January 23, 2015

On January 7, 2015, the Consumer Product Safety Commission held a public meeting to provide an opportunity for comment from interested persons on the proposed standard for recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs).  A total of 13 people testified.  Although each individual’s presentation was limited to ten minutes, the meeting lasted over six hours.

Why was the meeting so long?  The Commissioners had many questions about the points raised in the presentations--so many questions that almost immediately, the Commission decided to double the amount of time allotted each Commissioner for questioning.  Even then, ten minutes was not enough time and we ended up going two, three or even more rounds of questioning for some panels.

While all of this questioning brought out some new and important points, it also highlighted how little the Commission knows about ROVs.  These vehicles are among the most complex products within our regulatory purview.  In addition, they are also relatively new products, and are evolving rapidly as competition spurs innovation in many areas, including safety. 

I continue to believe that we need to stop pretending that we have all the answers and take time to engage with the real experts—the manufacturers and riders of these vehicles.  Back in October 2014, I moved that we postpone rulemaking for a period of 90 days so that we could build on the progress made earlier that month when our staff met with a group of engineers from the industry.  Unfortunately, my colleagues decided to forge ahead with the proposed rule. In December, I offered another proposal at our meeting on the FY 2015 operating plan.  Specifically, I moved to modify the operating plan so that the staff would not be expected to finalize a mandatory rule for ROVs by September 30 of this year.  Again, my Democrat colleagues voted to rush ahead. 

At this point, we have made it necessary for the industry to focus on the proposed rule and developing their comments.  Our best chance for a successful standard is to re-engage with the manufacturers.  That is the course that has been urged, twice, by a large, bipartisan group of Senate Commerce Committee members.  We should heed their message.