Driving Force October 2003 - California Exhaust Noise Testing Program Open for Business
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) has begun operation of the state’s motor vehicle exhaust noise testing program. The program, the product of a SEMA-sponsored law, will equip California automobile hobbyists to fight unfair exhaust noise citations issued by state law enforcement officers. Motorists can now prove their vehicles comply with state noise standards. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued.
Approximately 40 Smog Check stations that provide referee functions are performing the test. These referee stations, located across the state, will issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95 decibels, under Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test procedure J1169 (May 1998). However, only those vehicles that have received a citation for an exhaust noise violation will be permitted to submit their vehicle for the test. Later this year, BAR will issue a regulation to provide for the cost to consumers for performing the test. Tests performed prior to the official establishment of the testing fee will be performed at no cost to consumers.
According to BAR officials, to have a cited vehicle tested at a state referee center, motorists must make an appointment by calling a toll-free number. Cited motorists should have the citation and vehicle registration available when calling.
"The new law forces compliance with an objectively measured standard in a fair and predictable test," said SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "Through this procedure, cited motorists who drive vehicles legally equipped with modified exhaust systems can confirm that those vehicles comply with California’s exhaust noise standards.
"For years, the enforcement policy used by police officers deemed nearly all exhaust system modifications illegal, even where the noise levels were not excessive or unusual," McDonald added. "That policy left exhaust system manufacturers, dealers and their customers without recourse."
Hobbyists who modify their vehicles for durability, appearance and performance "prefer aftermarket exhaust systems," McDonald said. "By establishing this evenhanded testing process, this program should serve to benefit consumers who favor these state-of-the-art products, the aftermarket industry which markets them, and even police officers who are charged with enforcing the law."
October 2003 Driving Force: It Happened to Me: Passing the Exhaust Noise Test
"I could hear you coming down the street." That's the reason a LAPD officer cited Los Angeles resident Benjamin Chow for excessive noise coming from his 2003 Subaru WRX.
Chow's WRX is outfitted with an aftermarket exhaust - a Blitz NUR Spec R cat-back system. He also has a blow-off valve under the hood, and Chow isn't exactly sure which component caught the officer’s ear. Either way Chow got the ticket, and soon after he went on the Web to look for information about exhaust noise and whether there were ways to fight the ticket. The search engine directed him to SEMA's consumer Website, www.enjoythedrive.com, and an article about SEMA’s efforts on behalf of California’s exhaust noise testing law. Chow contacted SEMA, and the offices put him in touch with Steve McDonald, SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs in Washington D.C., who worked with the state legislature to get the law passed. McDonald directed Chow to the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) and its toll-free number for those who have received noise citations.
As it turns out, Chow was a sound test pioneer. When he arrived at his local Smog Check referee station for the test, he found out that his was only the third vehicle that particular station had tested, and its staff was still being trained on the procedure.
The process goes like this: The testing is done outdoors in a parking lot, with a decibel meter placed at a set distance away from the exhaust tip. (For you trivia nuts, the sound meter is placed 20 inches away from the source, at a 45-degree angle from the source, and 8 inches off the ground.) With the vehicle stationary, the engine is revved to a speed that represents three-quarters of maximum horsepower output (4,500 rpm for the Subaru), and a sound reading is taken. A total of three readings are taken during the test, and the car must pass all three readings for it to be considered compliant. If it fails just one of the readings, it has failed the test and must be repaired before being re-inspected.
The California law set 95 decibels as the legal noise limit, and the test procedure allowed an error factor of plus or minus 1.5 decibels to account for ambient noise. Chow’s Subaru emitted 88.4, 88.2 and 88.1 decibels. The actual testing took only about 10 minutes, though Chow said he was at the referee station about 45 minutes because "the staff was still new to the system."
After passing the test, Chow received a "certificate of compliance" - a sticker that goes on the back of the citation. It lists data about the car (year, make, exhaust type) as well as information about the test and a compliance number. Presenting that certificate at his court appearance date should dismiss the citation. Should he be pulled over for noise again, he can show the officer that sticker as proof that his car is within the legal sound limits.
Chow said he knew about SEMA prior to getting his citation, but he didn’t know about its efforts on behalf of California motorists until he typed "noise compliance" into Google. "I was so excited about finding out that SEMA worked on this."
October 2003 Driving Force: Bill to Expand Use of Historic Vehicles Introduced in Michigan
Legislation has been introduced in Michigan to amend the state’s law that defines how historic motor vehicles can be used. Currently, vehicles registered as "historic" can be driven only during club activities, exhibitions, tours and parades. Because the regulations are so restrictive, many hobbyists whose vehicles would qualify for the program (vehicles that are 25 years old or older may do so) are instead registering them as "daily drivers."
As a consequence, those owners are paying higher registration fees and also must pay a larger fee assessed by the state’s Michigan Catastrophic Claim Association (MCCA). Historic vehicles, on the other hand, are only required to pay a $30 registration fee every 10 years and pay only 20 percent of the MCCA charges required of daily drivers (which are now $60 but could soon climb to $100).
Two bills recently introduced in the Michigan legislature, H.B. 5040 in the House of Representatives and its identical Senate companion S.B. 663, would allow these vehicles to take advantage of "other occasional use," therefore loosening the restrictions.
The bills were introduced by State Senator Jason Allen (R-37th District) and Representative Howard Walker (R-104th District). They came about as the result of Hagerty Insurance (a specialist in insuring collector cars) working with Senator Allen; Steve McDonald, SEMA Senior Director of Government Affairs; members of the SEMA Action Network in Michigan; and Hagerty customers who wanted to take advantage of the historic registration but felt too limited by the driving restrictions.
"It does not make sense for these owners to pay what daily drivers pay," said Sydney McManus, Hagerty's director of public relations and legislative affairs. "They are so well maintained and so infrequently driven. We wanted to pursue a way of changing the registration regulations, to do whatever we could to help our customers.
"We love this hobby," McManus continued. "We want to make it easier for people to use their cars. The more expensive it is, the harder it is for people to participate."
Currently, these bills have been sent to the Transportation Committees in both the House and Senate. SEMA, SAN and Hagerty insurance are encouraging enthusiasts to contact their local legislators in support of the bills. There is information about the bill on the home page of Hagerty’s Website, and clicking on the link there will take you to a page that includes information (and Web links) for those who need assistance in who their Senate and House members are. There are also links to the texts of the House and Senate bills.
"SEMA has been immensely helpful with these bills," McManus said. "With these under way, I’m working with Steve McDonald to target other states that would benefit from this kind of legislation."
If you think your state could benefit from legislation like those bills pending in Michigan, contact Steve McDonald at email@example.com.
October 2003 Driving Force - Legislative Quick Hits
Tire Pressure Monitoring Rule: A federal appeals court overturned a rule issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that gave automakers the choice of installing "direct" pressure monitoring equipment in each wheel or "indirect" systems that estimate tire pressure by using the anti-lock brake system to analyze tire-spin ratios. The court wants consumers to know whether each tire is properly inflated rather than rely on indirect measurements that could fail if all four tires were underinflated or if two tires on the same axle were underinflated. SEMA recommended the use of direct monitors when NHTSA drafted the rule. NHTSA will now rewrite the rule to mandate such equipment.
New Tire Performance Standard: SEMA is supporting a petition for reconsideration that if approved, would force the NHTSA to allow limited production radial tires to remain covered by current performance standards. Earlier this year, the agency established a new tire performance standard for most tires used on cars and light duty trucks. As a consequence, all mass production radial and bias tires will be subjected to greater speeds and heavier loads during testing. The new standard also applies to limited production radials as well, but limited production bias tires will continue to be covered under the current tire standards. Tire and vehicle manufacturers have four years to accommodate the rule changes, until June 1, 2007. A final decision on the petition will likely be made in early 2004.
California ZEV Program: In response to revisions to California’s zero-emissions vehicle (ZEV) rule, GM and Daimler-Chrysler have dropped their lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Earlier this year, CARB abandoned its effort to put electric vehicles on the road. Instead it will require hundreds of thousands of cleaner gasoline burning vehicles, tens of thousands of gas-electric hybrids and hundreds of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles on a phased-in basis starting in 2005. The lawsuit had accused CARB with regulating fuel economy, a power reserved for the federal government.
Pennsylvania Emissions: In response to a proposed regulation issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, SEMA expressed concern to the agency that the state’s planned visual emissions inspection would discriminate against the motor vehicle aftermarket. The proposal restricts regulated emissions devices to those installed by the motor vehicle manufacturers, or equivalent replacement components. In its comments, SEMA instructed regulators that U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policy provides for the use of emission-related aftermarket add-on and modified products. The EPA also accepts aftermarket parts approved under the California Air Resources Board’s aftermarket parts exemption program. By meeting the requirements of this program, a manufacturer can receive a certification, thereby permitting the
sale and use of such exempted parts.
Greenhouse Gases: The U.S. EPA ruled that greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles are not "pollutants" subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The EPA stated that the CAA did not provide it with clear-cut authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases, and that Congress needed to give direct guidance on such a major public policy issue. The ruling was in response to a longstanding petition for rulemaking filed by several environmental groups and supported by several Northeastern states. Last year, California state legislators passed a law directing the Air Resources Board to regulate greenhouse gases from California autos by model year 2009.
Wilderness Lands in Idaho: Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) is planning to introduce legislation this fall in the U.S. House of Representatives to designate 250,000 acres of Idaho’s Boulder White-Cloud Mountain Range as wilderness. At present time, the scope of the bill would be limited to the single mountain range. Although Idaho has nearly 12 million acres of land that are eligible for wilderness designation, there has been little action to formalize the status. Off-road and all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles, snowmobiles and other mechanized machines have enjoyed unhindered access to these lands although they would be barred entry under an official wilderness designation.
Road Closure in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park: The National Park Service (NPS) has proposed closing the Salt Creek Canyon trail above Peekaboo campsite to motorized vehicles due to the large number of vehicles that break down or become stuck (thus requiring NPS assistance) and to protect a significant number of nearby archeological sites. Access to the off-road trail has been the subject of a lawsuit and previous NPS management plans.
October 2003 Driving Force - Tuner Revolution Safety Panel Meets in L.A.
The Tuner Revolution Safety Panel, named for the sport compact car exhibit currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum, convened a group of law enforcement and racing experts at the museum in early August to discuss illegal street racing and the legal alternatives that are open to tuner enthusiasts. The panel presented some valuable information; unfortunately, it did so to a very small group of attendees. For those who couldn't be there, here are some highlights from the material presented:
According to Officer Jon Samson of the California Highway Patrol, accurate statistics about deaths, injuries and property damage related to illegal street racing are difficult to gather in the state because responding officers can't always qualify an accident's cause as racing-related. Most street-racing accident reports list "speeding" or "speed-related collision" as the cause, so when the numbers are compiled, racing does not stand out statistically. Only when there's solid anecdotal evidence -- such as media coverage -- can the Highway Patrol attribute the accident to illegal street racing.
Samson said in the wake of the "Fast and Furious" films there was an increased awareness of illegal street racing and a corresponding increase in citizens reporting incidents. But without solid statistics it would be hard to prove that the films actually increased the number of racing-related accidents.
Only the San Diego Police Department has had the funding to accurately track accident results related to illegal racing. Through 2002 the city has reported 16 fatalities and 26 serious injuries from illegal street racing. The CHP and other law enforcement agencies are working through the state's bureaucracy to change the reporting structure, but Samson gave no time frame as to when those changes would be made. Eric Lotz of the NHRA, Doug Stokes from the Irwindale Speedway, and Toyo Tire public relations representative Jay Jones discussed their respective street-car and sport-compact racing programs. The NHRA encourages member tracks to develop street-legal racing programs and to publicize them so local enthusiasts are aware they have a safe and legal place to race. To Lotz, this generation of enthusiasts is not so different than those who pioneered drag racing, and the NHRA, 50 years ago. "They just a different breed of hot rodder with a different kind of car."
Scott Kelley, a long-time drag racer who campaigns a 300hp 1969 Volkswagen fastback in the NHRA's Sport Compact series, does see one big difference. "Orange County, Riverside, Lyons, Colton, all those strips where we used to race closed in the Seventies. These days you can buy a 12-second car right off the showroom floor, but there's no place to race."
At least, not as many as there were 30 years ago. But several southern California tracks, and many more across the nation, have begun street-legal race programs. Irwindale Speedway holds street-car races every Thursday night, and typically more than 200 cars and over 2,000 spectators will turn out for the night's racing. Irwindale is trying to recruit racers through its "speeding ticket" program, in which law enforcement officers from 24 local jurisdictions hand out what look like citations but are actually coupons for free race admission to tuner enthusiasts. Replicating the street-race experience on the track is helping some venues bring illegal racers into legal programs, said Stokes. Race tracks in Orlando and Las Vegas have replaced their Christmas trees with street-like stoplights, and several tracks are having good luck with "Midnight Madness" racing programs that take place during the hours when illegal street racing is at its peak. Irwindale would like to have such a program, Stokes said, but its curfew (enforced to appease residents near the track)
won't allow racing to take place that late at night.
Stokes also said that illegal street racers who run at his track appreciate its safety, but not in the way he expected. "When these guys race on the street they're not worried about crashing, or about hitting innocent bystanders. The street racers I've spoken to said their biggest fear is that someone is going to pull a knife or a gun on them and say, 'No, I won' at the end of the race."
"We know we're not going to reach the hardcore racer," admitted the CHP's Samson. "Just like a hardcore drug dealer or gang-banger, they reach a certain point in the subculture and they won't change. But we're trying to reach the kids racing mom's Suburban or minivan, to let them know there's a safe alternative to racing in the street."
Note: SEMA, through its Sport Compact Council, sponsors "Racers Against Street Racing" (RASR), a grassroots enthusiast group that promotes legal alternatives to illegal street racing. RASR has developed curriculum and a video to be used in driver ed classes and is also networking with local racetracks across the country to organize racing activities.
October 2003 Driving Force - Letters to the Editor
My name is Don Overlander and I'm the Chairman of the Minnesota Street
Rod Association Legislative Committee. Minnesota has a great Street rod
law on the books but I am interested in the Custom part of your Street rod
and Custom legislation that Illinois has and Missouri just passed. Can I get
a full copy of the model? Does the model have a cutoff year for customs?
Thank you for your time and great job your doing for our Hobby
Don Overlander (Chairman)
MSRA Legislative Committee
The answer to both of your questions is YES. A copy of the model
legislation has been forwarded to your e-mail address for your review.
Under the model, custom vehicles are defined as any motor vehicle that:
(1) Is at least 25 years old and of a model year after 1948; or was
manufactured to resemble a vehicle 25 or more years old and of a model
year after 1948; and
(2) Has been altered from the manufacturer’s original design; or has a
body constructed from non-original materials.
In addition, the bill stipulates that the model year and the year of
manufacture that are listed on the certificate of title of a custom vehicle
shall be the model year and year of manufacture that the body of such
The SEMA Government Affairs office would be happy to explore with you
and the Minnesota Street Rod Association the possible introduction of the
"custom" component of this model in the 2004 Minnesota legislative
session. This offer applies to any group that would like to undertake a
similar effort in their home state (contact Steve McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information).
Thanks for your interest and support for the work we do in Washington,
D.C. We look forward to working with you.
OCTOBER/NOVEMBER SAN CLUB EVENTS
November 15-16, Scottsdale
6th Annual Southwest Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
October 3-5, Sacramento
2nd Annual NSRA Golden State Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
October 5, Anaheim
34th Annual All Ford Picnic
Sponsor: Southern California Region Early Ford V-8 Club
October 5, La Palma
15th Annual Big Orange Chrysler Products Show
Sponsor: The WPC Club, Orange County Region
October 12, Huntington Beach
Das O.C.T.O. Fest 2003
Sponsor: Orange County Transporter Organization
October 17-19, Ocotillo Wells
Operation Desert Fun
Sponsor: California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs
November 1, Glamis
3rd Annual Glamis Poker Run
Sponsor: R&R Duners Club, Sand Sports Magazine
November 8-9, Pleasanton
14th Autumn Get Together
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
October 10-12, Tampa
16th Annual NSRA Southeast Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
October 4, Barrington
6th Annual Fall Car Show
Sponsor: Buick Club of America, Chicagoland Chapter
October 12, Bristow
15th Bristow Auto Oktober Fest
October 10-13, Junction City
4th Annual Sunflower International Harvester Family Reunion
Sponsor: Scout and International Motor Truck Association
October 12, Ellicott City
9th Annual Car & Truck Show to Benefit the Kennedy Krieger Institute
Sponsor: Westside Cruisers
October 25, Stevensville
10th Annual Halloween Cruise-in and Car Show
Sponsor: Kent Island Cruisers
October 24-26, Charlotte
10th Southeastern Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
October 1-5, Carlisle
Sponsor: Carlisle Events
Information: 717/243-7855, www.carsatcarlisle.com
AACA Eastern Division National Fall Meet
Sponsor: Hershey Region, Antique Automobile Club of America
October 3-5, Ft. Worth
11th Annual Lone Star Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
October 11, Hopewell
First Fall Auto Show
Sponsor: Corvette Club of Richmond
October 18, Norfolk
All Ford Car Show
Sponsor: Mustang & Ford Club of Virginia