2002 Year in Review
SEMA and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) achieved a series of legislative and regulatory accomplishments in 2002 on a host of pro-vehicle hobby issues. Our success in 2002, again demonstrates the benefits of partnership between America's automobile hobbyist community and the specialty automotive aftermarket.
Arizona Emissions Exemption: The Arizona Automobile Hobbyist Council (AAHC) spearheaded an effort to create an emissions test exemption for vehicles at least 15 years old and insured as collectibles. The bill was amended to require that state regulators contact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to seek approval for the exemption. Another bill also exempted drivers of historic trucks from the requirement that they hold a commercial driver's license if the vehicle has been issued a historic license plate. Both measures became law.
California Exhaust Noise: Thanks to a new, SEMA-sponsored law California hobbyists, particularly late model enthusiast groups like the Southern California Minitruck Council, are now better equipped to fight unfair exhaust noise citations issued by state law enforcement officers. Legislation signed into law by Gov. Gray Davis provides for a statewide exhaust noise-testing program allowing motorists to prove their vehicle complies with state noise standards. Smog check referee stations are required to perform the test using Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) exhaust noise test procedure J1169. These referee stations will issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate that they emit no more than 95-decibels. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for vehicle owners who have been issued certificates of compliance.
California "Specially Constructed" Vehicles: A SEMA-supported bill to allow previously registered kit cars and replicas to qualify for the "specially constructed" designation was signed into law in California. The new provision expands a California law enacted last year to provide a more accurate model year designation and emissions-system certification for these vehicles. In the past, only those vehicles never before registered could take advantage of this classification. To determine the model year of a specially constructed vehicle, a smog test referee compares the vehicle to those of the era that the vehicle most closely resembles. If there is no close match, it is classified as a 1960 vehicle. Only those emission controls applicable to the model year, that can be reasonably accommodated by the vehicle, are required. The registration program is limited to the first 500 specially constructed vehicles per year that meet the criteria.
California Scrappage: SEMA's anti-scrappage work with the California Air Resources Board (CARB) has begun to pay off. CARB has set up a system to notify hobbyists of vehicles destined for scrappage so that parts can be obtained prior to crushing. Through this program, consumers interested in scrapping their vehicles will contact an authorized dismantler to set up an appointment to bring the vehicle in for inspection. A list of the scheduled appointments will be compiled daily by the dismantler and e-mailed to members of the public who sign up to receive it. CARB will also amend its vehicle scrappage program to extend the waiting period before which these vehicles may be destroyed. In addition, CARB is proposing to delete the provision requiring dismantlers to first receive the permission of the previous vehicle owner before making the vehicle and its parts available for resale.
Georgia Altered Suspensions/Aftermarket Lighting: A bill threatening to expand a law that bans altered suspensions more than two inches above or below the factory recommendation to include trucks, died in the Georgia Legislature. The current law only applies to private passenger vehicles. The bill also required lenses on taillights to meet federal standards and not be "covered or consist of anything other than reflective material installed as original factory equipment . . ." SEMA would like to thank the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association and the Georgia Bounty Runners Four Wheel Drive Club for their efforts in defeating this legislation.
Georgia Nitrous Oxide: SEMA succeeded in negotiating a compromise to legislation that sought to prohibit public road use of all passenger cars or pickup trucks equipped with nitrous oxide. As amended, the mere presence of nitrous systems on passenger cars does not constitute a violation. Nitrous systems must simply be disconnected when a vehicle is driven on a public road. Georgia hobbyists have fought for reasonable nitrous oxide legislation for two years. We are indebted to Georgia SAN clubs like the North Georgia Mopar Club for helping achieve such a meaningful compromise with this legislation.
Illinois Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: The all-volunteer/all-hobbyist Illinois Committee to Upgrade Street Rod Laws scored a major victory when SEMA-authored legislation to create titling and registration classes for street rods and custom vehicles was signed into law by Illinois Governor George Ryan. This new law provides for special license plates and exempts street rods and custom vehicles from periodic inspections and emissions tests. It also allows for the use of non-original materials and creates a titling criterion that assigns these vehicles the same model year designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles.
Illinois "Operable" Vehicles: Illinois SAN members defeated legislation that would have allowed county boards to declare certain operable vehicles on private property a nuisance and order their removal. Without question, H.B. 3399 was overreaching legislation that could have trampled on the rights of Illinois vehicle collectors, customizers, restorers, and shade-tree mechanics. SEMA would like to highlight the efforts of the following Illinois SAN members in defeating this legislation: Northern Illinois Impala Club, Allante Appreciation Group, Southern Illinois Street Machines, Heartland Vintage Truck Club, Chicagoland Buick Club, Prairie A's Antique Ford Club and Model A Ford Club of America-Salt Creek Chapter.
Massachusetts Aftermarket Exhaust Systems: Massachusetts SEMA Action Network clubs such as the Bearing Burners, Massachusetts Cruisers Auto Club, Ty-Rods, Massachusetts Association of Automobile Clubs, Spindles Auto Club of Weymouth, Dominators Car Club, Massachusetts Cruisers Club and the Bay State Classic Chevy Club helped kill Massachusetts legislation that sought to prohibit the sale or installation of modified exhaust systems.
Nebraska Nitrous Oxide: A bill that originally threatened to prohibit the use of "fuel power booster delivery systems," including superchargers and turbochargers, was signed into law. However, SEMA succeeded in amending the bill to only prohibit the street use of nitrous oxide. Phrased another way, the mere presence of nitrous systems in vehicles is not illegal. SEMA would like to thank all the Nebraska SAN members that helped keep nitrous oxide legal. In particular, we are indebted to the Nebraska Rod and Custom Association, who brought this legislation to our attention over two years ago.
New Hampshire Antique Cars: Authored by SAN member Representative Lawrence Artz (R-Nashua), a bill to exempt from "junkyard" control regulations those antique vehicles owned and maintained by automotive collectors was signed into law. Antique motor vehicles, defined as those over 25 years old, may be stored and repaired by the owner out of public view by means of inside storage, fencing, trees or shrubbery. The measure applies only to noncommercial antique vehicle restoration activities and limits the total number of vehicles stored outside to five.
Vermont Scrappage: Vermont hobbyists successfully opposed two bills in Vermont to implement statewide vehicle scrappage programs. SEMA convinced legislators that scrappage programs don't work and expressed concerns that scrappage denies hobbyists vintage cars and parts for restoration projects. Vermont has seen several scrappage bills introduced in the last two legislative sessions. Each time, these bills have failed because Vermont SAN members like the American Truck Historical Society, Green Mountain Chapter, Champlain Valley Street Rods, Adirondack Mustang Club and the New England Mopar Club have taken action.
Vermont "Junkyard" Definition: SEMA helped defeat a Vermont bill to expand the definition of "junkyard" to include any place of outdoor storage of four or more "junk" motor vehicles visible from a public highway. Under this definition, hobbyists working on multiple vehicles on private property would have been regulated as businesses. SEMA is thankful to the many Vermont hobbyists who helped kill this bill. We would particularly like to highlight the efforts of SAN member American Truck Historical Society, Green Mountain Chapter.
Virginia "Smog Dog" Program: SEMA convinced Virginia legislators to amend a bill that sought to force all owners of 1968 and newer vehicles to undergo emissions inspections if on-road sensors show the vehicle out of compliance with applicable emissions standards. Virginia law currently exempts vehicles 25-years old and older from emissions tests. These vehicles are not exempt from on-road tests. However, lawmakers enacted a SEMA amendment that exempts vehicles 25-years old or older registered as antiques from on-road testing.
Federal Scrappage Legislation: A massive SEMA Action Network grassroots effort defeated a proposal to establish federally funded, state-run scrappage programs across the country for vehicles over 15 years old. In the end, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell's (R-CO) amendment to kill the program was unanimously approved by the Senate. The scrappage provision was part of the Senate's comprehensive energy policy bill. Our success in defeating the scrappage provision was testament to the effectiveness of the opposition generated by the association's membership and the SEMA Action Network. We are also grateful to Senator Campbell who provided the muscle to make victory possible.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE): After two years of debate, lawmakers removed all language contained in comprehensive energy legislation relating to automobile efficiency, including proposals to minimally increase CAFE standards. This inaction allows NHTSA to set new CAFE standards by regulation. In doing so, NHTSA may also decide to reclassify for fuel economy standards certain light trucks, SUVs and vans to reflect their use as passenger cars rather than "work" vehicles. SEMA remains concerned that unreasonable CAFE hikes will threaten consumer vehicle choice by forcing automakers to downsize, underpower or eliminate popular models in order to meet federally mandated fuel economy targets.
Tire Pressure Monitor Rule: A NHTSA rule mandates that automakers install tire pressure monitoring systems on all new vehicles. These monitors warn drivers when tires are under-inflated. For the foreseeable future, automakers may install either direct sensors in each tire or equipment that takes indirect tire pressure measurements from a vehicle's anti-lock braking system. NHTSA is studying whether one particular system should be mandated in the future. SEMA favors direct tire pressure sensors, and has advocated that they be compatible with aftermarket equipment and that vehicle servicing information be shared with the independent repair industry as well as enthusiasts.
Proposed "Dynamic" Test for Rollover Ratings: NHTSA has proposed a dynamic testing program to assign rollover ratings for new vehicles. Dynamic tests utilize actual driving maneuvers on stock vehicles. NHTSA wants to merge the dynamic test results with existing static rollover test results, forming a single rating system that accounts for both test categories. Current static testing is based solely on a vehicle static stability factor (SSF), which simply evaluates vehicle height, weight and center of gravity in rollover incidences. The ratings are issued under the New Car Assessment Program, NHTSA's system for providing consumers with car comparison information.
California OHV Use Ban: Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House and Senate to designate as "wilderness areas" another 2.5 million acres of public land in California. The bill is a threat to off-highway vehicle enthusiasts and the related business community because motorized vehicles are denied access to lands designated as wilderness. Fourteen million acres of land in California already have the wilderness designation. SEMA has initiated a grassroots effort urging its membership to oppose the measure.
Vehicle Roof Strength Safety: NHTSA is looking to toughen the vehicle roof strength safety standard. SEMA responded to an agency request for comments by supporting the need to address safety concerns, but cautioned against any rule change that would unnecessarily impact consumers who want add-on equipment such as sunroofs or overhead telematic devices.
Lighting Rules and Headlamp Glare: NHTSA intends to propose new lighting rules by mid-2003 and to adopt them by the end of that year. The rules will address consumer complaints regarding perceived glare from high-intensity discharge headlights (HIDs) and HID knock-offs, along with higher-mounted and front-mounted auxiliary lamps. SEMA is working with NHTSA and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) to identify verifiable safety issues and provide practical solutions to consumer complaints.
OBD Information: The issue of sharing automakers' on-board diagnostic (OBD) information with consumers and the specialty aftermarket is being addressed on multiple levels. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board are establishing guidelines and requirements intended to ensure that all aftermarket service and repair facilities have access to the same emission-related service information as that provided by the manufacturers to their dealerships. The automakers have pledged to make the information available. Meanwhile, a coalition of aftermarket associations is pursuing "The Motor Vehicle Owner's Right To Repair Act" in the U.S. House and Senate to make information-sharing a law.
The 2003 Agenda Begins to Build!
Virginia Inoperable Vehicles
When the legislative season fires back up, SEMA will be working with Virginia hobbyists and State Senator Malfourd "Bo" Trumbo (R) on a bill (S.B. 613) to create clear guidelines for the outside storage of inoperable vehicles and to repeal the current law that allows localities to limit the number of vehicles maintained on residential and commercial property. The bill was held over from last year's session.
Last Year, working with the Southwest Virginia Car Club Council and the Central Virginia Car Club Council, SEMA succeeded in convincing legislators to withdraw a bill tat would have allowed localities to impose severe civil fines on property owners deemed in violation of inoperable motor vehicle ordinances. These ordinances create barriers for the maintenance of project and parts cars on private property. SEMA and allied Virginia hobbyists hope to use this momentum to get pro-hobbyist inoperable vehicle legislation passed in the Old Dominion state.
We Get Letters
"Can You Believe" Comment
I have to say I'm a little disappointed in SEMA for writing so supportively of that fellow in Burbank, California, who was cited by the city for his collection of classic cars ("Can You Believe?!," November, 2002, Driving Force).Seven old cars at his home, six of them parked in the driveway and at the curb? And nearly all in "original unrestored" condition (code words, I'm sure, for rusty, beat up and ugly)? One of them is even a dump truck! Please! In my opinion, this character got what he deserved.
I've been an old-car hobbyist for many years and, as some at SEMA will know, a longtime pro-hobby activist regarding legislative attacks on our vehicles. But I also believe that sometimes we are our own worst enemy, and this fellow is a shining example. I don't know what kind of neighborhood he lives in, but I can tell you that if he were my neighbor I'd probably be calling the cops myself.
Obviously, I don't object to any hobbyist owning several classic cars. More power to him! But he needs to understand that a suburban neighborhood is probably not the most ideal place for it. If he can't pursue his hobby without offending his neighbors and bringing the city down on himself, then maybe he needs to re-think what he's doing.
It is people like him, showing complete disregard for community standards and the sensibilities of his "unappreciative" neighbors, who give the rest of us a bad name and invite abusive government action. Auto restoration is a great and worthwhile hobby, but certainly not so noble that every form of control should be greeted with outrage.
Jack Sell, Government Affairs Director
Associated Car Clubs of Kansas City
I guess its okay to have cars in Burbank, CA ["Can You Believe?!," November, 2002, Driving Force] as long as they are Cadillacs, Porsches, BMWs and the like... Ridiculous!
These cars are drivable classics. It's not like the guy had them piled up on the front lawn, discarded fenders doubling as planters. I'm not certain the authorities in Burbank knew the value of what they were attempting to outlaw.
Name Withheld By Request,