Friday, June 29, 2007

CAFE Standards, Once Again! RVers who tow trailers should be concerned

Note from Steven: This information can from the Escapees RV club If you are an Escapees Club member you probably already read this.

There is a bill just passed by the Senate, and currently being debated in the House, that calls for a combined car and light truck fuel economy standard of 35 mpg by 2020, with a 4 percent annual increase thereafter. While this bill may help provide more economical cars for consumers, it may also have a negative effect on RVers nationwide. If standards are raised unilaterally, as this bill proposes, vehicles capable of towing large trailers and RVs may become a thing of the past.
Several times in the last 25 years, lawmakers have debated Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements. The CAFE program was enacted in 1975. CAFE standards require each automaker to meet a sales-weighted average fuel economy level for the fleets of new cars and light trucks it sells each year. The standards, which took effect in 1978 at 18 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars, increased gradually each year until 1985, when they reached a level of 27.5 mpg. Light truck standards, which are set periodically by DOT, are currently 20.7 mpg.

In 2001, pro-CAFE members of Congress introduced legislation to force big increases in CAFE standards on the public. In August, 2001, the House passed a national energy bill, which included modest increases in CAFE, allowing DOT to set the details. During the Senate debate on this new energy legislation a proposed amendment by Sens. Kerry (D-MA) and Hollings (D-SC) would have raised the average fuel-economy requirement for all cars and light trucks to 36 miles per gallon by 2015. This proposal was of significant concern for RVers, because vehicles such as Suburbans, Tahoes, Expeditions, Explorers, and most ½ to ¾ ton trucks are often used by outdoor enthusiasts to tow trailers, boats and other recreational vehicles. These vehicles would be required to be downsized to meet the new standards, and towing capacities would be greatly reduced.

Thanks in part to quick action and strong response from the RV community, on March 13, 2002 the United States Senate voted 62-38 to adopt the Levin-Bond alternative to the extreme Kerry-Hollings CAFE provision. The Levin-Bond amendment authorized the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to determine appropriate CAFE standards for passenger vehicles and trucks. It also required NHTSA to weigh standards against 12 considerations, including automobile safety, the need to reduce U.S. dependence on fuel imports, and the "adverse effects of average fuel economy standards on the relative competitiveness of manufacturers."

Fast forward to 2007! Once again, a bill to raise CAFE requirements (HB6) is in front of the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill, if passed un-amended, has the potential to significantly impact the RV community by eliminating the class of vehicle that they depend upon for RV towing. Once again, there is a coordinated effort by the RV industry to encourage our legislators to set realistic fuel economy standards for SUVs and light trucks.

Does this sound like deja-vu? Did someone turn the clock back to 2001?

It is vitally important for all RVers to contact their elected representatives and express their opinions on this legislation. There are dozens of lobbyists working this issue, but nothing is more effective than you, as a constituent, contacting your congressman via a phone call, letter, or email, to tell them personally why this legislation would harm you. If this legislation becomes law, your ability as a consumer to purchase any vehicle capable of towing an RV will be severely impacted.

Please contact your elected representatives and urge them to vote in favor of intelligent CAFE ratings for trucks and tow vehicles. One way to send a message is to visit where you can easily identify your representative and send your message. You can also visit, the SUV Owners Association website. The SUVOA is a group dedicated to supporting light truck and SUV owners, and there is a lot of useful information on the CAFE issue on their site. Be sure to sign their petition if you visit the site.

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