Maine Exhaust Noise Bill Goes to Governor
On the heels of similar laws enacted in California and Washington state, the Maine Legislature approved a version of SEMA-model pro-hobby legislation (LD 819) to create an enforceable motor vehicle exhaust noise standard for the state. Currently, Maine deems illegal all modifications that increase noise levels above that emitted by the vehicle’s original muffler. Under the SEMA model an exhaust system modification is legal if it results in a sound level of 95 decibels or less as measured by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test standard J1169. The Maine bill stipulates that all exhaust sound level tests be performed by certified inspection stations.
"This bill is essential to helping protect those motorists who drive vehicles equipped with modified exhaust systems from being erroneously cited for exceeding noise limits," said SEMA Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "Many of these citations are being written without regard to the practical intent of the law. The enforcement policy currently used by police officers is one in which nearly all exhaust system modifications
are considered in violation, even when the noise levels are not excessive or unusual. This policy leaves exhaust system manufacturers, dealers and their customers without recourse."
Aftermarket exhaust systems are preferred by motorists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance. If the exhaust has a more efficient exit route, more power can be attained without increasing pollution. This is especially critical for maneuvers such as passing, going uphill or merging onto a highway for vehicles with slow acceleration. Many aftermarket mufflers are made from stainless-steel for improved durability and offer a show car quality to a vehicle's appearance.
"SEMA has a great deal of experience with the SAE test standard, both as a public policy matter and as an actual measure of exhaust noise," noted SEMA Action Network Director Brian Caudill. "Before crafting our model legislation, we did plenty of research including performing actual tests-complete with an acoustical engineer and a decibel meter-on a variety of modified cars. What we found was that the test was easy to understand, easy to perform and accurate."
SEMA is working with the Maine Custom Auto Association, an organization composed of several SEMA member companies, as well as SEMA Action Network car clubs like the Central Maine Street Rods and the Fly-By Nights to seek enactment of this legislation. The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
SEMA’s Model Exhaust Noise Bill
- Eliminates subjective enforcement based on exhaust systems that are "louder than original muffler" or emit "excessive or unusual noise."
- Forces compliance with an objectively measured decibel limit (95 dbA) under a fair and predictable test standard (SAE J1169).
- Provides hobbyists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems the ability to prove that they comply with the law.
- Recognizes that aftermarket exhaust systems are preferred by motorists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance.
- Challenges assumption that enthusiasts who equip their vehicles with modified exhaust systems are involved in street racing or other illegal activities.
Interested in pursuing fair exhaust noise laws in your state? Contact the SEMA Government Relations office at 202/783-6007 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Legislative Quick Hits
California Regulators Approve ZEV Revisions: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved revisions to the states zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) rule. The revised rule calls for hundreds of thousands of cleaner gasoline burning vehicles, tens of thousands of gas-electric hybrids and 250 hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles in the next five years. The new rule also requires 2,500 fuel cell vehicles by 2011 and 25,000 by 2014. The revisions are partially in response to a lawsuit filed by General Motors and Daimler-Chrysler and joined by the Bush Administration. In June 2002, a federal court delayed enforcement of the rules for two years. The lawsuit accused CARB with regulating fuel economy, a power reserved for the federal government. Given the revisions, it is unclear whether the automakers will proceed with their lawsuit.
California Replacement Tire Efficiency: SEMA has joined with the Tire Industry
Association (TIA) to oppose California legislation that would require regulators to develop a replacement tire fuel efficiency program by March 31, 2005. The bill seeks to create a replacement tire rating system and specifically claims that original equipment tires offer fuel economy benefits that aftermarket tires do not. Should the bill pass, aftermarket tires, particularly those designed for high-performance and off-road enthusiast markets, will be specifically discriminated against in California despite their proven safety, utility and performance characteristics. Furthermore, tire manufacturers could be forced to redesign entire product lines simply to comply with California law.
South Carolina Headlamps: SEMA convinced the South Carolina Legislature to abandon legislation that would have prohibited the operation of motor vehicles with colored or tinted headlamps. The bill failed to make an exception for certain lighting equipment including bulbs carrying a slight bluish tint that are certified to federal standards or federally compliant high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps that emit a bluish hue.
U.S. Senate Debates CAFE: A provision to hike the CAFE standard was excluded from a national energy policy bill approved by the Senate Energy Committee. Nevertheless, some Senators want to insert a CAFE hike provision in the bill during Senate floor debate to create an identical CAFE standard for SUVs and passenger cars by 2011. SEMA supports a provision requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to calculate appropriate CAFE numbers in the context of motor vehicle and passenger safety, technological feasibility, cost, consumer choice and impact on the automotive
industry. The House version of an energy bill already contains this provision.
U.S. Legislation Addresses Passenger Van Safety: Two bills are now in Congress to expand NHTSA’s current dynamic rollover test program to include passenger vans designed to carry nine to 15 passengers. There is concern that many of the vans have an unacceptably high rollover risk when loaded with large numbers of people or luggage. Although not required under the legislation, the bill sponsors suggested some redesign possibilities such as adding dual wheels (an additional wheel on either side) to the rear of these vans, and installing electronic stability control systems and antilock brakes.
Driving Force Wants to Hear Your Horror Stories
The automotive hobby, from street rods to lifted 4x4s and every vehicle type in-between, is subject to a nationwide hodge-podge of silly laws, weird regulations and chaotic enforcement. Most hobbyists have a story to tell about their experiences. Here are some regular occurrences:
- A nosy neighbor peers over a privacy fence and reports someone to zoning officials for having a project car in the backyard.
- Street rodders pulled over for being unsafe or for using non-stock parts.
- Antique cars owners ticketed for not wearing seatbelts when the car was never originally equipped with them.
- Import-performance riders pulled over and cited because they have a modified exhaust or it sounds too loud.
- Lowriders ticketed for using hydraulics at a designated car show (not while driving).
- Lifted-4x4 owners cited because, well, "Man, that thing is just TOO tall."
- Garage owners forced out of business because of overreaching government
If you have a similar tale to tell, we want to hear it! Write to SEMA with yourexperiences, tales of woe, accounts of silliness and narratives of the bizarre. Just make sure you weren't doing something illegal. We'll do our part by publishing them in a semi-regular column in Driving Force called "Can You Believe?!" Perhaps through some publicity, we can inject a little common sense into how vehicle laws are developed and enforced.
Submit stories, pictures and background, etc. to "Can You Believe?!," Specialty
Equipment Market Association (SEMA), 1317 F St., NW, Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004, 202/783-6024 (fax).
NHTSA Looks at Revamping Fuel Economy Rules
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) intends to request public comments later this year on how to restructure the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program beginning in model year 2008.
CAFE standards, currently set at 27.5 miles-per-gallon for passenger cars and 20.7 mpg for pickups, SUVs and minivans, have caused considerable controversy over the past few years. Automakers, forced to meet these standards or face penalties, actively oppose any CAFE hike, fearing that increases will force them to downsize or eliminate popular product lines like SUVs in order to meet fuel economy targets. Automakers produce plenty of fuel-efficient vehicles, but few are purchased. American consumers prefer larger, safer and more utilitarian vehicles, automakers argue, and federal regulation ought not force the OEMs to manufacture and market vehicles the public won’t buy.
Hardcore environmentalists counter that the CAFE standards have remained static for nearly a decade as America’s love affair with less fuel-efficient light trucks/SUVs flourished. They claim that overall U.S. fuel economy is down and that automakers have the technology to make more fuel-efficient vehicles without sacrificing vehicle safety or utility. Environmentalist patrons in Congress have for the past several years attempted (and failed) to institute substantial CAFE hikes.
Absent Congressional action, NHTSA determines what CAFE numbers are appropriate and feasible. While NHTSA is now considering numerical changes, it may also transform how the overall program operates as well. One major change would be to base fuel economy rules on vehicle weight rather than vehicle type. This could address automaker complaints that current CAFE structure negatively affects popular SUV/light truck product lines. However, new weight-based categories could still capture heavier SUVs/light trucks and subject them to higher fuel economy standards. NHTSA is also considering redefining as passenger cars those SUVs that have "car-like" characteristics. Obviously, these SUVs would then have to achieve higher passenger car miles-per-gallon ratings. The devil lies in the details: What vehicle design and manufacture characteristics does NHTSA intend to use in order to determine car-like SUVs?
On behalf of consumers and our member manufacturers, SEMA has historically opposed unreasonable legislative CAFE hikes because they will affect consumer vehicle choice. The equation is simple: SEMA manufacturers make rational economic decisions to produce style, performance- and utility-enhancing products for vehicles that consumers buy. Not surprisingly, these vehicles are mostly high-performance passenger cars and multi-functional light trucks/SUVs, those most affected by CAFE standards. Unreasonably hiking CAFE would force automakers to stop producing large quantities of useful and fun vehicles. If this happens, consumers, automakers and SEMA member companies all lose
We Get Letters
California Old Car Emissions Exemption (Comments, Questions…and Answers)
Just read the May Driving Force. Is it too early to say congratulations on your victory in eliminating that legislative item, S.B. 708, to smog test cars back to 1960? If it is, I'll write back to congratulate you all when the bill is officially dead! We all know how fast the worm can turn in California. Good job.
Hey guys, I looked over the Driving Force article mentioning that Sen. Florez has agreed not to go for legislation that eliminates California's 30-year rolling emissions exemption. Maybe you guys in Washington get a little hung-up on jargon. What on earth is a rolling emission exemption?
Jargon explained: A 30-year emissions test exemption means that whenever a car turns 30 years old, it is no longer required to undergo an emissions test. The exemption rolls in when an additional model year becomes exempt from testing for each year the law is in effect. For example, if all pre-1974 vehicles are exempted from testing this year, next year all vehicles will be exempted, with all pre-1976vehicles exempted the year after that and so on. In comparison, many states have static-year emissions test exemptions so all cars manufactured after a certain date have to be emissions-tested no matter how old they are. -Ed.
Newly Introduced Legislation
Note: The following state bills are not laws. They were recently introduced and are currently under consideration by the respective state legislatures:
Colorado H.B. 1357-would exempt towing carriers and the police from obtaining emissions control certificates prior to selling abandoned vehicles
Connecticut H.B. 6402-would establish vehicle emissions standards equivalent to
Indiana H.B. 1798-would exempt certain counties from emissions inspection requirements.
Missouri H.B. 668-would require biennial emissions testing; requires vehicles failing onboard diagnostic tests to undergo a tailpipe test.
New York S.B. 4040-would create a bureaucracy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
New York S.B. 4044-would require regulations, similar to California's, for reducing vehicle GHG emissions.
North Carolina S.B. 863/H.B. 1045-would create a new bureaucracy to reduce GHG emissions.
North Carolina S.B. 763/H.B. 933-would establish emissions standards equivalent to California’s low emissions vehicle program.
Pennsylvania H.B. 1217-would stop emissions testing until the EPA issues rules for using onboard diagnostic vehicle emissions testing systems.
Equipment and Inspections
Hawaii H.B. 933-would exempt reconstructed vehicles from state inspection and
Maine H.B. 1113-would prohibit vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems unless the vehicle is traveling to/from a racetrack, the system is disconnected and all containers removed.
Maine H.B. 1149-would permit cutouts or bypasses on vehicle exhaust systems used in racing as long as they are inoperative when used on public roads.
New York S.B. 4523-would establish a tax credit for purchasing hybrid vehicles.
Title, Tags and Registration
Alabama H.B. 504-would permit issuance of antique/vintage motor vehicle titles on request.
Kansas H.B. 2237-would require assembled cars, street rods, special interest vehicles and antique vehicles (1950 or later) to undergo inspections prior to titling.
Texas H.B. 3106-would permit specially designed license plates; sets related fees.
Wisconsin A.B. 282-would allow year of manufacture license plates.
SEMA Action Network Club Events
June 21, Sacramento
Mopar Day at the Park X
Sponsor: Capitol City Mopars
June 27-29, Pomona
6th West Coast Hot Rod Happenin’
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
June 27-29, Pueblo
19th Annual Rocky Mountain Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
June 22, Bridgewater
28th Annual Antique and Classic Auto Show
Sponsor: AACA, Housatonic Valley Region
July 4-6, Des Moines
12th Heartland Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
June 21, Bensenville
5th Annual Summer Kickoff All Buick Car Show
Sponsor: Chicagoland Buick Club
July 8-12, Collinsville
31st Annual National Convention
Sponsor: Pontiac-Oakland Club
June 13-15, Indianapolis
15th Hot Rod Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
June 21-22, North East
16th Annual Mid-Atlantic Chevelle Show
Sponsor: Maryland Chevelle Club
June 19-22, St. Paul
Back to the '50s
Sponsor: Minnesota Street Rod Association
July 6, Fullerton
11th Annual Car and Motorcycle Show and Swap Meet
Sponsor: Twin River Cruisers
June 27-29, Carson City
19th Annual "Run What Cha' Brung" Car Show
Sponsor: Karson Kruzers
June 14, McConnellsville
18th Annual Open Car and Truck Cruise-In
Sponsor: Y-City Custom Car Association
June 22, La Marque
2003 Summer Car Show
Sponsor: Fifties Unlimited
July 4, Kerrville
5th Annual Open Car Show
Sponsor: Hill Country Automobile Club
Spring Fling and Grand Slam East
Sponsor: Big Dogs 4WD Club
June 13-15, Warrens
Wizards of Rods and Yogi
Sponsor: Wizards of Rods
June 21, Wauwautosa
20th Annual Renner Oldsmobile Show
Sponsor: Oldsmobile Club of Wisconsin
July 5, Grafton
13th Annual Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show