Saturday, June 6, 2009


By now many of you have surely heard of the debacle that has been caused by the Consumer Product Safety Act of 2008, otherwise known as the CPSIA. Late last year, a number of children's toy retailers were forced to hastily recall large stocks of their products made in China from store shelves and warehouses when it was discovered that paint and other components used in their construction contained excessive amounts of lead. Lead can cause numerous serious health problems in children, so there was a massive public outcry for the government to do something (as well as opportunistic politicians seeing a chance to do some grandstanding). Unfortunately, as is often the case when a bureaucratic entity wades into a situation to save the day, the result is often a paint-brush style of lawmaking that—while usually handling the original problem at hand—also unnecessarily affects other industries who had nothing to do with the issue that instigated the law.

Such is the case with the current motorcycle industry malaise that has resulted from the CPSIA's poorly thought-out and generalized wording. Because the CPSIA bans any product intended for children with lead content that exceeds specified standards, it has effectively killed off the youth off-road vehicle market. This is due to the fact that motorcycles and ATVs use lead alloys in many components for specific manufacturing reasons, and even though the possibility of lead exposure from touching those parts that are even accessible is infinitesimally small (many health experts have cited that you would get the same exposure from drinking a glass of water), they still fall within the overly broad guidelines of the law and are thus subject to its enforcement. This has forced manufacturers and dealerships to stop the sale of any youth motorcycles and ATVs, and any parts-related retailing as well.

What does this have to do with sportbikes? A hell of a lot more than you think.

The economic impact that this consequence has had on the motorcycle and motorized recreation industry is obvious. In an overall economy that is already struggling, cutting off a good portion of revenue from dealerships that are already barely keeping their heads above water can be catastrophic. I've already heard reports of many dealerships going out of business, and there are others surely teetering on the brink of bankruptcy due to the loss of revenue. Less dealerships means less competition, leading to higher prices and more difficulty sourcing parts and other related items. This is besides the lost opportunity for a youth to discover the joys of motorized recreation, which will surely plant a seed of enthusiasm that will carry on to later years and help grow the sport. Or the fact that- robbed of properly designed machinery- youths will end up attempting to ride full-size ATVs, a very dangerous prospect.

Previously, the AMA and MIC recommended focusing letter-writing campaigns toward the Consumer Product Safety Commission (the federal agency responsible for enacting and enforcing this law). However, it soon became obvious that the CPSC was unwilling to exclude motorcycles and other products that were not in the original intent of the law, mostly due to the fact that the CPSIA's legal language isn't specific enough, and the CPSC didn't want to bank on the hope that their interpretation of the law would stand up to any court challenges (For instance, although there are minimum standards for lead content prescribed in the one section, another portion of the law states that banned products include any that will "result in the absorption of any lead into the human body", which could be interpreted to mean even the most miniscule amount). Although CPSC chairwoman Nancy Nord denied a petition from the motorsports industry asking for motorcycle/ATV exclusion, she did vote for a one-year stay of enforcement for the CPSIA. However, it's important to note that CPSC Commissioner Thomas Moore hasn't weighed in on the petition, nor do we know the position of the state attorneys general on this matter, and it's only a temporary hold on the situation.

(UPDATED 4/17/09: According to the AMA, the CPSC "voted to not exclude youth-model motorcycles and ATVs from a law that bans their sale because of possible lead concerns--but has cleared the way for a second vote by month's end to delay enforcement of the law." Also, Moore finally released a statement agreeing with chairwoman Nord on favoring a stay of enforcement. "It is clear from the post-enactment statements of some Members of Congress who were Conferees on the CPSIA that they believe the Commission has the authority to make sensible allowances for these vehicles as long as child safety is not compromised," Moore said in his statement. "Given the extremely restrictive language of the law, the only avenue I can see is for the Commission to establish an enforcement plan that follows, to the greatest extent possible, the Act's intention for future production, while providing relief to the industry and the riding community for vehicles already manufactured and those manufactured during the stay."
According to the AMA, "Because both members of the commission have said they favor a stay of enforcement, the move almost certainly will stay the execution of parts of the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) within the agency. On Friday, commission filings in preparation for the vote indicated a stay could be as long as two years, possibly expiring May 1, 2011. A planned second vote on that timeframe is expected by the end of April.
In addition, it's not clear whether state attorneys general, who are also charged with enforcing the law, will also stand down.")

Note that none of Moore's statement talks about getting motorcycles/ATVs excluded from the CPSIA, only "providing relief...for vehicles already manufactured and those manufactured during the stay." Trying to get the CPSC to exclude motorcycles/ATVs from the lead ban is barking up the wrong tree. The only way to truly fix the situation is to get the CPSIA amended via legislation. One way is to strongly advocate two new bills that have been introduced, S. 608 in the Senate and H.R. 1587 in the House of Representatives. Introduced by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), on March 17, S.608 would amend the CPSIA to exclude secondary sales, repair services and certain vehicles, including youth ATVs and motorcycles, from the ban on lead in children's products. Reps. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.), Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), and Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), introduced H.R. 1587 on March 18 in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend the lead prohibition provisions of the CPSIA to provide an exemption for certain off-highway vehicles, along with other purposes.

The MIC is urging its members, dealers, and enthusiasts to act and show their support for S. 608 and H.R. 1587 by contacting their members of Congress and appropriate committee members via

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