<< Back to Driving Force, February 2012


Pennsylvania Street Rods: Legislation has been reintroduced in Pennsylvania to amend the definition of street rod to include materially altered vehicles 40 years and older. Currently, only vehicles of the ’48 model year or older (and reproductions of these vehicles) can qualify for this specialty designation. The bill has been referred to the House Transportation Committee for consideration.

Texas Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: The SAN issued comments to a Texas Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV)-proposed regulation implementing standards for the initial safety inspection of street rods and custom vehicles. The proposal was drafted pursuant to the enactment into law last year of SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle registration classification for street rods and customs (including kit cars and replicas). Under the proposed regulation, the DMV will require an owner to provide proof of a safety inspection to the department on initial registration, including registration at the time of title transfer. In addition, the applicant must provide proof that a safety inspection was performed by an ASE Certified Master Automobile and Light Truck Technician. Further, the inspection must certify that the vehicle “is structurally stable” and “meets the necessary conditions to be operated safely on the roadway.” In its comments, the SAN recommended that these inspection opportunities be provided to any inspector that has met the applicable requirements and is licensed by the Department of Public Safety Motor Vehicle Inspection Office; further define the vague terms “is structurally stable” and “meets the necessary conditions to be operated safely on the roadway;” and standardize the fee charged for the inspection of these vehicles to conform to the fee charged for the inspection of vehicles subjected to yearly inspections ($14.50).

Bonneville Salt Flats: The SAN and the Save the Salt Coalition, a diverse group of racing enthusiast organizations, urged the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to require a mandatory salt replenishment program of the Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF). For decades, the BSF has been shrinking as salt brine was transferred to an adjoining mining operation to remove potash. A prototype program from 1997–2002 demonstrated that the remaining salt brine could be pumped back onto the salt flats to stabilize the landmark and its underlying aquifer.

The BLM allowed the program to expire. The Coalition is working with the mine owner to reinstitute the program, subject to BLM’s approval. The Coalition will also be pursuing supplemental salt replenishment programs to be implemented by the racing community and the BLM. The BSF is a registered National Historic Place managed by the BLM. Hundreds of speed records have been set at this unique geological site over the past 100 years.

Ethanol Content in Gasoline: A SAN-supported bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives requiring the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to seek independent scientific analysis on the effects of 15%-blend ethanol gasoline (E15) on vehicles and engines. The review would include an evaluation of the short- and long-term environmental, safety and performance effects of E15 on both on- and off-road vehicle engines. Last January, the EPA decided to allow the use of E15 in vehicles manufactured after 2001 based solely on a limited study by the U.S. Department of Energy. (The decision is currently the subject of several lawsuits.) Ethanol increases water formation, which can then create formic acid and corrode metals, plastics and rubber. The SAN opposes the introduction of E15 due to concerns that corrosion will harm automobiles of all ages, including special-interest collector and historic vehicles. The EPA has no procedure in place to ensure that misfueling does not occur or any plan for ensuring regular gasoline continues to be available for older vehicles.

Forest Service Planning Rule: A U.S. House Natural Resources Subcommittee held an oversight hearing on the U.S. Forest Service’s draft rule for managing the country’s 193 million acres for national forests and grasslands. Previous versions of the “Planning Rule” have been rejected by the courts in recent years. The SAN has joined with a number of other organizations representing the off-road community in opposing the draft rule on grounds that it does not adequately protect access for motorized recreation and will be a source of ongoing litigation. Many Subcommittee members expressed concern that the proposed Planning Rule was too vague to prevent future lawsuits and incorporated undefined terms. Opponents fear the rule may be applied in a protectionist fashion rather than accommodating multiple-use activities. The Congressional panel urged the Forest Service to revise the Planning Rule so as to provide a clearer explanation of guidelines and to ensure a “full mix of recreational opportunities.”

Endangered Species Act (ESA): The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held an oversight hearing on the ESA. A number of Committee members expressed concern about excessive lawsuits brought by environmental groups to enforce deadlines and force decisions on endangered species classifications. The groups have an incentive since they can recover a portion of their legal fees from a taxpayer-supported “judgment fund” when successful. The Committee’s action is likely the first in a series of hearings to begin crafting ESA reform legislation. The most recent congressional efforts to revise the ESA died in 2006. Enacted into law in 1973, there has been widespread agreement that the ESA needs to be updated. The law has favored a blanket approach of setting aside millions of acres rather than nurturing smaller recovery zones. During this time, the off-road community has been unnecessarily deprived of access to roads and trails while the sacrifice does not necessarily translate into better species protection. SAN-supported ESA reforms would seek to foster more cooperative efforts between the government, private landowners and conservation organizations so that federal dollars are spent on recovery rather than lawsuits.