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MRF Comments to NHTSA on the Inclusion of Retroreflective Rider Apparel in the TREAD Act

February 4, 2002

Dr. Jeffrey Runge
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
c/o Docket Management
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Dear Dr. Runge:

We are responding to a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) ["Docket NHTSA 2001-8677, Notice 2," posted in the December 21, 2001, "Federal Register"].

In our view, the over-arching purpose of the Transportation Recall, Enhancement, Accountability & Documentation (TREAD) Act is to reduce defective tires and motor vehicles with the goal of preventing the catastrophic failures which horrified the public in 2000. Among all road users, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians clearly have a special interest in NHTSA achieving that goal by fulfilling its duty to identify and recall defective vehicles and tires which can lead to large vehicles running out of control and endangering other road users as well as occupants.

In light of our special interest in and strong commitment to traffic safety, we were shocked to find language in the NPRM which broaches the unrelated subject of clothing control for motorcyclists. This inexplicable distraction from the goal of the TREAD Act is found on page 66193, section two, which purports to expound on the meaning and scope of "replacement equipment:"

"Under both current 49 CFR 579.4(b) and proposed 579.4(c), [replacement equipment] includes all motor vehicle equipment other than OE. Not only does the term have the literal meaning of equipment that is intended to replace OE, it also includes accessory equipment and 'off vehicle equipment' that is not part of a motor vehicle, such as reflective motorcycle rider apparel.... Manufacturers of replacement equipment are within the scope of the early warning reporting provisions of the statute."

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation believes that NHTSA has no authority whatsoever to include motorcycle rider apparel of any kind within the proposed rule. Moreover, if NHTSA asserts such an authority, we question whether the agency has met fully the requirements set forth by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) of 1996. In our view, SBREFA would require the agency to hear from the many small businesses involved in the manufacture, distribution and sale of a wide array motorcycle rider apparel.

Frankly, we are dismayed that this federal agency would break focus, stray far from the intent of Congress and dabble in the unauthorized fringes of their statutory authority. It is the reasonable expectation of the President, the Congress and the American people that the "early warning" regulation on the TREAD Act proceed with all deliberate speed. By including language on "rider apparel," however, this federal agency risks a serious delay in this critical rule. More than flaunting the intent of Congress, such risk-taking strikes us as thoroughly cavalier.

To permit the rulemaking process to proceed without the delay prompted by the agency's hunger for motorcyclist clothing control, all references to motorcycle rider apparel should be stricken from Docket NHTSA 2001-8677, Notice 2.


Thomas C. Wyld
Vice President, Government Relations
Motorcycle Riders Foundation

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