July 1998

Maryland Withdraws Raised-Vehicle Regulation

Due to opposition from 4x4 hobbyists in Maryland and across the country, as well as the detailed technical and legal arguments provided by SEMA, the Maryland State Police (MSP) recently withdrew a proposed regulation which would have established tight restrictions on the amount a vehicle's suspension and body can be raised. Maryland officials indicated they may choose to pursue some type of raised-vehicle regulation in the future, and that the affected industry would be invited to participate in formulating any future proposal.

Maryland's proposed regulation carried with it disastrous implications for hobbyists. It would have prohibited body or suspension lifts exceeding 2 inches, as well as the installation of tires larger than those originally installed by the manufacturer (or a vehicle-manufacturer upgrade size). The proposal also sought to ban combination body and suspension lifts.

Steve McDonald, SEMA Director of State Relations, noted, "Reasonable alterations are necessary and useful to provide improved clearance for on/off road capability, as well as to accommodate heavy loads, larger wheels and improved suspension. Reasonable vehicle lift also allows improved water clearance of the interior compartment when launching watercraft from trailers or fording water while off-road. We look forward to working with the MSP in the future, if necessary, to fashion a fair and reasonable regulation."

The withdrawal of this proposed regulation is a tremendous victory for the Maryland 4x4 community, and it reflects the hard work of many 4x4 organizations, including the Mid-Atlantic Four Wheel Drive Association, United Four Wheel Drive Associations, East Coast Four Wheel Drive Association, Off-Camber Crawlers, Maryland Mudders, Multi-Car Club of Maryland and Mid-Atlantic 4x4 and Speed.

New Jersey Suspension Regulation Provides Victory For Hobbyists

Persuaded by comments from Sky's the Limit 4x4 Club, the Classic Vehicle Advocate Group and the Long Island Off-Road Club, New Jersey's Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) recently killed most of a proposed regulation that would have all but eliminated modifications that raise vehicles. The DMV proposal also called for raised-vehicles to comply with the new regulations by either installing dropped bumpers or removing modifications. In the end, the DMV eliminated the proposed regulations designed to set maximum bumper height, the vertical bumper height standard and rear bumper requirement as part of a final regulation governing motor vehicles with elevated-chassis heights. The regulation marked a significant victory for New Jersey hobbyists because, like in Maryland, the DMV's initial proposal singled out drivers of modified vehicles for costly restrictions.

Under the final regulation, vehicles will fail inspection if the tires (on vehicles under 10,000 pounds) exceed 38 inches or are 6 inches more than stock. In addition, bumpers must be mounted no lower than 16 inches from the ground to the bottom of the bumper. The regulation also sets maximum-lift limits classified by the vehicle's gross weight rating as follows: 4,500 pounds or under: 7 inches above original vehicle height; 4,501 to 7,500 pounds: 9 inches above original vehicle height; 7,501 to 10,000 pounds: 11 inches above original vehicle height. The regulation defined "original vehicle height" as the height necessary to accommodate the largest tires and highest suspension available as standard or optional equipment from the original manufacturer.

All raised vehicles inspected and certified prior to Oct. 1, 1998 will have until Feb. 1, 1999 to comply with the new regulations. However, all such prior certified vehicles will be permanently exempt from the maximum-lift limits, and have until Oct. 1, 2000 to comply with the tire diameter limitations. Chris Kersting, SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs, commented, "Overall this regulation is a significant improvement over what New Jersey had proposed last year. We are still concerned because the regulation includes vague inspection criteria that would allow an inspector to fail a vehicle if any of the modifications were deemed 'to affect the safe operation of the vehicle.' We expect to continue working with New Jersey officials in order to clarify these requirements."

Arizona Hobbyists and Legislators Celebrate Repair/Upgrade Victory

In a victory for the Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council and the entire Arizona enthusiast community, the first state legislative program (S.B. 1427) for voluntary vehicle repair and upgrade was signed into law.

Chairman, Representative Carolyn Allen, and Bill Buck, Past President, Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council. Senator Spitzer and Rep. Allen are holding a copy of S.B. 1427.

Bill to Restrict Aftermarket Lighting Fails in New York

Legislation that would have resulted in tough regulations on aftermarket auxiliary lights died in the New York legislature. Based on discussions SEMA conducted with key legislative aides, this last-minute bill was withheld from the flurry of measures considered just before the 1998 legislative session concluded. Committee staff indicated that they would be in touch with SEMA in the near future to consult on less discriminatory legislation.

S.B. 7666 sought to prohibit aftermarket lighting equipment that was not approved by the State Commissioner of Motor Vehicles. In addition to establishing an approval program, the Commissioner would have written regulations limiting maximum candlepower; the location, placement and aim of the lights; and the times, places and conditions under which aftermarket lamps could be used.

Legislature Demands Answers; Merits of Scrappage Program Challenged

Based on information submitted by SEMA, hobbyists and State Senator Maurice Johannessen, the California Legislature has directed the State Department of Consumer Affairs to answer tough questions about funding for old-vehicle scrappage programs. California is poised to spend as much as $60 million to buy and destroy older cars under a plan that SEMA and other opponents say is flawed and may actually result in increased emission levels.

DCA officials have been instructed to prepare a report concerning scrappage programs which is to include: (1) the level of fraud in the program; (2) the level of emission reductions expected to accrue; (3) the amount of money that will be spent; (4) the number of vehicles that will be scrapped; and (5) the date the program is to begin. The Department of Consumer Affairs report is due March 1, 1999.

The report provision is considered a milestone by SEMA staff and Senator Johannessen, who have led opposition to California scrappage programs for a number of years. According to the Senator, "The bill represents the first time California legislators have looked carefully at the facts about scrappage. They are now questioning these misguided programs. California should not spend another cent of taxpayer money until we know whether the programs can reduce any emissions at all."

SEMA will continue working with enthusiasts to eliminate California's scrappage programs.

SEMA Visits with New Jersey State Contact

On Sunday June 14, SEMA Research Coordinator Joe Hill met with Ben Deutschman, 18th Legislative District Liaison for New Jersey's Classic Vehicle Advocate Group and SEMA Action Network State Contact. The visit presented an opportunity for Deutschman to express hobbyist concerns about issues such as New Jersey's statutory definition of "collector" car, the state's plan for an enhanced I/M emissions program and lack of concern and active involvement among automotive hobbyists in the state. According to Deutschman, "we can't lead a charge into battle without an army."

SEMA supports Mr. Deutschman's efforts to raise awareness and involvement among enthusiasts. For the automobile hobby to continue, --from off-roading and streetrodding to restoration and racing--enthusiasts must get and stay involved. The SEMA government relations team is poised to help in this effort, and we look forward to meeting with clubs across the country to discuss what needs to be done and what organized hobbyists can accomplish. If your club has an interest in having SEMA address your membership or attend an event, do not hesitate to contact us.