A look at this national trade association that represents the manufacturers and component suppliers that produce the vast majority of our homes on wheels.
By Harvey D. Lawrence, F7444
Next to your motorhome’s entrance door, you likely will find a small black-and-gold emblem like the one shown in the illustration. It is the seal of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). This seal is far more important than the average RVer knows, because the seal indicates that the manufacturer of your vehicle self-certifies compliance with more than 500 safety requirements. These safety requirements cover electrical, plumbing, heating, fire, and life safety codes established under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and specifically A119.2 Standards for Recreational Vehicles and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes.
This protection came about only after long and strong interaction among several groups. The first effort was made by NFPA as far back as 1937 when the association formed a committee on Trailers and Trailer Courts. The resulting efforts of this committee were adopted as its first standard, which remained unchanged until 1952 when it was revised and updated.
Various revisions and changes were made through the 1960s. In 1970 the first Standards for Recreational Vehicles were developed through the efforts of NFPA, the Mobile Home Manufacturers Association (MHMA), the Trailer Coach Association (TCA), and the Recreation Vehicle Institute (RVI). The new code was approved and became the standard now known as A119.2 -1963. Then the fun started!
The TCA suggested that each state should adopt the codes as law, add to them if it saw fit, and enforce the codes within its state. The RVI held that this would be a nightmare for manufacturers, because an RV would have to be modified for whatever state it was being sold in due to differing codes. The RVI also maintained that the RV industry itself would be the best entity to monitor the manufacturers’ compliance with code.
Ultimately, the TCA merged with RVI in 1974 and became RVIA, and the primary organization representing the industry was created. You could say that RVIA is the product of 38 years of hard work and long discussions.
Today RVIA reports that it represents nearly 500 manufacturers and component suppliers who together produce approximately 98 percent of all RVs and conversion vehicles manufactured in the United States.
Each RV manufacturer that joins the association displays the seal prominently on every vehicle it builds. This assures the consumer that the company’s own compliance program is verifying that the vehicle has been constructed in accordance with ANSI/NFPA codes and standards. The company must be in compliance or face being expelled from the association “” and this has happened.
The RVIA employs trained inspectors who conduct periodic unannounced inspection visits annually to each member manufacturer to check vehicles for compliance with more than 500 safety-related standards as they progress down the assembly line. When an inspector discovers installations that do not meet standards, the inspector will issue citations explaining the problem to the firm’s management and line supervisors, with copies going to the RVIA home office. The manufacturer is given a reasonable time to respond in writing, detailing actions taken to correct the problem. Of course, follow-up inspections are conducted to assure that the problem has been corrected.
Should a manufacturer decide not to comply with RVIA’s findings, it is subject to actions ranging from a staff-imposed probation with more frequent inspections to a formal hearing before the RVIA Standards Enforcement Board, with the real possibility of expulsion from the RVIA. Not many manufacturers would really want this to happen. Simply put, it is just not good for business.
What RVIA is not
Here I should make one point very clear. RVIA exists to help manufacturers comply with standards in plumbing, electrical, gas, and other systems to see that they are installed properly. In no way does the RVIA inspector become involved with quality-control issues not covered by the codes. In other words, the inspector is not checking to be sure cabinet doors fit properly, that an engine runs, or that the carpet is stretched tightly. It is up to the individual manufacturer to perform quality-control inspections to keep product quality high. RVIA does not become involved with warranty arguments. So, do not call RVIA with complaints that something does not work in your coach. However, if you discover serious defects that are obviously covered by code — for example, a copper LP-gas line that runs for a distance unsupported or poor and improper wiring — then, yes, I think RVIA would like to know about it.
Who sets the standards? As in earlier years, the basis for the standards comes from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI standard A119.2, Standard for Recreational Vehicles), and the NFPA covers the subject of fire safety.
RVIA publishes “A Handbook for Recreation Vehicle Standards,” which helps to standardize, adapt to, and gain uniformity for the codes as they apply to the world of RVs. It is reportedly worded in such a way that it is much easier to understand than the original code books, making it easier for the manufacturer to understand the application of the codes, which I am sure is a big help.
Other RVIA activities
In addition to the activities described above, RVIA is involved in the following:
- Keeps the RV industry informed of market and manufacturing conditions by providing data trends and marketing information.
- Promotes RV travel by providing information to the media and to the general public.
- Cooperatively sponsors shows of RV products to not only dealers but also to the general public. (The dealer-only show generally takes place in Louisville, Kentucky, and the public show in Pomona, California, each year.)
- Meets and confers with government representatives concerning national as well as state legislation affecting the RV industry.
- Coordinates activities with national regulatory organizations such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Park Service.
- In addition, and perhaps equally as important, develops and participates in technician-training programs to help build a strong cadre of RV service technicians who are well-trained and able to repair a wide spectrum of RVs.
It is nice to know that folks are looking out for our safety long before we receive our new RVs. You should do your part by looking for the RVIA emblem. I am one who takes comfort in knowing they are there on the job.
Want to know more? Contact the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, 1896 Preston White Drive, P.O. Box 2999, Reston, VA 20195; www.rvia.org.
The author wishes to express his appreciation to the RVIA staff for their assistance with the facts and history of the organization.