Will it be a happy new year for motorhome owners? Well … that might depend on the outcome of several lingering proposals to change existing RV-related regulations.
As the year 2005 came to a close, government bodies were in the “reviewing public input” stage on issues that may affect where motorhomers park and the number of seat belts their vehicles contain.
Billings, Montana, overnight parking
During 2005, complaints about RVs parked overnight in store parking lots led city compliance officers to enforce an ordinance that limits overnight camping to licensed campgrounds.
The crackdown drew the ire of RV enthusiasts, who expressed their stance against the ordinance in e-mail campaigns and on Web site forums.
In September the mayor appointed an RV parking committee to research overnight RV parking practices in use around the country, and then make recommendations to City Council. Eight people serve on the committee, representing developers, RV users, campgrounds, retailers, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Councilwoman Nancy Boyer, who chairs the committee, told FMCA, “We definitely want to be tourist friendly and provide for RVers who need that overnight stay…. We hope to have a resolution that is satisfactory to all concerned.”
An editorial in the Billings Gazette pointed out that other communities have found common ground on similar “camping” controversies by allowing RVs to park overnight for 18 to 24 hours. The Gazette stated, “Such a limit would let the RV user stop for the night, so long as the private property owner agreed, but would prevent people from living in parking lots.”
The editorial continued, “… There are so many other local issues and so much the RVers and other travelers can enjoy in Billings. The city must move on from this parking controversy.”
Status: The RV parking committee was scheduled to meet again December 13, 2005. According to Ms. Boyer, it was not expected to present recommendations to City Council until at least mid-January 2006.
City Council also has approved a motion to review existing ordinances that regulate residential parking and on-street parking.
Fort Worth, Texas, oversize vehicle parking
Fort Worth, Texas’ ordinance regulating oversize vehicle parking and storage excludes RVs, but the city is considering removing the exclusion.
City Council’s Environment/Neighborhood and Community Services Committee held a public hearing November 16, 2005, to discuss proposed changes to the existing ordinance.
- The existing oversize vehicle ordinance prohibits oversize commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of more than 15,000 pounds from parking on residential property. It also prohibits:
- dump trucks, tractor-trailers, concrete mixing trucks, and buses
- trailers that are more than 20 feet long, wider than 7 feet, or taller than 7 feet
- vehicles that carry more than 15 people
The vehicles may be parked for up to two hours on a residential street. Penalty: a parking ticket and a $75 fine.
In addition to removing the exception for RVs, other potential changes to the existing ordinance include:
- Limiting the overall size of vehicles on residential property
- Imposing a parking distance requirement from the curb or lateral line of the road
- Redefining storage on the street from five days to a shorter time
- Increasing penalties for noncompliance
The city’s Code Compliance Department reported it has received complaints about RVs and other oversize vehicles blocking sidewalks or, when parked on the street, creating obstructions for drivers. The department also heard claims that such vehicles can be eyesores when parked or stored in front yards or along the street.
Status: The Community Services Committee, as of early December 2005, was reviewing citizens’ feedback and preparing recommendations for City Council. No ordinance language had been drafted.
The city has created a Web page focusing on oversize vehicles: www.fortworthgov.org/osv/index.asp.
NHTSA designated seating positions
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing to change the definition of “designated seating position” in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) and establish a new procedure for determining the number of designated seating positions on bench and split bench seats.
The proposal would establish a definition of “designated seating position” that would accurately reflect real-world occupancy. The rule, applicable to all vehicles regardless of weight, would require each location capable of passenger occupancy to be equipped with a restraint system.
This new definition and procedure would eliminate the existing exclusion for auxiliary seats. It also would revise test procedures for seat belt anchorage requirements so that they are suitable for side-facing, temporary, or folding jump seats.
NHTSA issued the proposal in June 2005 and set an August 22 deadline for receiving public comments.
In mid-August FMCA, among other groups, asked for a 60-day extension to investigate how the new rule would affect FMCA members who purchase and use a motorhome manufactured within the scope of the new rule.
Max Durbin, chairman of FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee, expressed concern that the proposed rule does not consider the unique features and recreational purpose of motorhomes.
For travel, motorhomes have designated seating positions that are seat-belt-equipped. Motorhomes also have ample seating positions intended for use while stationary, such as sofas and dinettes.
Providing seat belts for every possible location that meets the new requirements would be impractical, Mr. Durbin said.
Status: Christopher Calamita, an attorney with NHTSA, said the agency received a high number of public comments and is assessing and interpreting them. No timeline has been set for finalizing the rule, he added, and NHTSA has not determined when the rule would take effect.
For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov. The docket number for the Designated Seating Positions and Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages proposal is NHTSA 2005-21600.
Legislative Updates is a periodic column compiled by FMCA’s Governmental and Legislative Affairs Committee “” Max Durbin, chairman “” and Todd Moning, FMCA.com Web editor. Contact the committee through FMCA’s Membership Department, (800) 543-3622; e-mail [email protected].