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By: Robert Janis

The All-Terrain Vehicle Association: Protector of the Faith

ATVA Online

God knows that anything associated with ATVs has been the target of all sorts of private and public groups including environmental organizations and safety advocates. These groups have attempted to get local, state and federal governments to limit if not to restrict the use of ATVs in all sorts of situations and environments. Well, ATV riders, owners, and racers, take heart. There is a group that is defending your rights against these groups. That group is the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA).

Actually, the current ATVA is the second incarnation of an association dedicated to protecting the rights of ATV owners.

In the Beginning
Back in the mid- 1980s the American Motorcycle Association (AMA), witnessing the growth of three-wheelers and ATV racing, created the American All-Terrain Vehicle Association (AATVA) under its banner. According to Doug Morris, director of the current All-Terrain Vehicle Association, the AATVA served ATV riders for about two or three years. Then there was a big controversy concerning three-wheelers which caused the AMA to close down the AATVA and threatened to end the business and sport of ATV.

“Three-wheelers were actually banned,” said Morris. “OEMs had three wheeler racing teams at the time and they picked up their three-wheelers and shut down their racing teams. Manufacturers decided not to participate in ATV racing anymore. And the focus of the AATVA was competition. The AMA didn’t know what the future would hold for ATV riders. So in late 1988, they dropped AATVA and brought ATV riders back under the AMA banner. Then as ATV racing and riders started to come back and needs for places to ride began to grow again, the board of directors of the AMA decided to bring back the concept of an ATV association and started the All-Terrain Vehicle Association in 2001.”

Doug Morris ATVA Director
Doug Morris ATVA Director

The Structure of the ATVA
The only staff of the ATVA is the director, Doug Morris. The association uses the infrastructure of the AMA to do its work. That includes a government relations department that has a staff of six people as well as the vice president of government relations and a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and California. In addition, the AMA subscribes to a monitoring service that observes all federal and state legislation. What this service discovers is then broken up and distributed to personnel involved in a number of disciplines concerning ATVs. “We have one guy who concentrates on road issues, another guy who focuses just on off-road issues and we have a lady who monitors all the legislation as well,” said Morris. “She also uses a sophisticated search agent. So anything on the internet that comes up with the keywords of “ATV” or “Motorcycles” or “Off-Road” or any other word or phrase associated with ATV will come up in the search.

“For things on the federal level, we have lobbyists in Washington, D.C. and they can go to the appropriate Congressman, committees or committee chairmen and communicate with their staff. We are doing that almost on a daily basis,” continued Morris.

When it comes to watching the states and reacting to what they are doing, the association relies on local riders and concerned ATVers to testify, call or write letters. “They represent us in the state capitals,” said Morris. “We also have an individual who works with groups, organizations, state associations, and clubs to help them deal with state issues.”

To prepare individuals for combat with state governments, the ATVA through the AMA holds seminars called Ride In For Political Action. “When individuals get involved on the state level it is basic grass roots politics,” said Morris. The seminars teach activists how to work the government and how an individual, club, or state association can effect change in their city, county and state. “So if there is an issue that riders think needs changing in a particular state, we get to people in those areas and help them and provide them with information. We do whatever we can do to help them work the issue.” For the smaller issues that are on the county or city level, the association relies on concerned ATVers to notify them.

Morris pointed out that there was no need for the ATVA to construct its own infrastructure when the AMA already has it. “There was no need to duplicate what the AMA has done. They have been doing it for more than 80 years,” said Morris.

ATVA Successes
Morris volunteered that the most urgent but least known problems for ATV owners during the last three to four years are the actions of the Consumer Federation of America against ATVs. It all started back in 1986. “The Consumer Federation of America filed a petition with the Consumer Products Safety Commission to ban three wheelers,” said Morris. “That’s when we lost our three wheelers. That organization was also successful in coming up with the age/cc guidelines.” These guidelines set the rules concerning the age of the rider and how large the ATV he rides can be. “Those rules required 15 year- olds have to ride 90cc ATVs regardless of their actual size.” Morris pointed out that the rules are just guidelines and not federal law. Still, manufacturers and dealers are required to follow the guidelines when selling ATVs that will be used by kids. About three and one half to four years ago, the major American ATV manufacturers -- Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha -- rather than going to court, agreed to the guidelines in a consent decree that was to last for 10 years. That decree expired in April, 1998. After that date, the manufacturers decided to voluntarily follow the guidelines and have done that ever since.

Then about three to four years ago the Consumer Federation of America filed a petition with the Consumer Products Safety Commission to ban the sale of ATVs to kids and to ban their use by kids under the age of 16. “That was very serious,” commented Morris. “If it could be proven that ATVs were a hazardous product, they could be banned by the federal government. And that would effect anybody who is 16 years-old throughout the entire country,” said Morris. “There weren’t a lot of people paying attention to this except the ATVA.”

Morris and the government relations specialist for the ATVA/AMA, Royce Wood, have been to Washington, D.C. to testify before the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) and have traveled around the country to testify where the CPSC have held hearings. They also managed a nationwide petition drive against the Consumer Federation of America’s petition and have delivered the petition to the CPSC. They also encouraged people to send letters, make phone calls, send e-mails, and fax comments to the CPSC. “About a year ago, after three years of testimony, hearings, letters, etc. the Consumer Product Safety Commission voted to deny the Consumer Federation of America’s petition,” said Morris. “Moreover, the petition by the CFA prompted the Consumer Product Safety Commission to re-evaluate the age/cc restrictions. And for the last one and one half years the Consumer Product Safety Commission has been investigating and re-writing the guidelines. Now they are looking at the possibility of dropping the age guidelines altogether and drafting a new proposal which would call for the rider to fit the ATV without regard to the cc.”

Doug Morris an ASI instructor teaching others how to safely ride an ATV.
Doug Morris an ASI instructor teaching others how to safely ride an ATV.

Morris noted that the anti-ATV activist groups propose that there is a need for some kind of limitations, so they are advocating speed limitations. “Their guidelines are calling for the creation of four different classes of ATV youth models which are restricted to certain speeds,” said Morris.

Another issue related to the youth guidelines fight is the fact that foreign manufacturers of ATVs have not complied with the voluntary youth guidelines that the U.S. manufacturers have. As a result, there are no standards or federal regulations on ATVs that are imported into the U.S. “The domestic manufacturers of ATVs are not playing on a level playing field in their competition with the foreign manufacturers and the imported ATVs,” said Morris.

Last year a senator from the state of Minnesota introduced legislation in Congress that would make all ATVs, whether made domestically or overseas, meet certain guidelines. A senate committee recently held hearings on the bill as it moves its way through Congress. “The legislation sets certain standards for braking, controls, sound, lighting and more so that ATVs coming into the United States are safe,” said Morris. “The legislation also requires that manufacturers and dealers must offer free training on how to ride an ATV.” The ATVA continues to monitor the progression of this legislation.

The ATVA also promotes the sport, asserted Morris. “When I started with the ATVA, there was very little ATV racing on the local level. The growth of ATV racing on the national level has helped it grow on the local level. In 2001 there were the Grand National Championships. Riders had to compete in five motocross races and five GT races. The rider who did best in the two series was crowned the Grand National Champion.

“We split that series in two,” continued Morris. “The motocross championship went from five events in just a small area of the country to 12 events in more locations nationwide. And, as far as the GT series is concerned, we changed the name to the Extreme Dirt Track ATV Nationals and grew it from five races to eight races. So there is a lot more happening on the local level. Moreover, there is ATV only motocross local series in Pennsylvania and Minnesota and more only Hare Scramble series. One of the best is in Iowa. So we’ve helped the racing side grow a bunch.”

The ATVA has also been involved in opening up more riding areas around the country. “Going back 10 years ago, the AMA got together with people in West Virginia, and they were influential in developing the Hatfield and McCoy Trail System. Now the same concept is developing in Kentucky and Tennessee,” said Morris.

Morris asserted that he and the group’s government relations director talk to land managers and private individuals daily concerning the issue of opening up more riding areas. He noted that the ATVA has partnered with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition Council and Blue Ribbon putting on land use seminars and workshops to help groups identify possible new riding areas and providing information on what can be developed. The association has been in contact with the Wayne National Forest in Ohio on how they can help with economic impact studies that could help bring more riders into that park. Also, Morris has recently attended a meeting in Minnesota and plans to go to meetings in Wisconsin and in Alabama carrying on this issue. The association is also working with the National Forest Service nationwide putting on Route Designation Workshops where people can come into a state and give input to the Forest Service on what is needed, what trails are present to open to riders, and they help document existing trails. The association also contacts concerned ATVers via mail about meetings to get people on the grass roots level to participate.

The association is also involved in the development of ATV riders’ clubs. They offer a kit describing how to form a club which includes sample bylaws, descriptions on how to organize, etc.

Morris explained that the association is trying to encourage local clubs and then help them to organize into state associations. This creates a structure which allows the ATVA to work with the state associations and the state associations work with the local clubs to stimulate activity at the grass roots level.

ATVA Membership Card
ATVA Membership Card

Membership
According to Morris, anyone can become a member of the ATVA. There is no requirement that members have to own an ATV. Fee for recreational riders to become members is $29 a year. Racers are required to pay a fee of $39 a year. There are about 9,000 paying members of the ATVA, and there are 16,000 AMA members who say that they also ride ATVs.

Members receive discounts on ATV insurance, and members who are racers can sign up for the Rider Medical Program. Racers who participate in AMA/ATVA sanctioned events can purchase different levels of benefits.

Members are also entitled to discounts at certain hotels and motels, a credit card that will get ATVA members a discount on purchases, and members can take advantage of the ATVA’s association with a company that transports ATVs to different locations if the owner can’t.

Members also are allowed to participate in one or more of 4,000 events sanctioned by the ATVA or the AMA. Members also get the ATVA News every other month and are allowed access to a members’ only section on the ATVAonline website (www.atvaonline.com). The special section includes a list of more than 100 places to ride.

More information can be found at the All-Terrain Vehicle Association website (www.atvaonline.com). You do not have to be a member to gain access to the site.


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