SEMA News—March 2014
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Ohio Headlamps: The Ohio State Senate approved legislation that originally required headlights on motor vehicles to display a “white light” without defining the term. A SEMA amendment that was included in the bill now conforms the legislation to U.S. Department of Transportation standards regarding headlamp color, with which all headlamps destined for on-road use must comply. Under the federal standards, it is possible to design a headlamp that can be perceived as having a blue tint but that nevertheless remains within the federal boundaries that define “white.” The bill now moves to the Ohio House for consideration.
Texas Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: In comments to a proposal issued by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, SEMA commended the agency for removing provisions in the regulations that were in conflict with a 2011 law to provide for the titling of street rods and custom vehicles. Currently, the state does not allow the titling of vehicles that do not have “a body, motor and frame manufactured by a motor vehicle manufacturer.” Kit cars and replicas are often fabricated from the “ground up” with new materials that were not manufactured by a recognized car manufacturer. The 2011 law—a product of SEMA-model legislation—provides that vehicles made to resemble older vehicles but which have been altered from those older vehicle’s original manufacturer’s designs or constructed from non-original materials may be titled as street rods and custom vehicles. The regulatory proposal to ensure that vehicles without an original manufacturer body, motor and frame can be titled under the street rod and custom vehicle law is expected to be formally adopted in the near future.
Wisconsin Collector Cars/Historic Military Vehicles: Governor Scott Walker signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow minor modifications to collector vehicles, exempt former military vehicles, historic military vehicles and collector vehicles from importer certification label requirements and expand rights for historic military vehicle owners.
The new law allows modifications to vehicles registered as collector vehicles as long as the bodies of the vehicles are not modified. Currently, upgrades such as safety glass, radial tires, a radio or hubcaps are reasons to deny registration. The law also exempts collector vehicles and all former military vehicles from the requirement that they meet federal certification label requirements. Historic military vehicles can now be operated for occasional personal use. Use of these vehicles had been limited to parades, car shows and transporting them to and from necessary testing, maintenance and storage.
Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area Saved: SEMA joined with a number of off-road organizations to protect off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley in California. The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress in late December included a measure ending a six-year clash over access to thousands of acres of Southern California desert between the military and OHV users. More than 96,000 acres will continue to be maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as a dedicated OHV recreation area. About 79,000 acres will be transferred to the adjoining Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms. About 53,000 acres of the OHV area will be shared with the Marine Corps for 30 days of military training exercises twice a year. No dud-producing ordinance will be used at that time in order to ensure safety and continued access to the area. The area contains a unique mix of open desert, dry-lake beds and formidable rock-crawling formations and hosts the famous “King of the Hammers” race, which will continue unhampered. SEMA praised Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) for his efforts in helping negotiate the shared-use solution.
Credit/Debit Card Swipe Fees: A federal judge approved a $5.7 billion settlement between Visa/MasterCard and U.S. merchants over fees charged each time a customer swipes a credit or debit card. The ruling follows years of litigation over allegations that the fees were improperly fixed. The retailers argued that they have limited power to negotiate the “swipe fee” amounts that may range from 2% to 5% of the purchase price. The financial firms counter that they are providing a service that benefits the merchants. If not appealed, the settlement would represent the largest private antitrust settlement in history.
“Employee Rights” Poster: The National Labor Relations Board rule instructing employers to display an 11x17-in. poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively was officially overturned. Scheduled to take effect in 2011, the rule was widely opposed by business groups, including SEMA, over concerns that it unfairly promotes unionization. Two federal courts struck down the rule, and the time period for seeking a U.S. Supreme Court review has now passed.
Seatbelt Pretensioners: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a technical report evaluating the effectiveness of pretensioners and load limiters for seatbelts in the front seats of light-duty vehicles (LTVs). A pretensioner retracts the belt to remove excess slack when sensing a crash, and a load limiter allows the belt to slacken when forces on the belt rise above a predetermined level. Car companies have installed the equipment on all new LTVs since the ’08 model year. In comparing data for ’86–’11 model-year vehicles, the NHTSA concluded that there was nearly a 13% lower fatality risk for front seat occupants in passenger cars, crossover vehicles and minivans equipped with the technology. However, there appeared to be little significant benefit for occupants in pickups, SUVs and fullsize vans.