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A Conversation With Wayne Allard, AMA’s Vice President For Government Relations

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Last October, former U.S. Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado joined the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) as vice president for government relations. Allard served two terms as a Senator for his home state, but he’d promised his constituents to put a term limit on his service. We recently chatted with Allard and AMA spokesman Pete TerHorst about the issues facing the motorcycling community.

 

“I was basically a small businessman,” says Allard on how he became involved in politics. “I had come into the political process as a businessman, someone who had to meet a payroll and had to run his own business and keep it running 24/7.”

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Allard, who is a veterinarian by trade, says he got involved because of issues affecting his business in the state. “I first ran for Colorado Senate and got elected in 1982. I was elected to two terms in the State Senate, and then I was a term limiter. I didn’t ever consider myself a professional politician. I was just a citizen legislator who had to go back and live with the laws I passed.”

 

Ironically, one of the pieces of legislation that propelled Allard into becoming involved with the motorcycling community was a bill that he did not vote for. “When I got into the Colorado State Senate, since I believed in having government not tell us what to do all the time, I believed in our freedoms, I got to quickly know the motorcycle riders in our state because the helmet law had come up. I did not support the helmet law. As a result of that, I developed a lot of close relationships with people in the riding community,” says Allard.

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On issues such as the helmet law, Allard believes that the AMA has a responsible approach. “We strongly encourage using good protective gear: clothing, shoes and helmets. We also believe that it is an individual choice as an adult.”

 

Allard has his eye on a whole range of issues facing motorcyclists today. “The main thing that is occupying our time right now is the transportation bills.” says Allard. “They passed both the House and the Senate and are now in conference committees. And we’re spending a lot of time talking to members about the Recreational Trails Program. Now in the House we are in a conference committee, and I am personally spending a lot of time on these issues with key members of the staff and hoping that we can get some key issues in the transportation bill, and the Recreational Trails Program is the top one. And obviously, we are interested in motorcycle only checkpoints, which is a highway issue. And then there’s a fuel issue we are pushing as well. We’re trying to prevent the agencies from using their money to go and lobby the states. Coming out of state legislature, I’m pretty sensitive about that. Our membership is sensitive about it, too.”

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Helmet Law

Pete TerHorst, a spokesman for the AMA, says that historically, at the state level, when the federal government comes along with a mandate for helmet use, the limited funds that are available to prevent crashes get shifted out of the programs such as rider education and motorist awareness.

 

”This is a backwards approach as far as we’re concerned,” says TerHorst. “It doesn’t do anything to prevent crashes, it simply looks at the aftermath of a crash and whether riders wore a helmet or not. We’ve always felt it was an important issue to point out, especially for riders who’ve always worn helmets and don’t need a mandate to continue to wear one.”

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TerHorst says that funds and energy spent on helmet mandates could be better spent elsewhere. “It might take away the ability for riders to get training for themselves or their kids, or for awareness programs that might prevent motorists from running into us on the highway,” explains TerHorst. “That’s why it’s such an important issue. We’ve never had a mandate that resulted in a good outcome for the motorcycling community.”

 

Allard echoes TerHorst’s comments: “We have scarce funds no matter where they come from. We want to focus on training and awareness and avoid the crash to start with.”

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E15 Fuels 

Allard says that one of the biggest issues that may affect dealers and manufacturers is the E15 bill that will mandate the use of 15 percent ethanol in fuels. He says it’s an extremely important piece of legislation to the AMA. And they have been working closely with congressman F. James Sensenbrenner (R.-Wis.) on it. “We would like to have the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certify with an independent agency that E15 does not damage the engines on motorcycles,” says Allard. “All of the information that we have so far says that it does cause damage to the engines on motorcycles, particularly those that are air-cooled, because E15 runs hotter.”

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The E15 issue could affect dealers and manufacturers pretty significantly because of warranty issues when the engines don’t perform correctly or start to breakdown on the road. There could also be some liability issues with bikes that seize engines on the road causing a hazardous condition for the rider.

 

“We’ve been pushing really hard in congress on this issue, and it’s not good for all parties involved,” says Allard. “Some groups are looking at longer chained alcohols, that have extra carbons and are not as much of a solvent, and there are some studies that say these may be less harmful, but we don’t know for sure yet.”

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Sound Legislation

The AMA is also getting involved in sound legislation that is being passed in some states to curb the noise levels of motorcycle exhaust systems. This issue may also affect a dealer’s ability to sell an aftermarket or an older OEM exhaust system to customers in California by as early as 2013. 

 

“We have a sound engineer in Columbus, Ohio, who is going to a number of state legislators and talking about going to a sound measuring system approach that we have seen developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) called SAE-J2825,” explains Allard. “That’s something that we’ve been promoting in state legislatures … New Hampshire is the first state to get what we wanted done, and we hope that other states will pick it up and follow suit on J2825. It makes much more sense. It’s much more reliable and fair because you can measure the motorcycle at a standstill, it doesn’t have to be driving by to measure sound. It is a decibel reading, and usually what they set it to is 92 to 95 decibels. If you are familiar [with] the off-road sound measurement process that was adopted in the ’80s (SAE J1287), it uses the same type of process. It’s an idle and set-rpm check for decibels. It is extremely practical for law enforcement to use, whereas the EPA measurement was never really designed for a roadside check.”

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The sound issue is important for dealers to understand, according to TerHorst and Allard. California, for example, went the other way on the issue and now has a mandate that takes effect for 2013 that requires an EPA label for exhaust pipes. And TerHorst says that’s going to put a real strain on dealers there because if you’re an aftermarket manufacturer, you’re going to have to certify each pipe design for each model. 

 

Most manufacturers don’t have the budget to certify each pipe they make for every model, and industry groups say it’s not practical. “It’s going to really restrict the number of systems a dealer is going to be able to sell,” says TerHorst. “He may not even be able to get an OEM system for a bike that’s 10 years old. So it puts a big hurt on the end-user as well. That’s why we like this other standard so much, and why we get great support from dealer associations.”

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Allard and TerHorst say that the vast majority of the motorcycling community prefer a pleasant sounding engine and that the J2825 standard will be acceptable to this group. “The community has really embraced the standard and realize that some of the systems out there that are causing problems are the ones responsible for the draconian measures in the first place,” says TerHorst.

 

While there are some important issues on the table to be resolved, TerHorst was very complimentary of the Senator and his staff for bringing advocacy to the forefront. “Not that it hasn’t been the case in the past, but it really has become a key focus for the organization,” he says. “And the Senator and his staff have done a great job. I think it’s also important at the dealer level because, as you know, some of the motorcycling issues we have are regional issues. If you’re in the East you don’t necessarily know about the Western land use issues. If you’re a street rider you don’t really think about the off-road issues as much. If you’re an off-road rider, you don’t really think about the street rider issues or why anyone has a mandate on helmet use. 

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TerHorst points out that one of the biggest victories for riders and the motorcycle industry in general was stopping the lead law as it affected youth motorcycles and ATVs. “That would have never happened if the whole community didn’t come together to contact their legislators. That’s an effort that needs to continue,” he says. “And the best way to encourage it is for dealers to encourage customers to become AMA members and to support motorcycling as an overall lifestyle in every segment that it represents.”

 

Allard says that he is happy to be back in the private sector and to be able to use his knowledge and connections in Washington to work on the behalf of motorcyclists. “I went into politics with the idea that I’d get out after a few years. It just seemed that I was always encouraged to run for the next office, and I was fortunate enough to win. Now I’m back out in the real world, for sure, and I’m enjoying every minute of it with the AMA. They’re a great bunch of people and I look forward to getting to know your dealers as well.”  

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