February got off to quite a start for the off-road community with the beehive of activity in the Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area for the 2014 Griffin King of the Hammers race presented by Nitto. But that’s not the only big news coming from the off-road community this month as the Specialty Equipment Market Association continues to fight for fair legislative action on both the state and federal level. Check out this month’s SEMA Law & Order updates below!
The off-road community is full of folks that love enjoying their rides on a regular basis so it’s with disappointment that we let you know that Massachusetts has introduced a pilot program that will impose a vehicle mileage usage fee on drivers to supplement gas-tax revenue that is being lost due to improved fuel economy in modern vehicles.
Affecting at least 1,000 people to start with, the new vehicle mileage usage fee program will install on-board mileage counters in participants’ vehicles. Using the data collected from the counters, the state will then impose a fee on each driver based on how many miles they drove.
If deemed successful, Massachusetts could implement the program in full force, charging all drivers based on miles traveled rather than gas consumption. This will not only affect enthusiasts that use their primary vehicles on and off road, it will also affect enthusiasts who trailer their off-road machines to recreation areas.
Other important updates this month come from the federal level, where reviews of previously implemented legislation are currently taking place.
One such plan currently under review is the Renewable Fuel Standard enacted in 2001 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Starting in 2002, this plan placed mandates on ethanol levels used in consumer gasoline, starting with ten billion gallons of ethanol being used all the way up to 36 billion gallons used in the country’s fuel in 2022.
Currently, most of the gas sold in the United States contains 10 percent ethanol, while plenty of opposition is out there against upping that ethanol level to 15 percent, which would be closer to the annually increasing mandates enacted by the RFS.
Part of the opposition comes from the concern of increased ethanol damaging engines in vehicles manufactured prior to 2001, with only stickers on gasoline pumps acting as warnings against E15 gas in older vehicles.
Acknowledging that the RFS puts unrealistic mandates on the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline each year, the EPA plans to review and potentially reduce ethanol mandates this year.
Another update comes in the form of increased Canadian tire safety standards. Recently, Transport Canada upped its tire safety standards to coincide with tire safety standards here in the United States. Not only does this increase in standards benefit off-road enthusiasts recreating across the Canadian border, it also allows for more enforcement of winter tire standards in our sister country, keeping off-roaders equipped with the right tires for their adventures here and in Canada.
The final federal update deals with the Forest Service Planning Rule enacted in 2012. This rule is the overlying guidance for creating land-use plans by individual forests.
A U.S. Forest Service advisory committee recently convened to discuss the best way of implementing the agency’s Planning Rule, especially after the Rule has been the the subject of many lawsuits, debates and court action due to ambiguous words and phrases used in the Rule’s planning directives.
The 21-person advisory committee, made up of a variety of land-use stakeholders, including those interested in motorized off-road recreation, has now released concise recommendations on implementing the Rule all over the country to benefit or at least lessen the harm to all sectors of the land-use debate.
February is the month of love and the off-road community is certainly seeing its fair share of love from SEMA and the SEMA Action Network, which both continue to fight for the rights of enthusiasts. Be sure to check back next month as we take a look at the latest legislative updates.