MRF January Update
By Andy Kelly
Let’s begin with self-driving/autonomous vehicles. In the beginning of November Senator John Thune, from South Dakota, Chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee and three other Senators introduced Bill S.1588, “American Vision for Safer Transportation through Advancement of Revolutionary Technologies Act” or the “AV START ACT.” This legislation would dictate the safety regulations that self-driving cars will have to meet before hitting the road. The bill includes the MRF requested language on identification and response to motorcyclists in the safety mandate section. This language is not in the House bill and the recently issued National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guideline.
Megan Ekstrom, Vice President of Government Affairs, for MRF, and the lobbyist from Harley-Davidson have been working together to get the House of Representatives to adopt the Senate language on self-driving cars and to forget about what NHTSA has issued on self-driving cars.
Speaking of NHTSA, at the beginning of November there was a public meeting held on autonomous vehicles by them. Megan spoke to some of the officials from NHTSA and reminded them of the Tesla, in Arizona, on autopilot, that hit a police motorcycle and also reminded them that in their proposed guidelines they mention groups of roadway users like pedestrians, bicyclists and animals, but never mention 8.5 million motorcyclists. Megan also told NHTSA that autonomous vehicles directly affect us and we need a seat at the table. She was told that they are working on version 3.0.
Bloomberg News did an interview with Megan in November about autonomous technology and motorcycles. Megan was quoted in the article saying, ”We see a huge potential in automated vehicles helping to eliminate the human factor, however, in order for that to happen, we need to make sure that the concept of detection and response to motorcyclists would be an integral part of any sort of policy or regulation.” The conversation went on talking about the House and Senate autonomous vehicle legislation (H.R.3399 and S158.” We’re certainly hopeful that we can work something out if the bills do advance” said Megan about the difference between the House and Senate bills.
H.R. 350, Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act of 2017, has made it out of subcommittee. Just to remind you, the RPM Act clarifies that the EPA has to keep their hand and nose out of how we modify our motorcycles for competition at the racetrack. The EPA tried to suggest they had the authority to do this and though they were shut down, this bill would put that in black and white. During the hearing, Rep Hudson (R-NC) said, “This interpretation by the EPA directly conflicts with the original purpose of the Clean Air Act.”
In the Senate, the Environment and Public Works Subcommittee has also been working on the RPM Act, S.203. Senator Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) said during the hearing that the EPA tried to circumvent the regulatory regime to hurt the motorcycle industry and Americans all across the country. The MRF was a signatory on a letter that was entered into the record as a part of the Senate hearing. The letter supported S.203 and urged the committee to take a vote on the bill.
There are hearings on these bills in the subcommittee, then it moves on to the full committee. This results in a “markup” by both subcommittee and full committee, which is the process of editing the bill and adding amendments and making changes. The next biggest hurdle is vying for floor time and consideration in getting it out of the House or Senate without any further amendments.
The MRF used social media and e-mails for a “CALL TO ACTION” to petition to get three more members onto the Motorcyclist Advisory Council (MAC). By December 5, 5,000 signatures were obtained. In the petition, the MRF is asking for one more seat from a national motorcycle riders association for on-street motorcycles and two more seats from people from state/regional motorcycle riders associations.
For a little background on the MAC, it was established under the authority of section 1426 of the “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act,” which is the last Federal transportation Bill passed by Congress. The MAC will provide information, advice and recommendations to the Administrator of Federal Highway Administration on matters relating to motorcycle safety in the United States and the implementation of noteworthy practices of highway infrastructure related improvements that will result in positive impacts on motorcyclist safety.
I was able to attend the first MAC meeting in Washington D.C., along with Frank Carbone, ABATE of PA., Tiffany Cipoletti, and Megan Ekstom, from the MRF. The meeting opened with the first speaker talking about statistics and telling everyone there was 5286 motorcycle related fatalities in 2016, the highest since 2008, and over half (51.2%) involved a motor vehicle.
It appeared to me the council was mostly reviewing data at this meeting and deciding the best approach in dealing with barrier design, road design, construction, maintenance practices and Intelligent Transportation Systems. Near the end of the day it was opened up for public comment and that was when Megan Ekstom presented the MRFs request for three more members to the Council, along with letters from Senators and Congressmen, and the names of the 5,000 people that signed the petition to the council. The council will take it under review.
I hope to see everyone at this year's Leadership & Legislative Seminar in Harrisburg. Please stop by the MRF table and say hi. If you are not a member of the MRF please consider becoming one. We need representation in Washington D.C. and the MRF is fighting for your freedom in D.C. and needs your support.