of the vehicle. Prior to the enactment of the new law, all vehicle owners applying for a bonded title had to post a bond of 1.5 times the value of the vehicle. The law also permits assembled vehicles to be bought and sold in inoperable condition. Arkansas defines an assembled vehicle as a vehicle constructed by a collector from parts obtained from a variety of different sources on various occasions.

California Diesel Parts:

At SEMA’s request, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) again extended its “Parts In Progress” (PIP) program until December 31, 2011. The program was originally slated to conclude on June 20 but was subsequently extended to September 30. CARB and SEMA created this procedure in order for non-certified diesel parts to not cause failure of the visual portion of the BAR’s smog check while diesel parts manufacturers submitted all traditional certification application material and addressed test requirements spelled out in the program, including a rigorous steady-state test mode. Delays created primarily by lack of available test laboratory time prompted the extensions.

Colorado Collector Vehicles:

Governor John Hickenlooper signed into law a SEMA-supported bill to reorganize and simplify the various laws dealing with collector cars. Reorganizing the statutes into one location in the code will help the Department of Revenue, law enforcement, county clerks and enthusiasts more easily locate and apply state law governing the titling and registration of collector vehicles.

Connecticut Antique Vehicles:

SEMA-opposed legislation that threatened to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” died when the Connecticut Legislature adjourned for the year. The bill increased the age requirement for registration as an antique to 30 years and increased the tax assessment amount on vehicles registered as antiques to $2,500. Currently, vehicles 20 years old or older are eligible for antique status. Antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles are currently assessed at a rate of $500, and owners pay personal property taxes on that amount.

Florida Tire Dating:

SEMA-opposed legislation to require retailers to provide information on tire aging was successfully defeated. The bill would have required tire retailers to provide a written disclosure on each replacement tire’s age, including the week and year the tire was manufactured, the length remaining on the factory warranty and a statement on tire aging explaining how tire age can contribute to crashes and that tires should be replaced every six years. The legislation would have imposed unnecessary regulatory burdens on tire retailers without providing any proof that tire age affects safety.

Hawaii Car Audio Equipment:

SEMA-opposed legislation to ban the installation, ownership or use of any car with aftermarket speakers over 6.5 in. in height or depth, any five-speaker aftermarket system, any aftermarket speaker more than 100 watts and any aftermarket speaker installed external to the passenger compartment or in an open hatch back was not considered this year. The measure was discriminatory toward aftermarket products, as it did not seek to limit systems installed by original vehicle manufacturers or dealers.

Illinois Antique Vehicles:

Governor Pat Quinn signed into law 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, from April 1
through October 31. Regular antique vehicle registration is still available for a lower fee to hobbyists who would prefer operating their vehicles on only a limited-use basis throughout the year.

Iowa Ethanol:

SEMA-opposed legislation in Iowa to change labeling requirements on gas pumps across the state to require labeling for only unblended gasoline and E85 was successfully defeated. Current law in Iowa requires labeling when gasoline is blended with any amount of ethanol. If the bill had been enacted, it would have removed labeling requirements for ethanol-blended gasoline containing 15% or less ethanol, thereby increasing the risk of misfueling and potential engine damage.

Maine Custom Vehicles:

Governor Paul LePage signed into law a SEMA-supported bill to include more model-year vehicles in the definition of a custom vehicle by changing the definition from 30 to 25 years old and older. The new law also expands the weight limit for custom vehicles from 6,000 to 10,000 lbs. and clarifies that custom vehicles are held to special inspection criteria promulgated by the chief of the state police.

Nebraska Ethanol:

Persuaded by the opposition of SEMA, legislation to remove labeling requirements on pumps dispensing ethanol-blended gasoline has been “indefinitely postponed” in Nebraska. Current law in Nebraska requires labeling when gasoline contains 1% or more alcohol, including labels for pumps dispensing E10. The bill would have made it impossible for enthusiasts to know whether the gasoline they put into their vehicles contained any ethanol, making unintentional misfueling and engine damage more likely.

Nebraska Parts Cars:

Governor Dave Heineman signed into law a bill to redefine parts cars and make such vehicles easier to transfer. Prior to the bill’s enactment, Nebraska required a certificate of title when transferring any vehicle. The new law, effective immediately, allows for parts cars to be transferred using a bill of sale issued by the DMV. Parts vehicles eligible to be transferred using only a bill of sale under the new provisions include vehicles for which title has been surrendered due to the vehicle being destroyed, dismantled or scrapped or for which title has been surrendered to another state or an insurance company to render it fit for sale for scrap parts.

Nevada Emissions Exemption:

Governor Brian Sandoval signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt classic vehicles and classic rods from emissions inspections if owners pay a one-time $6 fee and submit a certification that their vehicles will not be driven more than 5,000 miles per year. Under previous law, classic rods and classic vehicles were subject to a 2,500-mile-per-year limit to qualify for an emissions exemption and had to pass an initial two-speed idle-emissions inspection to qualify.

New York Collector Car Appreciation Day:

At SEMA’s request, the New York State Assembly approved a resolution to memorialize July 8, 2011, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the State of New York, in conjunction with National Collector Car Appreciation Day.

New York “Gas Guzzlers”:

Legislation to establish a progressive purchase surcharge for some new motor vehicles based on state calculations of carbon emissions was defeated for the year. Depending on the vehicle purchased, this surcharge could have required owners to pay up to $2,500 more for the vehicle.

New York Wheel Marking:

SEMA helped defeat legislation that would require vehicle identification numbers on the wheels of all motor vehicles assembled or sold in New York. All wheels sold in the United States generally comply with industry standards that include markings with the wheel manufacturer’s name, trademark or symbol, date of manufacture, manufacturer’s part number or code. Wheels are already identifiable without imposing a VIN marking burden. Both Congress and the NHTSA have determined that wheel marking of the type contemplated by this bill would impose a huge burden on the wheel makers, automakers and dealers and, as noted, wheels already have distinguishable markings. The measure may return next year.

North Carolina Ethanol:

Governor Bev Perdue signed into law SEMA-supported legislation requiring ethanol content labels on all pumps that dispense ethanol-blended gasoline. The new law requires these labels to indicate that the gasoline contains 10% or less ethanol or greater than 10% ethanol. Previously, retailers operating pumps dispensing ethanol-blended gasoline were not required to post labels regarding ethanol content.

North Dakota Vehicle Modifications:

As a result of the opposition mounted by SEMA and North Dakota vehicle hobbyists and businesses, legislation that threatened to prohibit the modification of any motor vehicle that altered the manufacturer’s original suspension, steering or brake system unless the state highway patrol issued an inspection certificate was amended to remove those restrictions. The amended bill, signed into law, now only provides for a study of the state’s transportation laws to be conducted between the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.

Oklahoma Rebodied Vehicles:

Governor Mary Fallin signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to provide for certificates of title to be issued for “rebodied” vehicles. Under the new law, a rebodied vehicle is defined as a vehicle that has been assembled using a new body or new major component part that must be identical to the body or major component part used on the original vehicle. The law also requires that a new body or major component part that is used to assemble a rebodied vehicle be licensed by the manufacturer of the original vehicle. Other original, new or reconditioned parts may also be used. Titles issued to rebodied vehicles will identify the year, make and model of the originally manufactured vehicle and include a notation that states: “This vehicle has been assembled with new major components licensed by the original manufacturer.” Upon application, the Oklahoma tax commissioner will assign each rebodied vehicle a new vehicle identification number.

Oklahoma Racing:

Governor Mary Fallin has signed into law legislation to allow municipalities to issue permits for sanctioned motor-vehicle racing events on public streets and highways within their geographical jurisdictions. The new law promotes legal racing in Oklahoma, boosts the state’s tourism sector and streamlines the process for race promoters to obtain a racing event permit. An
exemption from regulations governing “public or private nuisances,” including noise limits, is also provided for in the new law. To obtain a permit, the racing event must be sanctioned by a nationally or internationally recognized racing organization.

Oregon Exhaust Systems:

At the insistence of SEMA, the sponsor of legislation that would have banned the sale of certain new motor-vehicle exhaust systems withdrew the measure from further consideration. The bill would have prohibited the sale of exhaust systems and exhaust-system components that cause motor vehicles to produce noise exceeding certain limits and would have led to significant confusion regarding compliance and enforcement.

Oregon Suspension/Tire Alterations:

A SEMA-opposed bill that would have severely limited vehicle suspension, body lift and wheel/tire alterations died without committee consideration. Specifically, the measure sought to ban vehicles whose bumpers were elevated more than 3 in. over the original manufactured bumper clearance. Among other things, the bill discriminated against aftermarket parts makers by leaving it solely to the vehicle manufacturers to choose bumper heights. Additionally, it would have forced owners of modified vehicles to spend large sums of money to reinstall original components and would have banned useful alterations that provide adequate clearance for on-/off-road capability and accommodate heavy loads, larger tires, improved suspension and water-fording capability. The bill also would have imposed a fine of up to $360 per offense for vehicles that exceeded the 3-in. clearance requirement.

Tennessee Emissions Tests:

Governor Bill Haslam signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt vehicles more than 25 years old from the state’s annual emissions inspection and maintenance program. To qualify for the exemption, these vehicles must be registered as “antique motor vehicles.” Previous law in Tennessee exempted only vehicles manufactured before the ’75 model year from emissions inspection. The new law provides for a rolling emissions inspection exemption that would exempt qualifying antique vehicles upon enactment and would pick up an additional model year for each year the law is in effect.

Texas Street Rods/Customs:

After an effort that stretched into two legislative sessions, SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles (including kit cars and replicas) and provide for special license plates was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry. The new law defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The law also allows for the use of non-original materials and creates a titling and registration criterion that assigns these vehicles the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble. In addition, the law holds street rods, customs and replicas to only the equipment standards specified by law during the model year listed on the title and exempts them from the state’s emissions inspection program.

Utah Vintage Vehicles:

Governor Gary Herbert signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow vehicles 30 years old and older to be classified as “vintage vehicles.” Under previous law, Utah reserved the “vintage vehicle” class only to vehicles 40 years old and older. Under the new law, “vintage vehicles” 30–40 years old would be charged a $45 annual registration fee. When a vehicle reaches 40 years old, the registrant would pay a one-time $40 fee. Vintage vehicles are exempted from annual emissions and safety inspections.

Washington Collector Vehicles:

Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law legislation that originally sought to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “collector vehicles.” Under the new law, which was amended under pressure from SEMA, vehicles seeking registration as collector vehicles and the one-time registration fee would still only be required to be at least 30 years old—not 40 years old as the original bill required. The law also deletes provisions that would have created penalties for violating the limited-use provisions. However, the measure still requires the Department of Licensing to establish a method for law enforcement to readily access collector vehicle information using the collector vehicle’s plate number, which will aid in ensuring that a plate is being used on its properly assigned vehicle.

Washington Registration Fees:

SEMA-opposed legislation to require annual renewal fees for collector vehicle and horseless carriage license plates was defeated. Under the bill, the initial $35 license plate fee for these vehicles would have remained, and a new annual $30 renewal fee would have been added. Under Washington law, a collector vehicle is any motor vehicle that is more than 30 years old, while a horseless carriage is defined as a vehicle that is more than 40 years old.

Washington Street Rods/Customs:

Governor Christine Gregoire signed into law SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 30 years old and manufactured after 1948. Kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned certificates of title bearing the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble.

West Virginia Exhaust Noise:

A bill to provide that the noise from a motor-vehicle exhaust system that has been deemed “disturbing or unreasonably loud” constitutes the crime of disturbing the peace was killed. SEMA opposed the bill because it did not supply law enforcement with an enforcement standard, allowing for subjective judgments on whether an exhaust system was “disturbing or unreasonably loud.” The bill also would have made it difficult for hobbyists to replace factory exhaust systems with more durable, better-performing options. Under the bill, violators could have been fined up to $1,000 per occurrence, jailed for six months, or both.

Wisconsin Imported Collector Cars:

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation officially withdrew its proposal to prohibit the registration of imported vehicles manufactured after 1967 that do not meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). SEMA opposed the proposal. U.S. law specifically exempts imported vehicles that are 25 years old and older from these safety standards. The Department of Transportation proposal offered no such reasonable exemption.

Wyoming Vehicle Titles:

Governor Matt Mead signed into law a SEMA-supported bill to ease the burden on hobbyists by providing an exemption from bonded title requirements. By allowing enthusiasts to title vehicles being restored for personal use without posting bond, the exemption reduces costs associated with titling hobby vehicles when an original title was never issued or can no longer be located. The new law allows restorers to title their completed works by submitting an affidavit of vehicle ownership, a notarized bill of sale, a written statement of the value of the vehicle and a VIN inspection. To prevent abuse of the new procedure, titles issued under this procedure will not be transferable for the first 180 days after issuance.

Federal Update

Collector Car Appreciation Day:

At SEMA’s request, U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) co-sponsored Senate Resolution 154 designating July 8, 2011, as “Collector Car Appreciation Day.” The date marked the second commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. SEMA-member companies, car clubs and individuals helped organize scores of events to celebrate the day, including car shows, small-business open houses and “drive your car to work” displays.

Health Care:

The 2010 health care reform law is scheduled to be implemented over a number of years. Efforts to repeal the law have been blocked by the Democrat-controlled Senate. The U.S. Supreme Court will likely consider the law in 2012—specifically whether the federal government can mandate that individuals purchase insurance. Of most interest to SEMA members are the Small Business Health Options Programs (SHOP exchanges) operated by the states, which will allow small businesses (50 employees) and individuals to pool together to purchase insurance that meets or exceeds new federal minimum standards. While the SEMA-supported exchanges should spur competition, they are not required to begin operating until 2014. This is a problem, since most insurance companies are hiking their premiums now under the guise that they need the additional revenue to meet the new law’s current and anticipated requirements. SEMA remains committed to pursuing additional reforms to benefit small business and is working with the National Federation of Independent Business and the Coalition for Affordable Healthcare toward that goal.

Bonneville Salt Flats:

The Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) is a national landmark under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Hundreds of speed records have been set at this unique geological site over the past 100 years. For decades, the BSF has been shrinking as salt brine was transferred to an adjoining mining operation to remove potash. A prototype salt replenishment program from 1997–2002 demonstrated that salt brine could be pumped back onto the salt flats to stabilize the landmark and its underlying aquifer. SEMA has joined with other organizations as part of the “Save the Salt Coalition” urging the BLM to mandate a permanent replenishment program as part of its environmental assessment of the mining operation. The mine owner supports the proposal, which would replace salt in the same amount or more. Once the program is in place, the coalition will identify additional replenishment efforts that can be undertaken by the racing community.

1099 Reporting Rule:

After a year of debate, Congress repealed the costly 1099 reporting requirement included in last year’s health care law. Businesses will no longer be required to issue 1099 forms to all vendors from whom they buy more than $600 worth of goods or services in any year, beginning in 2012. The requirement was intended to prompt vendors receiving 1099 forms to pay taxes on the income. SEMA contended that it would fail to generate much under-reported income but would succeed in punishing businesses that already comply with U.S. tax law. SEMA was an active leader in the repeal effort, working on its own and with a number of other small-business organizations.

2011 Tax Cut Compromise:

Lawmakers agreed to extend the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for two years, through 2012. The SEMA-supported law includes a retroactive extension of the research-and-development tax credit through 2011, a two-year reinstatement of the estate tax at 35% after the first $5 million, a 100% write-off on capital expenses for businesses during 2011 (up from 50%), and a one-year reduction in the worker’s Social Security payroll tax from 6.2% to 4.2%.

State Sales Tax:

Identical bills have been introduced in the U.S. Congress to require companies that sell goods via the Internet and catalogs to collect sales tax in the same manner as “brick-and-mortar” retailers. The so-called “Main Street Fairness Act” would recognize the “Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement,” an ongoing initiative by state and local governments to address the collection of sales/use taxes. The agreement creates a system for companies to register with member states, collect and remit taxes and file one tax return for each state. Under a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision, states cannot force retailers to collect use taxes unless the company has a physical presence in the state (“nexus”). The legislation would provide states with this authority and exempt smaller retailers from the requirement.

Lawsuit Abuse:

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved a SEMA-supported bill that would require federal judges to sanction plaintiffs and attorneys who file frivolous lawsuits. The bill will now be scheduled for a House floor vote. Under current law, federal judges are permitted but not required to impose penalties. Courts could also award the prevailing parties reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees in defending against a frivolous lawsuit.

Debit Card Fees:

The Federal Reserve Board issued a rule to limit swipe fees imposed on retailers when accepting debit card payments at $.21 per transaction, effective October 2011. Banks and payment processors may also charge $.01 to$.03 more to cover fraud prevention and other adjustments, bringing the total potential fees to $.24. Bank fees were averaging $.44 before the new limits took effect. The rule does not apply to small banks ($10 billion or less in assets) or to credit card fees.

Online Piracy:

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved a SEMA-supported bill to help combat online piracy and counterfeiting. The legislation would authorize the Department of Justice and intellectual property rights holders to pursue legal actions against rogue websites dedicated to selling counterfeit goods and copyrighted material. The sites are often foreign owned and operated. Courts would be authorized to issue orders requiring search engines in the United States to stop displaying advertising and links to infringing domain names and prevent consumer payments. The alleged infringer could challenge the actions in court. The legislation would address the growing problem of online sales of counterfeit goods, which cost American jobs, expose consumers to health and safety threats and tarnish business reputations. The bill has been sent to the Senate floor.

Warranty Denials:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a consumer alert which confirms that the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act makes it illegal for companies to void a warranty or deny coverage simply because the consumer used an aftermarket part. The alert outlines key provisions in the law that provides protections to car owners. As defined by the FTC, an “aftermarket” part is a part made by a company other than the vehicle manufacturer or the OEM. The FTC’s reference to aftermarket parts is equally applicable to specialty parts. Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the warranty cannot be conditioned to a specific brand of parts, services or vehicle modifications unless those parts or services are provided free of charge. The dealer/vehicle manufacturer has the right to deny a warranty repair but must demonstrate that the aftermarket part caused the problem. The warranty remains in effect for all other covered parts.

Employee Rights Poster:

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) postponed the start date for a rule requiring employers to display a poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively. The rule is now scheduled to take effect on January 31, 2012. The 11-x17-in. notice poster can be downloaded for free from the NLRB website. The rule is widely opposed by business groups, including SEMA, over concerns that it unfairly promotes unionization.

Federal Red Tape:

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 potentially save $10 billion in productivity and reduced paperwork. SEMA and many in the business community still contend that the government 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.

Ethanol Content in Gasoline:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that gasoline for 2001 and newer vehicles may contain up to 15% ethanol (E15) rather than 10% ethanol (E10). The EPA agreed with SEMA that the corrosive effects associated with E15 posed a risk to model-year ’00 and older vehicles. The EPA will require that an orange and black label be placed on fuel pumps dispensing E15 gasoline, warning consumers not to use the fuel in older vehicles because it could cause damage. SEMA opposes the EPA’s decision, since it places the burden on the motorist not to misfuel and exposes millions of vehicles to mechanical breakdowns. SEMA has consistently voiced concern that ethanol increases water formation, which can then create formic acid and corrode metals, plastics and rubber. The EPA’s decision permitting E15 sales is still subject to lawsuits and Congressional actions to delay or overturn the decision.

Alternative Fueled Vehicles:

The EPA streamlined the process for approving fuel conversion systems. The systems allow light- and heavy-duty vehicles to run on alternative fuels (natural gas, propane, alcohol, electricity, etc.) while complying with Clean Air Act emissions standards. The EPA has established a three-tiered compliance process based on the age of the vehicle. A certificate is required only for newer vehicles (less than two years old). For intermediate-aged engines (more than two years old but still within their useful life), exhaust and evaporative emissions tests must be performed to demonstrate compliance. For vehicles that have outlived their useful life, manufacturers must submit a description of the conversion to the EPA to demonstrate that it is well-engineered.

Fuel Economy Standards:

The federal government, California regulators and auto industry representatives agreed on fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions limits for model-year ’17–’25 vehicles. The fleetwide average will rise from 35.5 miles per gallon (mpg) at the end of 2016 to 54.5 mpg for model-year ’25—a nearly 5% annual increase with slightly lower standards for light-duty trucks. The agreement preserves California’s authority to regulate CO2 emissions and other greenhouse gases while creating a single national standard. CO2 emissions and fuel economy are linked, since carbon dioxide is a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion. The automakers pursued an agreement to increase fuel economy, which would also preserve affordability, vehicle choice, jobs and safety. The EPA and NHTSA will now draft regulations to implement the agreement.

New-Car Mileage Labels:

The EPA and NHTSA expanded the amount of fuel economy information contained on new-vehicle window stickers. Among other changes, the information will now include the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the vehicle. The agencies adopted a SEMA-supported approach to incorporate graphics, increase type size and use other visual tools to help focus consumer attention on fuel economy. The agencies abandoned a proposal to use an A–D letter grading system, which SEMA deemed to be too simplistic. Instead, cars will be ranked on a fleetwide 10-point scale for both fuel economy and greenhouse gas ratings and smog emissions. The labels will be required on all new cars starting in 2013, although automakers and dealers may voluntarily use them sooner.

Vehicle Lighting:

The NHTSA amended FMVSS No. 108 to correct technical errors and address concerns that the standard was changed in substance when it was reorganized in 2007. The standard had been amended many times since it was first adopted in 1967 in order to address technological advances and enhance safety. In the process, the old regulation became unnecessarily complex and difficult to understand. The intent of the 2007 revision was to simplify the regulation to the extent possible. The NHTSA is still reviewing the revised standard to confirm that there were no other changes of substance. The standard is scheduled to take effect in December 2012, although voluntary compliance is now permitted.

Anti-Ejection Rule:

The NHTSA established a new safety standard, FMVSS No. 226, intended to prevent occupants from being ejected through side windows during a vehicle rollover or side-impact crash. Vehicle manufacturers will have flexibility in determining how to meet the standard’s performance requirements. Anticipated automaker alternatives include using advanced window glazing, making side air bags larger and more robust, or tethering side air bags to the base of the vehicle’s pillars. FMVSS No. 226 will be phased in over a four-year period beginning in 2013.

Rearview Cameras:

The NHTSA will soon require that all new passenger cars be equipped with a rearview camera system as required by a 2008 law. The equipment is intended to prevent back-over accidents by alerting drivers when pedestrians are behind the vehicles. The NHTSA is finalizing performance requirements to be achieved but allow manufacturer discretion when selecting the video camera system. The rule is to be phased in by 2014. The specialty-equipment aftermarket has been at the forefront of offering cameras and sensors to address the issue.


A House Natural Resources Subcommittee held a hearing on SEMA-supported legislation to release 42 million acres of land from a wilderness designation. The lands have been set aside as “wilderness study areas” or “inventoried roadless areas.” The “wilderness” designation is consequential, since no mechanized activity is permitted on lands so designated. Following extensive reviews, the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service have identified the 42 million acres as not suitable as wilderness. The agencies would be directed to manage the lands for multiple uses.

Wild Lands:

The BLM withdrew its controversial “wild lands” policy, which directed lands with potential wilderness qualities to be managed as wilderness. SEMA joined with a number of other organizations to oppose the program implemented last year, since it usurps the exclusive authority of Congress to designate “wilderness.” The BLM manages more than 250 million acres across the western U.S. and Alaska, 22% of which already has the wilderness designation. Under the wild lands program, the BLM was directed to review its inventory in search of more wild lands.  

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