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Race Against a Racing Ban

Bob Ulrich
Posted on October 27, 2016

The faster the industry gets on board H.R. 4715, the better. It is legislation that we need in order to prevent, well, further legislation.

Also known as the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act, H.R. 4715 was introduced into the 114th Congress to allow the modification of a vehicle’s air emission controls if the vehicle is used solely for competition.

“But,” the racing enthusiasts among you may say, “the Clean Air Act of 1974 already exempts racing vehicles from its greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards.”

It still does, at least for now. The Clean Air Act applies to “motor vehicles,” and it defines motor vehicles as “any self-propelled vehicle designed for transporting persons or property on a street or highway.”

The statue even goes a step further, excluding any vehicle that “lacks features customarily associated with safe and practical street or highway use” or “exhibits features which render its use on a street or highway unsafe, impractical, or highly unlikely.”

Over the years, both Congress and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have supported the exclusion of racing vehicles from the Clean Air Act in writing.

That could change in the near future. On July 13, 2015, the EPA proposed stricter greenhouse gas emissions and fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles. This language was inserted into the proposal:

... vehicles that are clearly intended for operation on highways are motor vehicles. Absence of a particular safety feature is relevant only when absence of that feature would prevent operation on highways.

The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) took exception to this apparent change of heart, which would suddenly classify racing vehicles as motor vehicles under the statue. In a letter to the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, SEMA CEO and President Chris Kersting said the new language would severely impact the $36 billion specialty equipment aftermarket by effectively prohibiting racing vehicle conversions.

“Essentially, the EPA is saying ‘once a motor vehicle, always a motor vehicle,’” he wrote. “However, this contradicts long-standing agency policy, which has for decades recognized that vehicles that are used solely for competition are excluded from the EPA’s regulations under the Clean Air Act.”

Motorsports directly affect thousands of small businesses and many state economies, he continued. In addition, if the EPA gets its way, there would be “an indirect hit to all the local businesses catering to the participants and spectators.”

Perhaps influenced by Kersting’s letter, the EPA withdrew the offending language from the proposed regulations on April 15. But the threat against racing vehicles remains, which is why the RPM Act is still necessary.

“While the EPA announced on April 15th that it will remove the provision from the final greenhouse gas rule, the agency has not abandoned its new interpretation of the Clean Air Act,” says Roy Littlefield IV, government affairs manager for the Tire Industry Association (TIA). “The EPA still contends that it is illegal to sell and install legitimate racing parts on race-use-only vehicles, and tampering has occurred if the modified vehicle was originally a motor vehicle.

“Whether or not the EPA enforces against the individual, the racing industry and enthusiasts remain under threat as companies will no longer sell or install racing products.”

TIA is working with SEMA to increase the number of cosponsors for both H.R. 4715 (111 to date) and its Senate counterpart, S. 2659. Support for the bills is bipartisan.

The House recently referred the bill to its Subcommittee on Energy and Power, which Littlefield says has slowed its momentum.

“It could sit in the committee for quite some time, and I personally believe at this point it will,” says Littlefield. “SEMA is hopeful that they can get a vote this year, but there is not much time left and I do not see this as a priority for the committee.

“We have already committed to re-introducing the bill next year, and are confident that with the 115th Congress we will have a much better opportunity to hold a vote over the next two years.”

As a nation, I think we over-legislate, so I am quick to look for other solutions first. How can members of Congress know more about our industry than we do? Whenever possible, we should develop and police our own industry procedures. I do not believe the RPM Act is an overreaction, however. As such, we should get on the bandwagon and do whatever it takes to get it passed as soon as possible before the EPA digs in its heels.  

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

To read more of Bob Ulrich's editorials, click:

P Zero World Re-Defines the Independent Tire Dealer

The Race for More Sales: Motorsports Involvement by the Manufacturers Isn't Enough

Ultimately, Selling Is All About Human Interaction

Politically Incorrect Advertising: Not From Trump or Clinton, But BMW

Related Topics: Bob Ulrich, Bob Ulrich editorial, Editorial, Racing

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