Early Warning Requirements a hot-button issue

NTEA isn't going to waste any time in getting right to one of the meatiest matters of The Work Truck Show.

At 9 am on Sunday, March 2, Erika Jones, a partner in the law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe, and Maw in Washington, DC, will discuss the controversial Early Warning Reporting Requirements that were mandated by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act.

Jones, former chief counsel for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), will shed some light on recent developments in the regulations that require all manufacturers of motor vehicles, including trailers and motor vehicle equipment, to report certain information regarding problems associated with an extensive list of vehicle components to NHTSA every quarter beginning with the second quarter of this year.

Trailer manufacturers and truck-equipment companies that produce more than 500 units a year will be held liable for the more severe reporting standards because they are final-stage manufacturers.

In a petition filed jointly by NTEA and the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association on Dec. 5, 2002, NTEA asked NHTSA to raise the threshold from 500 to 2,500 per model or 5,000 total vehicles, and also to provide a six-month extension of the effective date.

In a petition filed Nov. 22, 2002, the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers is asking NHTSA to reassign all trailer manufacturers of 26,000-lb-and-under GVWR trailers to the “small manufacturer” reporting category, regardless of the number of trailers the manufacturer produces, and also to provide a nine-month extension to the compliance date.

Although NHTSA has yet not responded to any of these petitions, Jones believes NTEA, RVIA, and NATM have made some valid points and she has a “hunch” that NHTSA will change the thresholds.

“I think that certainly the arguments were valid that the cost is significant for a small business, and the benefit to NHTSA from the information compared to the cost is relatively small to help them find defect trends in what are frequently one-off vehicles,” she says. “The value of that information is more limited than it will be from the manufacturers of mass-market vehicles.”

Given the requirements of the rule, it is likely that each manufacturer will need to create a process for collecting the warranty claim and field report data required by the new regulation. Dealers and distributors should be prepared to expect that each manufacturer will request their assistance in collecting this information.

“Even if NHTSA agrees to raise the threshold, there will still be a lot of NTEA members that will have to meet the larger requirements,” Jones says. “They are extensive. It's going to require a lot of new ways of coding warranty claims, customer complaints, property-damage claims, and lawsuits.”

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