Maine Scrappage Program Draws Fire
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is finding that its plan to crush cars has been difficult to get up and running, and many are calling the program ill-conceived. Through the program, Maine is supposed to issue a voucher to motorists who turn in a 1987 or older model year car for crushing. These vouchers are worth from $1,000 to $2,000, depending on the vehicle junked, and are supposed to be applied to the purchase of a 1996 or newer car that, theoretically, produces less emissions.
However, it appears that Maine has chosen not to adequately fund the program slated to go into effect on Nov. 1. The legislature earmarked only $10,000 to be used solely for administration and education costs associated with the program while published estimates indicate that it will take $116,000 to pay for the replacement of only 50-100 automobiles. The funding problems become more apparent when one considers that 240 cars are now signed up for the scrappage/voucher program. Making matters worse, auto recyclers and junk yards in Maine don't want to participate in the program. They claim the "junk" cars they receive would not match their costs for participating in the program.
The story remains the same on scrappage programs: They are unfair to hobbyists and low-income motorists, both of whom depend on spare and often rare parts from older cars in order to keep their vehicles running.
"We believe that the proposed regulations place a significant burden on various segments of the public in exchange for no verified benefit," said SEMA Director of Government and Technical Affairs Steve McDonald. "We are convinced that confidence in the ability of this program to produce emissions reductions is misguided. The complete lack of verification that a replacement vehicle, as purchased by the voucher, is cleaner than the vehicle that was scrapped is strong support for our concerns. Similarly, the failure to prove that the scrapped vehicle was in fact a high-emitting vehicle being used on a regular basis further undermines the intent of the program."
SEMA has learned that the Maine legislature may try to fully fund, or even expand, this flawed program when it begins its legislative session this December. Rest assured that SEMA will continue its efforts to protect the vehicle hobby and promote sensible public policy in Maine. We will report our progress in these pages.
Federal Government to Release Rollover Ratings on Cars, Light Trucks
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) plans to institute a rollover rating system for passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs starting early 2001. The rating system will be determined by dividing one-half of a vehicle's track width by the height of the center of gravity. NHTSA will convert the resulting number, called the "static stability factor," into a five-star rollover rating scale -- fewer stars will supposedly mean greater tendency to roll. Given this single measurement, naturally, taller and narrower vehicles will have fewer stars than shorter and wider vehicles.
Initially, the U.S. Senate, at the behest of automakers who believe that the rating system is fundamentally flawed, had worked to block NHTSA from issuing its rollover ruling pending further study. However, due to vehicle safety questions raised out of the Ford-Firestone controversy, the Senate has agreed not to block NHTSA from moving forward with the program. Complicating the matter further, Congress just passed another bill that orders NHTSA to also develop a "dynamic" vehicle handling test to determine rollover propensity.
SEMA continues to have serious reservations about rollover ratings, regardless of whether they are achieved through static or dynamic testing. SEMA Director of Outreach and Public Affairs Brian Caudill suggests, "Driver behavior, road conditions and inclement weather are overwhelmingly to blame for vehicle rollover. No amount of government-generated mathematical equations, or supposed 'real-world' testing, where vehicles are outfitted with outriggers and driven on a test track until they tip over, will conclusively prove otherwise."
CAFE Safe for Another Year
In a limited victory for the automobile industry and enthusiasts, the U.S. Congress approved a 1-year extension to the freeze on Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the annual Department of Transportation Appropriations bill.
For the past 6 years, CAFE standards have been frozen at 27.5 mpg for cars and 20.7 for light trucks and SUVs. Auto-makers and SEMA have consistently argued that any rise in CAFE standards would force manufacturers to limit consumer vehicle choice, particularly in the popular SUV and light-truck market. A CAFE rise would force automakers to either curtail production of these vehicles or make them more expensive or less powerful in order to meet fuel economy targets.
Congress approved an amendment to the bill requiring the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to perform an independent study of CAFE standards. The study would analyze what impact stricter CAFE standards would have on motor vehicle safety, the environment, the economy and the automotive industry. This provision is acceptable to the auto industry because the study will be submitted to Congress, which will then use the findings to determine whether CAFE should be increased.
Regardless the position of the automakers, environmental and smaller-car oriented public interest groups claim that the NAS findings will support their position. These groups have continuously argued that increased fuel economy standards will result in less pollution and less dependence on foreign oil. They also claim auto-makers already have the technology necessary to make more fuel efficient vehicles without compromising safety or consumer desirability. For their part, both General Motors and Ford have announced plans to increase the fuel efficiency of their SUV fleet by 2004 and 2005, respectively.
What's Ahead in 2001
With the elections upon us and legislatures gearing up for new sessions, it's not too early to talk about what legislative/regulatory areas we will be addressing in the upcoming months. The following list identifies some of the areas we anticipate taking action on.
(Please note: This is not, by any means, a comprehensive list. We never know what our federal and state governments have in store for us, so we will continue our job of monitoring all pertinent legislations/regulations in all 50 states! -- Ed.)
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) continues to threaten to pursue legislation to repeal the rolling emissions exemption for vehicles 30 years old and older and replace it with a static exemption. In 1997, a law was enacted to exempt all pre-1974 vehicles from the obligations of the biennial emissions inspection until the year 2003. After 2003, vehicles 30 years and older will not require an inspection. If ARB is successful, the exemption cutoff likely would be frozen for vehicles from model years 1973 and older.
Despite the setback with this year's parts recycling bill, Sen. Maurice Johannessen has indicated that hell introduce a new bill next year if the ARB doesn't make changes to its regulation to allow for parts recycling. ARB officials have promised to reopen the scrappage regulation to make some concessions on parts resale. However, these officials have vehemently opposed reopening the regulation in the past and continue to take a hard line stance against parts sales in public meetings.
Specially Constructed Vehicles:
Citing the governor's f aulty reasoning for rejecting legislation to streamline the registration of specially constructed vehicles, bill sponsor Sen. Johannessen has vowed to bring back the bill next session as an emergency measure.
Efforts to work with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration on a bill revising the state's street rod definition and create a >=custom<= vehicle classification stalled this year due to time constraints. However, many Maryland legislators have indicated their enthusiasm for this type of legislation and we anticipate significant progress to be made in 2001.
We are working with 4x4 groups, the state police and legislators to reach consensus on changes to the current law governing raised vehicles. The current law is difficult to understand and enforce and provides no real value to off-road hobbyists. We are investigating ways to accommodate all parties, including offering as an option the current model standard of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).
Last year, bills that would have restricted a collector's ability to maintain inoperable vehicles on private property were defeated in West Virginia, Delaware and Alabama. In 2001, we expect to see similar measures reintroduced in these states and considered in many others. Typically, these bills are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored.
Newly Introduced Legislation/Proposed Regulation
Note: The following state bills are not laws or regulations. They have been recently introduced and are currently being considered for adoption by the respective state legislatures and agencies.
MICHIGAN: H.B. 6069 would prevent state exposition and fairgrounds to be used for auto racing.
MICHIGAN: H.B. 6058 would exempt certain motor vehicle racing parts or components from use-tax exemptions.
PENNSYLVANIA: S.B. 1531/H.B. 2722 would restrict alcohol licenses given to racetracks.
MICHIGAN: S.B. 906 would allow licensed motor vehicle repair facilities to employ licensed auto mechanics under certain circumstances; provides certain exceptions for individuals making certain repairs to vehicles manufactured before 1973 if the repairs are done in a registered motor vehicle facility.
NEW JERSEY: S.J.R. 21 would establish a driver distraction safety task force.
WE GET LETTERS
VOLUNTARY Repair/Upgrade Continues to Draw Comment
I would have to agree with the letters written by Tom Cox, president of the Southwest Virginia Car Club Council, and Pete Mascara of the Road Dogs Club in California. (See Letters to the Editor, September Driving Force regarding VOLUNTARY repair/upgrade programs.) Repair should be in the "offering" if anything is offered. Mr. Cox's statement about giving up [automotive freedoms] "bit-by-bit" is a good one. [Vehicle enthusiasts'] cars make up a small percentage of the cars on the road today. The restrictions put upon the new car makers should not apply to any of the old cars.
As participants in the car hobby, we must stand our ground and offer only reasonable and sensible concessions [to antivehicle government action], and fight the rest. Legislators introducing bills that deal with things they know nothing about or things that they have been given limited information about is a dangerous thing. This is a chipping away at our rights as well as our hobby.
The SEMA Action Network is a very good approach to addressing encroachment of our rights. I must confess, however, I do feel that sometimes we are still too flexible. We must never assume that "they know what they are doing and they are working for us, the people." We must stay alert and educated about what is going on as we face many more assaults.
Roland W. Keenan
Plymouth Owners Club, High Plains Region
Saving California's Emissions Exemption
Received the Driving Force and was happy to see that we [California hobbyists] had not lost our 30-year rolling emissions exemption status. Of course we don't think this is the end of it; the know-nothings in Sacramento won't be happy until we are pedaling bikes, etc. It amazes me to hear these socialistcrats state that we must have cleaner air, yet 90-plus percent of government-owned vehicles are diesel that spew out tons of pollutants into the air.
Would like to thank you for everything you and your organization are doing to protect and enhance our hobby.
Classic Chevy International, Orange County Chapter