Staff of the federal regulator of off-road vehicles suggested last week that the agency start the process for creating a mandatory safety standard for “recreational” side-by-sides. The staff also noted that it had rejected a draft of a voluntary standard presented to it by an industry association.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the agency considering the recommendation, which applies only to side-by-sides that can reach speeds greater than 30 mph. The government refers to such units as recreational off-highway vehicles, or ROVs.
Arctic Cat, BRP, Polaris and Yamaha are the founders of the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA). In November 2008, the association received American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation to develop a standard for the equipment, configuration and performance requirements of ROVs. The following month ROHVA presented a draft of its standard to the CPSC staff, which suggested changes.
In June, ROHVA again presented a standard draft to the agency, which claims that none of its earlier concerns were addressed.
The friction between the manufacturers and the agency revolves around three factors:
- Vehicle stability: The CPSC staff does not like the proposed voluntary standard’s method of judging an ROV’s tendency to roll over. It suggests a method already used for judging cars and trucks.
- Vehicle handling: The agency wants the standard to ensure that ROVs “predictably understeer” in a turn to reduce the possibility of slide-outs and rollovers. Again, like cars.
- Occupant retention and protection: The agency does not think that the voluntary standard does enough. “The current minimum requirement for a three-point seat belt does not adequately protect the occupant and does not address occupant limbs, torso, and head coming out of the vehicle,” wrote the staff, who want a standard that mandates things such as seating location, side guards, four-point seat belts and “technologies for increasing seat belt use.”
In the briefing package given to the CPSC last week, the agency’s staff proposed wording for an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking,” the first step the agency must take to create its own standard. “Although a voluntary standard for ROVs has been proposed,” the notice states, “the commission does not believe the proposed voluntary standard as currently drafted adequately addresses the risk of injury associated with ROVs.”
But even if the commission agrees to the notice, the OEMs could still avoid a mandatory standard by honoring the agency staff’s suggestions. Reads the proposed notice: “The commission could address the risks of injury associated with ROVs through rulemaking. Alternatively, the commission could defer to the voluntary standards process.”