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Washington Update

Denise Rondini March 22, 2012

A look at what’s coming up and what dealers can do to be heard.

By Denise L. Rondini, Executive Editor

drondini@randallreilly.com

“Being a businessperson these days means that you have, whether you like it or not, a business partner. And that business partner is the government,” says Doug Greenhaus, NADA/ATD chief regulatory counsel for environment, health and safety.

 “In order to do what is best for your operation, you do have pay some attention to what is going on at the federal, state and local level.”

 According to Greenhaus, there is a lot of activity in Washington that impacts truck dealers. “There is a whole host of things, not the least of which is funding of the highways, but also safety issues, fuel economy and emissions-related issues.”

He adds, “We need a new highway bill. Without it the nation’s infrastructure does not get addressed and that backs up on the motor carriers and the results can be challenging for dealers.”

Greenhaus believes all parties involved in the trucking industry are united in their support of a highway bill, but they differ on some of the details.

 The Senate has approved it and Greenhaus thinks the House will move forward with it. “At some point, if we are very lucky, by the end of the year before the elections we will have a final piece of legislation that will fund highway improvements.”

 The Environmental Protection Agency has long been involved in the trucking industry and shows no sign of letting up. “Believe it or not, the EPA is already working on Phase 2 of its fuel economy standards,” he says.

He adds that ATD will be following this closely. “As much as we had concerns with Phase 1 and how it is going to be implemented, we are concerned with how Phase 2 is going to impact the availability of products that our dealerships’ customers want and the kind of money they are going to have to spend. It is 10 times more of a concern with Phase 2 because costs are likely to increase significantly.”

 NADA/ATD recently completed a study that found the EPA underestimated by a factor of five the cost of compliance with the 2002-2010 tailpipe emissions standards. “This showed what can happen when you try to do rulemaking too far out in the future on issues that involve unpredictable variables.”

 Another regulation on the horizon is the phase in of on-board diagnostic systems. “Dealers are going to have to engage in significantly more technician training, new diagnostic tools and new strategies to go with those tools. And that will involve a significant investment on the part of the dealer,” Greenhaus says.

 This is just a taste of some of the rulemaking that could impact dealers, and while Greenhaus believes dealers are aware of what Washington is working on, it may not be top of their minds unless there is an impending deadline.

 Dealers should not feel helpless regarding their ability to impact decisions coming out of Washington.

“We are fortunate in our industry to have dealers in virtually every Congressional district,” Greenhaus says. He encourages dealers to call on their Congressional representatives and even invite them to visit their dealerships.

 “We encourage dealers to make calls, send letters to governmental agencies or to members of Congress. This information can be very helpful to policy makers who really hunger for real-life understanding of how what they do impacts the real world,” Greenhaus say.

He adds, “It can make a big difference whether they go down Path A or Path B, and we would always prefer them to choose the path that is less burdensome to dealers.”

Greenhaus also encourages dealers to pay attention to the communication they get from ATD and from the other trade associations to which they belong. “Businesspeople these days are just burdened with these layers of regulations and obligations.” 

The way to make a difference is to get to know your local, state and federal law makers and representatives, he says.

 “They truly want to know their constituency and the better you know them, the more familiar they can become with you and what you do. Even if you do not have a burning issue at the forefront, if there is an opportunity to meet them and say hello take advantage of it. They are excited to learn and then when issues arise they will have more background and understand how what they do affects a dealer’s business.”

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