A big day in DC

FOUR specialized vehicle manufacturing trade associations joined forces to meet with legislators and regulators in Washington, DC, on Oct. 26.

The event was organized by the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) and was aimed at educating federal government officials about the motor vehicle manufacturing industry beyond passenger cars. Joining the NTEA were representatives of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM), and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).

Leadership Conference attendees first met with Jackie Glassman, the Acting National Highway Traffic Safety Administrator, and Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta. A White House meeting with Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy Jess Sharp followed. The group also met with House Small Business Committee Chairman Dan Manzullo and members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee staff.

The Leadership Conference provided representatives of participating associations an opportunity to discuss the specific concerns of their industry segments at the highest levels of the federal government. The conference was also designed to strengthen the relationships these associations have established in the past with one another and with the government.

“We had some terrific meetings — including one with the NHTSA Administrator and the Secretary of Transportation,” said Michael Kastner, the NTEA's director of government relations. “The NTEA decided to host this event to raise the profile of all of the associations and to educate the decision-makers in DC that the motor vehicle industry is more than just the big passenger-car manufacturers. The day was a great success and hopefully, it will be the beginning of many more joint efforts among the associations.”

Different functions

Traditionally, people think of motor vehicle manufacturers as companies such as GM, Ford, Daimler Chrysler, Honda, Toyota. In fact, the laws and regulations affecting motor vehicles apply not only to mass-produced passenger cars, but also to specialized work trucks, recreation vehicles, truck trailers, and small cargo and utility trailers. Thousands of domestic companies manufacture these motor vehicles, the majority of them small, family owned businesses. They are regulated in the same manner as large, multi-national passenger car manufacturers, often without recognizing or considering the unique attributes of each specialized vehicle type.

In many instances, federal laws and regulations aimed primarily at passenger cars or cast in a one-size-fits-all mold have created difficult situations for the manufacturers of other vehicle types.

For instance, the TREAD Act, enacted in response to the Ford/Firestone tire problem, requires not only large passenger car companies to create and submit voluminous amounts of data but also small businesses producing limited numbers of specialized vehicles and trailers. Another example is a regulation that when issued required manufacturers to list the occupant weight for trailers even though trailers have no occupants.

Another federal regulation, issued with an immediate effective date concerning rear underride guards, was meant to be a clarification, not affecting any existing vehicle equipment designs. In fact, it made an entire existing class of equipment immediately non-compliant. Currently, NHTSA proposes requiring an information label for certain recreation vehicles even though the industry already applies a similar label that is recognized and accepted by consumers.

Other industries have been able to establish both formal and informal relationships with the agencies regulating them to expand the regulator's understanding of the industry and the products it produces and to provide a vehicle for industry to communicate its own concerns in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. It is the hope of the participating associations and industries that a similar alliance or advisory committee can be developed between the listed groups, NHTSA, DOT, and Congress. These groups possess a wealth of expertise regarding their members' concerns and stand ready to share that expertise with both legislators and regulators as they perform their respective tasks to enhance vehicle safety.

Associations working together

The following associations represent motor vehicle manufacturers that require consideration apart from the traditional passenger car manufacturer during the legislative and regulatory process. The representatives of these organizations at the Leadership Conference will include the elected volunteer leader and the professional leadership staff of each organization.

The NTEA, established in 1964, currently represents over 1,600 companies that manufacture, distribute, install, buy, sell, and repair commercial trucks, truck bodies, truck equipment, trailers, and accessories. Buyers of work trucks and the major commercial truck chassis manufacturers also belong to the Association.

TTMA is an international trade association comprised of truck trailer, tank trailer, cargo container, cargo tanks for trucks, and container chassis manufacturers attributed with over 90% of the total annual production of those units in the United States. In addition, over 100 major material and component suppliers to the industry are TTMA Associate Members.

NATM was formed in 1987 as the National Association of Livestock Trailer Manufacturers, but soon realized that all light- and medium-duty trailer manufacturers share common concerns and problems. The association represents manufacturers that produce trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings of 26,000 pounds or less. These trailers are constructed of aluminum, steel, and combinations of both, and are towed as a bumper pull or by a gooseneck coupler.

RVIA represents more than 550 manufacturers and component suppliers producing approximately 98% of all RVs and conversion vehicles manufactured in the United States.

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