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  • R(S)VP: Responding to the misinformation about higher ethanol blends


    Your reservations are justified when it comes to E15, a fuel blend with as much as 15 percent ethanol in your gasoline. E15 represents a 50 percent increase in ethanol, compared to the regular E10 found at most service stations across the country.

    For years, the American Motorcyclist Association has been warning legislators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the dangers of motorcyclists and ATV owners inadvertently pumping E15 or higher ethanol blends into their tanks.

    In fact, none of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and ATVs currently in operation is approved for E15 use.

    But you may say, “I know what fuel to put in my ride!”

    We are sure you do. And yet you may end up with some E15 in your fuel tank anyway, causing costly fuel system or engine damage. Even voiding your warranty. How can that be?

    Because some service stations are using labels on their fuel pumps that can be confusing, at best. And some blender pumps may have E15 left over in the hose when you select your preferred blend. So as careful as you are, you could inadvertently misfuel your vehicle with some fuel greater than 10 percent ethanol (E10).

    According to federal regulations, E15 may be sold legally during the summer months if the pump label meets EPA regulations and care is taken to ensure that the Reid Vapor Pressure does not exceed federal standards.

    The AMA clued you in about RVP in an earlier blog post.

    But, briefly, RVP measurement is used by the EPA to regulate the vapor pressure of gasoline sold at retail stations during the summer ozone season (June 1 to September 15). The goal is to reduce evaporative emissions from gasoline that contribute to ground-level ozone and diminish the effects of ozone-related health problems.

    And yet it appears that some fuel retailers have relabeled E15 as flex-fuel. According to a letter from the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and American Petroleum Institute, “The attempt to label and sell E15 as ‘flex-fuel’ is an unlawful attempt to bypass the existing RVP regulatory requirements. If this labeling is allowed, then theoretically, the same logic could apply to virtually any blend of ethanol and gasoline, such as E10.”

    Furthermore, the same AFPM and API letter states that some labels [See Figure1] being used by fueling stations may not meet the current labeling requirements per the EPA misfueling mitigation plan.[1]

    Confused yet?

    Changing the labeling creates even more confusion with an already confusing issue and raises the risk that some of us, no matter how much we know, will unintentionally pump E15 or higher ethanol blends into our fuel tanks.

    It’s bad enough that our engines are not built for E15, but now — adding insult to injury — the EPA says we are violating the law even if we unintentionally pump some of it into our bikes and ATVs!

    The AMA recently sent another letter to the EPA reiterating our concerns and also asked the agency to issue an Enforcement Alert concerning the improper relabeling of E15 as a flex-fuel.

    We will keep you up to date as more information becomes available. Meanwhile, be vigilant when refueling your ride. Be sure you are using the fuel your vehicle manufacturer recommends.


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  • Distracted Driving

    With motorcycles located in the cooler climates coming out of the garage and more riders taking to the roads, we at the AMA are getting more inquiries regarding distracted driving and how to effectively fight back.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that “driver inattention is the leading factor in most crashes and near-crashes,” and “nearly 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds before the event.”

    The good news is that state legislators are beginning to understand the gravity of the problem and take appropriate action by increasing penalties for distracted drivers who cause serious injury or death.

    The bad news is this action often comes too late.

    Pennsylvania Rep. Jaret Gibbons (D-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence) has prepared legislation that would create new penalties for drivers who injure or kill other motorists while texting and driving. The legislation, named after Daniel Gallatin who was killed pulling into his daughter’s driveway by a motorist who was texting, already has 39 cosponsors in the state assembly.

    Similarly, legislators in Florida, Massachusetts and Texas have introduced bills that would require motorists to provide minimum clearance to vulnerable road users when passing, essentially increasing the right-of-way for motorcyclists.

    Unfortunately, legislation alone will not fix the problem of distracted drivers. Fourteen states already have a ban on using handheld devices while driving and 45 states ban texting while driving. However, even in states with these bans, motorists are still texting and talking on the phone while driving – not to mention all of the other distracting activities that drivers perform.

    What can you do to make a difference? Ensure your kids and family members are not driving while distracted. Tell your neighbors about the importance of anti-distracted driving campaigns.

    Have you had a close call with a distracted driver? Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper reminding everyone to share the road. Support legislators who support anti-distracted-driving legislation and increased motorist awareness of motorcycles.

    Most importantly, riders need to educate other motorists about the myriad forms of distracted driving. We need to remind everyone that the fact that you aren’t on your cellphone doesn’t mean you are focused on the road. Eating, drinking, adjusting the radio or GPS and engaging in personal grooming all divert attention from the road.

    We have the numbers on our side. Nearly 80 percent of crashes could potentially be avoided if all drivers focused on the road. Let’s tell fellow motorists and other lawmakers about this problem and work toward a solution.

    Ride safe!



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  • Motorcyclists want a choice, too!

    For many years, the American Motorcyclist Association has expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers -- and educated our members -- about possible damage to motorcycle and all-terrain-vehicle fuel systems and engines caused by the inadvertent use of E15 fuel (15 percent ethanol by volume). 

    While we are working to protect motorcyclists’ interests from unsafe fuels, pro-ethanol groups are wheeling and dealing to force retailers nationwide to sell E15, even though its use can be bad news for tens of millions of motorists. Ethanol lobbyists argue that consumers should have a choice in fuels.

    It’s a straw man argument. Here’s why.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not approved E15 for use in any of the estimated 22 million motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles currently in operation, and increasing E15 in the marketplace can decrease the availability of E10/E0, fuels that are safe for these vehicles. Inadvertent misfueling with E15 can cause damage to motorcycle and ATV fuel system and engine components. It can also void manufacturer warranties.

    It is not a choice if an unsafe fuel is mandated for the public.

    Even the EPA has publicly acknowledged that E15 in gasoline can damage internal combustion engines not designed for its use by increasing exhaust temperatures and indirectly causing component failures. In motorcycles and non-road products, the EPA raised concerns about engine-failure caused by overheating.

    In AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member Jay Leno’s column in Autoweek titled “All I want is to be able to choose when to use ethanol-laced gasoline,” he says he wants the ability to choose to not fill his older vehicles and motorcycles with ethanol blended gasoline.

    The AMA agrees and wants our members to have a choice, too. Learn more about the AMA’s efforts to keep E15 out of the marketplace here.


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  • AMA Advocacy Advancements


    Reporting congressional action, state legislation, and local government initiatives has proliferated due to technology advancements. To meet the challenges of innovative technology, the American Motorcyclist Association Government Relations Department is expanding its communication capabilities, so AMA members can obtain and act on information that is accurate and up-to-date.

    I urge you to take time to visit the AMA website to open the door to a wealth of knowledge designed to help riders be more effective when communicating with their elected officials. Go to www.americanmotorcyclist.com and click on “Rights.” This is the Government Relations homepage where, you will see a rotating window that will introduce you to a presentation of federal and state issues. The list first includes Advocacy Center, then areas labeled Counter the Threats, Position Statements, D.C. Insider, Advocate for the AMA and Get Informed.

    The Advocacy Center is about the future challenges facing motorcyclists at the federal and state level. This information is constantly changing. The legislation affects off-highway and on-highway vehicles. The Federal Action Center takes you to legislation that has been introduced in Congress and rules and regulations being considered by federal agencies. It presents an opportunity to address your concerns.

    The federal legislation includes the fuel mandates forcing marketers to offer more E15 (15 perent ethanol), a fuel blend that fails to meet the warranty requirements on your motorcycle engine and, if misfueled, can damage your engine and fuel system. Other federal legislation includes public-land access issues, mostly in the western part of the United States, funding for the Recreational Trails Program and issues related to discriminatory motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    The State Action Center contains a state map that brings you within a click of viewing legislation in each state. In addition to the legislative updates, the state pages offer a calendar to track meetings within the state and various action tools. The pointer is an image of a motorcycle!

    Most of the issues at the state and local level deal with distracted driving, helmet laws, fuel mandates, the right to ride on private property, and insurance discrimination. Chicago, for example, is considering a mandate requiring retail service stations to carry E15 fuel. The proposal, if it becomes law, could become a model for other cities. The Advocacy Center also contains a section on the AMA’s official position statements and key issues, and a social media page where you will be able to directly Tweet @ your elected officials. The Advocacy Center also contains a legislative scorecard to show you how your members of Congress score, based on their support and involvement with issues facing motorcyclists.

    Because the AMA is constantly updating the Rights section, I encourage members to frequently visit this section to maintain familiarity with the services and issues on the political action section. The AMA’s Washington, D.C., office uses the latest technology to bring you the most recent and most valuable information.

    Modern technology allows the AMA Government Relations Department to provide you with more services and information. We urge you to join the AMA if you are not a member and — if you are a member — encourage your riding friends to join. Then get active. Use the tools we make available to you and help your fellow motorcyclists protect the right to ride.

    We value your suggestions. Please share them with us by sending an email to grassroots@ama-cycle.org. We will also showcase positive testimonials from AMA members on our state pages in the Advocacy Center.

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  • Highway Bill or No Highway Bill

    MAP-21, the acronym for our nation’s current surface transportation bill, is scheduled to expire at the end of May. Since Congress has yet to determine how the next highway bill will be funded, it is more than likely that MAP-21 will be extended for a short period of time. This will allow Congress time to determine the length and funding sources for the next transportation bill.

    In the meantime, the administration released its preferred version of the highway bill—the Grow America Act 2.0. It is basically the same bill the administration introduced in 2014.

    It includes some items the American Motorcyclist Association strongly supports, such as the Recreational Trails Program. The RTP was created on a bipartisan basis in 1991 to provide funds to the states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and non-motorized recreational trail users.

    However, the administration’s proposed bill does not include language to prohibit federal funds for motorcycle-only checkpoints. These checkpoints are discriminatory and the funds being used to operate them should be used to implement proven strategies that help prevent a crash from occurring in the first place, such as rider education and motorist awareness programs.

    It also includes language to allow the federal government to “…engage in activities with States and State legislators…” to change state laws. The AMA opposes this language because we do not believe the federal government should use federal taxpayer dollars and politically charged studies to influence the creation of state laws. According to the U.S. Health and Human Services in a letter to the AMA, “We used a wide body of research from various organizations to identify/define evidence-based interventions. We include studies conducted by the Task Force on Community Preventive Services, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the World Health Organization [Part of the United Nations], and other organizations.”

    Of course Congress will soon have their versions of the next highway bill too. To ensure motorcyclists’ rights are protected, the AMA has been very active on Capitol Hill monitoring proposed legislation and regulations. In the past three weeks, the AMA has met with more than two dozen congressional offices to make sure your voices are heard. Be assured, the AMA is working diligently to make sure Congress includes the interests of motorcyclists in the next highway bill.

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  • All Motorcyclists Feel the Impact of Motorcycle-Only Checkpoints

    We hear feedback from members all the time. Feedback helps us do a better job of serving the AMA mission and we welcome it.

    One of the many issues you have sounded off on is the AMA’s interest in motorcycle-only checkpoints. “What are motorcycle-only checkpoints?” you ask. “I have never experienced them. What is the big fuss?”

    This is what AMA member Brian LeSchander thought until he encountered one in New York.

    “I was directed by a trooper to pull off the main road into a dead end road that was less than 50 yards long with at least a dozen bikes parked in every direction. The area was covered with rocks , stones and debris. I have a 850-pound motorcycle with a passenger aboard and would not choose this as a stop point if I wasn’t directed to. I was ordered to shut down and get off the bike, produce my license, registration and insurance ID card. The officer held my documents and said he would return them to me after we do a lights, horn and tire check, in case he had to write me a citation. I have a current NYS inspection sticker on this bike, and that apparently wasn’t sufficient. My paperwork was also in order. He still insisted that we proceed with the check. He did the check and with a smile handed me my paper work back and released me.”

    It is true that, currently, only a few states implement these checkpoints. And with your help, we have pushed back to prohibit them from appearing in many areas.

    However, New York state still routinely targets motorcyclists with motorcycle-only checkpoints.

    New York budgeted $490,000 in the past two years alone for these discriminatory stops. Even more troubling, the state used motorcycle safety funds from Section 402 of Title 23. These funds should promote programs like rider education to prevent motorcycle crashes from occurring and not be used to arbitrarily pull over riders and randomly subjecting them to roadside inspections.

    We know New York spends much more. It states in its highway safety plans that it has conducted motorcycle-only checkpoints “officially” since fiscal year 2009, but conveniently fails to mention its costs for fiscal years 2009-11.

    I hear you still saying, “But that is New York, I don’t live there”

    The problem is, the funds New York uses to operate motorcycle-only checkpoints are federal dollars. Federal dollars that your state can use in the same way. When we pay our taxes, we should not have to worry the funds will be used to target us with discriminatory checkpoints.

    Still not moved to act to end motorcycle-only checkpoints?

    There is a report soon to be published from an international organization with a long name and broad influence on motorcycle safety: the Joint Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development/International Transport Forum. Buried in the initial report is a section on use of law enforcement. According to the draft report, “A mix of traditional visible enforcement (with on-the-spot roadside checks by police) and automated enforcement for offences such as speeding or red light has the biggest deterrence effect” (emphasis added).

    Now, not only are we fighting how our federal dollars are spent, but also an international body that supports the use of checkpoints.

    Fed up? You can do something about it.

    The AMA supports S. 127, federal legislation that would prohibit federal funding for motorcycle-only checkpoints. Doing so would severely impact the implementation of these discriminatory checkpoints nationwide. In addition to S. 127, we are pushing for support of H.R. 1861, a companion bill in the U.S. House of Representatives..

    Act today by letting your federal lawmakers know that you oppose motorcycle-only checkpoints and support this legislation.

    You — the motorcyclist — can count on the AMA to guard your freedoms while you enjoy the ride.

     

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  • Safety and Trail Fund Raids

    Whether through a registration fee, a special use permit or an OHV sticker purchase, motorcyclists often pay directly for the services they use.

    The motorcycling community does not expect a free lunch and lawmakers tend to respect that fact. We want rider training, increased motorist awareness and accessible trails, and we are willing to chip in to make those needs a reality — even agreeing to additional fees for special accounts intended to enhance the experiences of motorcyclists. But we also demand accountability.

    Unfortunately, many legislators view these accounts as a means to balance or certify a budget or provide a funding boost for a pet project unrelated to motorcycling.

    This year, riders in Texas took notice that motorcycle deaths are rising in their state while dropping across the country, all while the state sits on nearly $16.5 million in unspent motorcycle safety funds. Each year, the funds in the account — accumulated through a $5 surcharge on motorcycle license fees — were held so Texas could certify that its biennial budget balanced.

    As a result, state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) introduced S.B. 754, a bill that would increase the revenue dedicated to motorcycle education and push other legislators to end the practice of using motorcycle training funds to hide budgetary shortfalls.

    New Mexico faces a different fight.

    Registrations for off-highway vehicles in New Mexico are $50 per owner, collected biennially. The New Mexico Off-Highway and Motor Vehicle Act of 2005 specifically earmarks this money for OHV programs.

    However, buried within the 200-page appropriations act is a transfer of $500,000 to the conservation services program of the New Mexico State Park system. As the New Mexico Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance states, “This is especially ironic (and wrong) because by current law, OHVs are not even allowed in any state park!”

    In both of these situations, riders are paying into funds that are not being deployed correctly, if at all. This is unfair and should be immediately rectified.

    Lawmakers can’t fix what they don’t know about. That’s why you need to make sure you are communicating with your elected officials. Haven’t advocated for motorcyclists’ rights before? Read the AMA’s recently updated “How To Communicate With Government” for tips on getting started.

    Are the funds in your state being spent for their intended purpose? If you suspect they are not, please contact the AMA Government Relations Department at grassroots@ama-cycle.org.

    If you live in Texas or New Mexico and would like to take action on either of these important issues, please view the AMA Action Alerts for each state, fill out the form at the bottom of the page and click the red “Submit” button.

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  • Data Privacy Sorely Lacking in the 21st Century

    When most retailers or websites want your personal information, they have to ask for it. And you get a chance to say, “No.” But there is at least one integral part of your everyday life where information can leak without your direct knowledge or consent.

    Today, many vehicles connect with other entities through navigation devices such as GPS, music services and apps on phones. In addition, most cars and trucks come equipped with event data recorders – commonly called black boxes.

    These black boxes collected crash data. However, there are few protections in place to keep your data from being collected and used by others.

    The legal and privacy protections have failed to match the pace of development and implementation of new technology. As a result, more personal information than you are aware of – or comfortable with – is being shared with corporations, the government and others.

    As part of a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, all new automobiles would be required to have an event data recorder (EDR). Yet, the privacy protections related to that data are ambiguous at best. Only 14 states recognize that the data collected by an EDR is the property of the owner and require a court order or consent of the owner for access.

    A bill was introduced in the Congress that attempted to resolve this issue, but it was not enacted.

    At the same time, though, assuming that one bill would protect the information of all motorists is delusional thinking. The Senate privacy bill would cover only information collected by an EDR, not information assembled from the myriad other computer systems found on cars and motorcycles.

    Motorcycling is about freedom. I don’t want to feel there is a spy glass on me when riding my favorite route in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

    Take the first precautionary steps before riding season starts. Check your owner’s manual and see if your motorcycle is equipped with an event data recorder or other technology that has the capacity to store information.

    If your bike has an EDR, please let the government relations department at the AMA know, so we can more effectively work to protect your privacy at the federal and state level. You can contact the government relations department.

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  • AMA supports efforts to protect riders from unsafe fuel

    In an effort to prohibit the availability of E15, a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume, the American Motorcyclist Association supports legislation introduced by U.S. Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.), the RFS Reform Act of 2015.

    The bipartisan bill would:

    •    Amend the Renewable Fuel Standard to recognize market conditions and realities
    •    Eliminate the conventional biofuels mandate. This effectively prohibits the use of corn-based ethanol in the RFS.
    •    Cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10 percent

    In other words, E15—a fuel blend that can damage motorcycle fuel systems and engines—will not be permitted if this legislation becomes law.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    By taking action you will help protect from inadvertent misfueling the 22 million motorcycle and all-terrain vehicles (and the riders who depend on their safe operation) currently in use on America’s roads and trails.

    Preventing these inadvertent misfuelings has been one of the AMA’s top priorities due to the fact that motorcycles and ATVs are not designed to run on ethanol blends higher than 10 percent, and many older machines favored by vintage enthusiasts have problems with any ethanol in the fuel. In fact, often, simply using fuel with blends of ethanol over 10 percent can void a manufacturer’s warranty, potentially leaving motorcyclists with thousands of dollars in additional maintenance costs.

    Take Action to Support Bill

    Join the conversation with us by tweeting using #RFSBroken or share with your friends on Facebook.

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  • DC Insider: Increasing number of distractions in new vehicles

    Although they are not yet here, automated, driverless cars are coming.

    However, looking at some of the new features manufacturers are researching, developing and testing for potential use in new cars, one would think that focusing on the road already is an obsolete concept.

    This development poses problems for motorcyclists, as each new feature represents another potential distraction for drivers.

    CityLab reports that car companies – in an effort to woo young drivers – increasingly are trying to integrate new and more technology into vehicles. For instance, Beetle is working to seamlessly integrate mobile phones into its new cars – even allowing drivers to take selfies while driving.

    We all know that distracted driving is a significant factor in many motorcycle crashes. While we don’t have updated data, the Hurt Report stated in 1981 that the most common cause of motorcycle crashes is another vehicle violating the motorcyclist’s right-of-way.

    The phrase, “I just didn’t see the motorcycle,” is still too common after a crash. Creating new distractions in vehicles can’t be helping the problem.

    Paradoxically, even some of the new features designed to make drivers more aware of the road can serve as distractions.

    The Massachusetts General Court is considering a bill that would allow cars to have monitors installed that would allow a front-seat passenger to have a television and allow screens that provide “the driver with navigation and related traffic, road, and weather information; images used to enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind or to the sides of the motor vehicle; or images that permit the driver to monitor vehicle occupants seated rearward of the driver.”

    Instead of creating new distractions, government agencies, car companies and individual drivers to work to reduce driver distraction. New technologies may not be the answer.

    It is incumbent upon motorcyclists to continue to advocate for sensible policies. The AMA will continue to work with state legislators, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and all other stakeholders to reduce distracted driving and increase the safety of all roadway users.

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