Lead Law: OEMs, MIC Slow to Act?

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MIC lead law ban CPSC Malcolm Smith

I'm writing this in mid-March, so perhaps by now the government has lifted its ban on children's vehicles containing too much lead. But I doubt it. The CPSC is committed to the new law, which, because of its poor wording, makes it difficult for the commission to exclude ATVs, dirtbikes and snowmobiles. Now the only solution I see is an amendment to the law.

Radio show host Hugh Hewitt, a former regulatory lawyer, told CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord that the commission should just throw technicalities to the wind and issue an exemption for powersports vehicles. Hewitt pointed out (and Nord agreed) that small businesses are suffering and parents are resorting to vehicles too big for their kids. Let the courts decide whether the exemption is legal, he said, when he interviewed Nord recently on his show. Let them and Congress take the responsibility for any injured or killed children.

Unfortunately, she wasn't receptive to the idea. And that sucks because she and one other commissioner vote on all this stuff (the three other seats are vacant).

Industry legend and dealership owner Malcolm Smith, on the other hand, is all about civil disobedience. In what he dubs a Kids Love 2 Ride Protest, in a few days he's going to sell banned vehicles from his inventory to a group of notables that includes Jeff Ward, Jeremy McGrath and Troy Lee. Malcolm faces up to a $100,000 fine for each unit sold, and could even go to jail.

Contributing editor Joe Delmont has done a great job at covering the lead saga at our blog (http://dealernewsblog.wordpress.com). In one posting Malcolm Smith told Joe that he was informed about the ban only two weeks before the Feb. 10 deadline. "If you're going to do something like that, you've got to give the factories some warning," he said.

But the OEMs have known — for a long time.

In an interview with Cycle News, Paul Vitrano, the MIC's lawyer, said the industry knew of the implications since last summer when the law was enacted. But the MIC chose to delay its media campaign until the CPSC issued proposed rules for exclusions in mid-January.

Should the OEMs have told you sooner? And couldn't the MIC have rallied the troops sooner? Did they have to wait until the rules were proposed? I'm getting ready to make some phone calls to get your opinions. I imagine many of you would have been ordering much less for the previous four months, had you known. None of you should be paying flooring for what you have ordered.

And how long should you wait for the government to come up with a solution? What if all these vehicles have to be destroyed? Who pays? My gut feeling is that the government will apply a fix.

Then again, the government is dealing with more pressing problems, like bonuses to executives of large insurance companies. Who has time to deal with this? There's so much to learn. The law that created the ban, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, has several other implications for the powersports industry: ATV standards that go live this month, new recall regulations, new testing procedures for manufacturers, and so on. Did you know, for example, that right now you must possess a safety certificate for many painted or coated items you might stock that are primarily intended for children 12 and under?

Keep checking back at our website and blog for updates. I've read so much on this stuff that I myself have the symptoms of lead poisoning: headache and nausea primarily. Hopefully we can distill the information down to something more palatable.

Arlo Redwine Senior Editor Editoraredwine@dealernews.com.