Modified Mustangs & FordsNews & Views
Proposed Federal & State Automotive Legislation - Keeping An Eye On Big Brother
Act Now To Protect Your Freedoms
Evil can take many forms, and is dictionary-defined as "a force causing harmful effects." Some forms of evil are obvious and grotesque, yet others can be far more insidious as they creep along, masked behind a charade of good intentions. About now, you're probably wondering why the heck we're rambling on about evil in a classic-Ford enthusiast magazine. Well, it's because there are forces at work out there which would, intentionally or not, cause harmful effects on our automotive hobbies and/or livelihoods, and would therefore fall perfectly within the definition of evil. Getting a little serious and deep here? Well, maybe it's time.
Did you know that there are lawmakers (translation: politicians) proposing legislation that could promote the indiscriminate scrapping and destruction of older vehicles just like yours? Legislation that would allow authorities to callously tow your unfinished classic Ford project right off your property, or that would give you no choice but to burn fuels that could be harmful to your classic car's fuel system and other components. Indeed, legislation that would completely ban nitrous oxide, even on-track, and laws that could effectively tell you what mufflers, or even tires, you may or may not install on your ride. Sound scary, like Big Brother on a power binge? You bet it does.
As the following information details, such misguided and intrusive laws are routinely being proposed all around the United States and Canada, whether at the federal, state, provincial, or municipal level. Luckily, just because such legislation is proposed doesn't necessarily mean it will become law, but keep-ing such draconian legislation from enactment, and from intruding upon and chipping away at our freedoms, requires vigilance from all of us. Here are some examples of the types of proposals that might be of specific interest to Modified Mustangs & Fords readers:
In recent years, state and federal officials have attempted to implement emissions reduction programs that target older vehicles. Most scrappage programs allow "smokestack" industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by buying pollution credits generated through destroying these vehicles. These programs accelerate the normal retirement of vehicles through the purchase of older cars, which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal. Hobbyists then suffer from this indiscriminate destruction of older cars, trucks, and parts, which any one undergoing a restoration project can attest. America safeguards its artistic and architectural heritage against indiscriminate destruction, and our automotive and industrial heritage deserves the same protection.
While some legislation designed to spur sales of new and used automobiles is positive, such as vouchers toward the purchase of new or used cars, or tax credits to help upgrade, repair, or maintain older vehicles, scrappage provisions are not. Scrappage programs focus on vehicle age, rather than actual emissions produced. This approach is based on the erroneous assumption that all "old cars are dirty cars." However, the true culprits are "gross polluters," or more accurately, vehicles of any model year that are poorly maintained. Scrappage programs ignore better options such as vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade programs that maximize the emissions systems of existing vehicles.
In the past year, scrappage initiatives have been defeated in North Carolina and Washington. Enthusiasts played a vital role in altering federal scrappage legislation in 2009, when an amendment was worked into the "Cash for Clunkers" program to spare vehicles 25-years and older from the scrap heap and expand parts recycling opportunities. Cash for Clunkers allowed car owners to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less fuel-efficient vehicle. Vehicle hobbyists eased the program's effects by convincing lawmakers to include a requirement that the trade-in vehicle be a model year 1984 or newer vehicle. This provision helped safeguard older vehicles, which are irreplaceable to hobbyists as a source of restoration parts.
Inoperable Vehicles-Don't Get Zoned Out!
Believe it or not, that project car or truck you've stashed behind your house until the new crate engine arrives, or the cherished collectible you've hung onto since high school to pass down to your kids, could very easily be towed right out of your yard depending on the zoning laws in your area.
Why is the long arm of the law reaching into your backyard? In an effort to look productive, some zealous government officials are waging war against what they consider "eyesores." To us, of course, these are valuable on-going restoration projects. But to a non-enthusiast lawmaker, your diamond-in-the-rough looks like a junker ready for the salvage yard.
Hobbyists are becoming increasingly concerned about the many states and localities currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible inoperable automobile bodies and parts. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored.
For the purposes of these laws, "inoperable vehicles" are most often defined as those in which the engine, wheels, or other parts have been removed, altered, damaged, or allowed to deteriorate so that the vehicle cannot be driven. Sometimes it comes down to whether you have a license plate with an expired registration date or no license tag at all.
In the 2009-2010 legislative session, hobbyists defeated bills in Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia that would have established unreasonable restrictions on backyard restoration projects. The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) drafted its own inoperable vehicle bill that's fair to restorers, while still considerate of neighbors who don't want a junkyard operating next door. The SEMA model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must be maintained or stored outside of "ordinary public view." States can adopt this model legislation as their own; in 2005, Kentucky did just that.
CAFE And CO2 Standards
While this magazine caters to owners of classic Fords, those same owners are also highly likely to need to buy the occasional new car for everyday use, so some of the potential changes affecting new vehicles are also relevant:
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards strive to achieve reduced green-house gas emissions through a reduction in the amount of fuel new vehicles burn. Manu-facturers are given a fuel economy rating (measured in miles per gallon) that their fleets as a whole must average in a given model year.
Congress passed a law in 1973 directing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set CAFE standards, making these standards a tool exclusively wielded by the federal government. The average CAFE rating will be 35.5 mpg in 2016 based on a combined 39 mpg rating for passenger cars and 30 mpg for light trucks. The automakers supportted and participated in formulating the rules, since they provide a reasonable national approach to regulating CO2 emissions rather than a patchwork of state rules. Automakers will likely rely on more fuel-efficient tires, turbochargers, low-friction lubricants, six-speed automatic transmissions, and similar technological means to achieve the standards.
While the new CAFE and CO2 standards for 2016 are reasonable, the federal government announced plans to put in place stronger rules for 2017 and beyond. In May, the EPA was directed to also reduce emissions of conven-tional pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides. Drastically increased CAFE regulations potentially limit consumer choice if manufacturers are forced to make smaller, less-powerful and less-useful cars and light duty vehicles in order to meet government fuel economy demands. Market-based solutions that allow the consumer to participate in and respond to national energy policies must be employed.
Tire Fuel Efficiency
A lot rides on your tires. That will soon include greenhouse gases, namely carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Both California and the federal government are pursuing regulations to rate replacement tires for "fuel efficiency" in an effort to influence consumer choice. In theory, if a tire is more fuel-efficient, less gas is burned and therefore less CO2 is emitted into the atmosphere.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is drafting a "consumer information system" to rate the fuel economy, safety, and durability characteristics of most replacement tires. NHTSA has established test procedures to be used by tire manufacturers in determining tire ratings, but is still considering options on how to convey the information to consumers at the point of sale and on the Internet. Companies that only produce 15,000 units or less in a tire line (or 35,000 tires in total brand-name production)-mostly tires for classic and antique vehicles or off-highway vehicles-are exempt, since fuel efficiency for these types is not a primary consumer concern. Tire manufacturers are considering new rubber compounds, tire designs, and other methods to boost efficiency without negatively impacting traction and strength.
The premise for the new program is to allow consumers to compare ratings for different replacement tires and determine the effect of tire choices on fuel economy, or the potential tradeoffs between tire fuel efficiency (rolling resistance), safety (wet traction), and durability (treadwear life).
When it comes to consumer information, the big question is whether the focus of attention is misplaced? Will consumers be dissuaded from buying tires that may have improved performance, handling, or appearance features, based solely on a rolling resistance rating? In addition, the program may easily distract consumers from focusing on more important safety issues such as tire inflation and overloading of vehicles. On that topic, the most inefficient tires are the ones that are under-inflated. A motorist can easily lose 3 or 4 percent in gas mileage when tires are under-inflated. Moreover, a tire that is not properly inflated compromises handling and braking.
Lighting technology has entered a new dimension. Light emitting diodes, for example, are blazing a new path from taillamps to headlamps. Car lamps can now produce light beams that bend around corners, lengthen when the car is going fast, and shorten and widen when the car slows down. The aftermarket industry is on the leading edge of these technological advances that promote safety and provide styling alternatives for new lighting products. Much of this innovative aftermarket equipment for cars, trucks, and SUVs provides greater road illumination and creates increased visibility. Federal and state regulators are working to keep current with these advances and also confirm that new products comply with existing regulations.
NHTSA is the federal agency that regulates original and aftermarket motor vehicle lighting products, including new technologies coming into the marketplace. Attention has been focused on non-compliant High Intensity Discharge (HID) conversion kits that may produce glare and restyled combination lamps that are missing required functions existing on the original equipment lamps. Certain clear taillamp covers, marker lamps, certain "blue" headlamp bulbs, and other equipment has also been subject to scrutiny.
Optional lighting equipment (non-federally required) is not prohibited by federal law, but is sometimes regulated by the states. Many states establish optional lighting restrictions through the authority of the state police or the state transportation agency. State-level enforcement of federally required lighting equipment can't deviate from what is prescribed by the federal government. However, states are free to enact and enforce safety and equipment regulations that are identical to the federal safety standards. States also have jurisdiction to enact and enforce vehicle equipment and safety regulations covering equipment not regulated at the federal level, such as "optional" or "accessory" lighting equipment.
Still other states only allow optional lighting equipment that was developed and installed by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). This OEM lighting equipment meets no standards except those established by the manufacturers themselves. These lamps are often of the same or greater intensity than those developed and installed by the aftermarket and frequently aimed and positioned similarly. In this way, these states unfairly discriminate against the installation and use of aftermarket lamps.
Ethanol-My Engine Is Not Vegetarian, It Wants Gas
There is a battle raging in Washington that may force you to put ethanol in your car, whether you want to or not. The EPA currently allows gasoline to include up to 10 percent ethanol (E-10), a fuel additive made from corn or other biomass sources. The ethanol industry wants the EPA to increase the amount to 15 percent.
Who would object? Millions of owners of high-performance engines and older cars who fear corrosion and other nasty side effects, that's who. Ethanol attracts water. In turn, the resulting condensation can corrode the fuel lines, fixtures, and tank components (steel, rubber, aluminum, and so on). We're talking rust, clogging, and deterioration. For modern cars, the oxygen atom in the ethanol molecule may confuse the exhaust sensor when measuring the air/fuel mixture going into the cylinders. The mixture may be too lean, producing a hot exhaust capable of damaging the catalytic converter. The end result may also be more nitrogen oxides, a building block for smog.
Many newer engines and parts have been designed to be more compatible with ethanol-blended fuels, and E-15 will not be an issue. But E-10 has been a problem for some current and older models, and E-15 may be worse. Many in the auto industry have cautioned the EPA to do more science before it rules on the request.
Why does it matter? The fact is gasoline without ethanol may eventually become scarce or non-existent when you pull up to the pump. We also face an education curve, as many people who already ignore the "contains 10 percent ethanol" sign will not understand that 15 percent may cost them a pretty penny in repair bills.
Paint-A Quick Guide To Paint Regulations
Believe it or not, paint is now heavily regulated to address various environmental concerns. There are two main issues with respect to regulatory oversight; those being volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
VOCs include both man-made and naturally occurring chemical compounds that are released into the atmosphere as a gas. They are found in oil-based paints, adhesives, and cleaning supplies, and may trigger respiratory irritation, headaches, or other health con-cerns. VOCs also react with nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form smog. Both federal and state regulators have imposed limits on VOC emissions, primarily at the manufacturer level. A number of products, from paint to engine degreasers and windshield washer fluids, have been reformulated to reduce their VOC levels. Additionally, there has been an effort to switch the public from oil-based paints and cleaning solvents (enamel, lacquer, mineral spirits, and more) to water-based paints like latex. The paint industry has expanded the range of water-based finishes that are available to assist in the conversion. Sometimes it's not a voluntary switch. A number of states or urban areas have banned retail sales of certain oil-based products in an effort to combat smog.
Aerosol can spray paints are frequently used for smaller jobs and touch-up painting. They rely on VOC-emitting propellants-gases used to expand and force out the paint when the valve is opened. The propellants have changed over the years, and the paint industry has more recently relied on a variety of hydrofluorocarbons to serve as propellants. To address VOCs in aerosol paints, both the EPA and the state of California have limited the amount of propellants that can be used in spray paint.
HAPs pose a separate concern. They are hazardous metal compounds-cadmium, chromium, nickel, and so on-that become airborne during paint stripping operations or surface coating and autobody refinishing operations. The EPA now regulates most activities except low-volume operations such as when hobbyists restore or customize one or two personal vehicles (or the equivalent in pieces) per year. The HAP rule does not apply to painting done with an airbrush or hand-held, non-refillable aerosol cans.
Regulating paint has been a balancing act: making sure hobbyists and commercial entities have access to affordable, quality paints while protecting health and environment. A good source for additional information is: www.ccar-greenlink.org/paintrule.html
Exhaust Noise-How Loud Is Too Loud?
On this topic, states can generally be divided into two major categories: states with noise standards and states without noise standards. States with poorly drafted and/or ineffective state laws and regulations frequently cite the manufacturer's specifications or a factory installed muffler as the basis on which vehicle exhaust noise is measured.
Of the states with a test standard on the books, many ignore guidelines when handing out citations. Most states that have set specifications choose to measure a vehicle's noise by decibels. States that have quantifiable noise standards on the books are shaded red in the map shown on the bottom left. These standards often go unenforced because they are based on an in-use standard-exhaust noise is measured while a vehicle is in motion on the highway.
Other states choose not to specify a quantifiable noise standard. These states are shown in yellow in the map. Typical language in these states' statutes includes prohibitions on "excessive or unusual noise" from a vehicle's exhaust system. While most motorists believe that exhaust systems should not be used in a way that causes overly loud or objectionable noise, these vague provisions fail to provide a clear and objective standard for those seeking more durable exhaust systems that enhance a vehicle's appearance and increase performance.
Legislative language that effectively limits the use of aftermarket exhausts can be found amongst both yellow and red states. Such language includes sentences such as, "No person shall modify the exhaust system of a motor vehicle in any manner which will amplify or increase the noise or sound emitted louder than that emitted by the muffler originally installed on the vehicle." While such language does not specifically prohibit all modification, it does not provide any means of measuring whether a vehicle has been acceptably modified. Such language also negatively affects the aftermarket industry by placing the noise limit authority in the hands of the OEMs and ignores the fact that aftermarket exhaust systems are designed to make vehicles run more efficiently without increasing emissions.
Green on the map identifies the three states that have enacted SEMA model legislation to provide enthusiasts and law enforcement officials with a fair and enforceable alternative. The model legislation establishes a 95-decibel exhaust noise limit based on an industry standard adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). Under this standard (SAE J1169), a sound meter is placed 20 inches from the exhaust outlet at a 45-degree angle and the engine is revved to three quarters of maximum rated horsepower. The highest decibel reading is then recorded.
Lobby For The Hobby
The foregoing are just some of the legislative issues currently under scrutiny. As our opening quotation suggests, saying or doing nothing will simply help permit these legislative evils to triumph. What can we do? Well, while our individual voices might be small, we can join together with the SEMA Action Network (SAN) to present a large, cohesive voice in defense of our automotive rights.
The SAN is a partnership between enthusiasts, vehicle clubs, and members of the specialty automotive parts industry in the United States and Canada who have joined forces to promote hobby-friendly legislation and oppose unfair laws. With nearly 40,000 members, 3 million contacts, and an ability to reach 30 million enthusiasts through print and press, the SAN is the premier organization defending the rights of the vehicle hobby.
In its efforts to promote and protect the specialty equipment industry and the automotive hobby in the states, SEMA partners with state lawmakers from across the country through the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. Formed in 2005 to supplement the work of its grassroots hobbyist network (SAN), the Caucus is a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love and appreciation for automobiles, and over the past several years, its efforts have achieved a series of significant legislative accomplishments for the vehicle enthusiast community and specialty equipment industry on issues including equipment standards, registration and titling classifications, emissions test exemptions, as well as the rights of hobbyists to engage in backyard restorations.
Keep in mind that this topic is not limited to Washington, though. While the federal government issues national rules dictating vehicle safety and emissions equipment, most other issues are handled at the state and local levels. By speaking out on issues that concern the automotive hobby, contacting our representatives, and working constructively with government officials, we have the power to protect our passion and keep it safe for future generations of auto hobbyists and enthusiasts.
When legislatures are out of session, representatives are in their home districts and typically have more time to meet casually with their constituents. Contacting them can have a tremendous impact by raising their awareness of issues that could impact our hobby during the next session. To get you started, we have prepared 10 tips you can use when contacting your representatives:
1. Develop and Maintain Relationships with Your Legislators and Their Staff
Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship with their staff who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
2. Educate Legislators About Our Hobby and Our Issues
Educate your legislator about the hobby and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.
3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Develop a positive relationship with your legislator. The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause.
4. Stay Informed
Keep up-to-date on the legislative issues that affect the hobby in your state. Share this information with fellow enthusiasts.
5. Get Involved in the Community
Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provides a great opportunity to show local residents and politicians that auto clubs are a positive community force.
6. Build Relationships with the Local Media
Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations to publicize car shows, charity events, and more.
7. Invite Officials to Participate in Your Events
Give legislators a platform to reach an audience of constituents.
8. Build an Automotive Coalition
Create coalitions to build strength in numbers and ensure that the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts are represented. Actively participating in regional and statewide councils will develop a unified message to lawmakers. These types of pro-hobbyist groups can be an influential political force.
9. Spread the Word
Take this information to your next club meeting, cruise night, or post it on your online forums. Share this information with other enthusiasts who are willing to help lobby for the hobby.
10. Register to Vote
Exercise your right to support pro-hobby candidates. Constituents are an elected official's number-one priority. Without you and your vote of support, they would not be in office, so make sure you're registered and get out and vote.
The future of our hobby depends on you. The ballot box is one venue for making your views known. We also urge you to work collectively with your fellow enthusiasts. How? You can join the SEMA Action Network (it's free), which keeps you informed about pending legislation and regulations-both good and bad-that will impact your state or the entire country. It also provides you with action alerts, speaking points, and lawmaker contact information if you want to support or oppose a bill. Just visit www.semasan.com for more information.