Friday, March 07, 2008
RVIA ADOPTS CALIFORNIA CODES FOR FORMALDEHYDE
Friday, March 7, 2008
The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) has tightened formaldehyde-emissions standards in wood products used to build RVs for the second time in six months.
The RVIA board, meeting March 1 during the association’s annual meeting on the Big Island in Hawaii, unanimously voted to adopt proposed requirements by the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Those limits are more stringent than the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requirements for manufactured homes that RVIA adopted in September 2007, effective Jan. 1.
Meeting the new standard will be a requirement of RVIA membership, although the effective date will be determined during the board’s June 12 meeting during RVIA Committee Week.
The CARB regulation establishes a new formaldehyde-emissions standard in two phases for three composite wood products — hardwood plywood, particleboard and medium density fiberboard (MDF) used to make RVs and other finished goods or products that are offered for sale in California.
It is expected that California will issue a final rule authorizing the new regulation this spring.
The first phase of the CARB wood-products standard stipulates that veneer core and thin MDF meet an emission level of .08 parts per million by Jan. 1, 2009. Composite core materials must meet the same level by June 1, 2009. Fabricators, including RV manufacturers, building products for sale in California — no matter where they are manufactured or assembled — will have until July 1, 2010 to convert to CARB-certified wood products.
"We adopted the new CARB wood-product emission standard ahead of California’s official establishment of the regulation to underscore our commitment to our customers and their ability to use our products with confidence," said RVIA President Richard Coon. "We also wanted to give our members ample time for planning to meet the implementation date."
In other action board also:
— Approved supporting and endorsing the Motorcycle Industry Council’s Partners Standard Protocol (PSP) Implementation Project and providing staff resources to assist TranStand in identifying prospective RVIA members to participate in the project. PSP creates uniform standards for electronic communication and transactions between trading partners.
— Appointed Matthew Miller, president of Newmar Corp., to replace Dick Parks, CEO and chairman of the board of Newmar, on the RVIA board. Miller will serve the remainder of the fiscal year and run for re-election during the association elections this summer.
— Voted to require, effective June 2, that RV types not covered by the federal weight label requirements of FMVSS 110 or 120 to comply with the applicable FMVSS requirements as a condition of RVIA membership.
— Endorsed publishing and distributing to the industry the final recommendations from the Committee on Excellence Task Forces examining customer service.
— Voted to exclude park trailers from the National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., and the California RV Show in Pomona, Calif.
— Extended RVIA’s contract with the KEC to host the National RV Trade Show through 2012, and directed that show space rates remain the same this year as in 2007.
ARGUMENTS OVER INCREASE OF SQUARE FOOTAGE IN TRAILERS
Thursday, March 6, 2008
The Recreation Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA) took the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to task in a full-page ad in the Elkhart (Ind.) Truth this morning (March 6) over RVIA’s authorization — contrary to the ANSI code — to allow manufacturers to build larger travel trailers.
"As a result, dealers in at least 15 states ... may be putting themselves and their customers at risk, even if these units display an RVIA seal," the ad said. "It may also be difficult for dealers and consumers to insure or finance these units."
Coincidental to the ad’s appearance, the RVIA board, during the association’s annual meeting March 1 on the Big Island of Hawaii, voted to exclude park trailers from the National RV Trade Show at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., effective with the 2008 show the week after Thanksgiving.
"The RVIA board ultimately felt it was unfair to provide space to park trailer manufacturers (who are not RVIA members), when RV manufacturers have been unable to exhibit or have had their booth size reduced because of space constraints," said an RVIA spokesman. The spokesman had no comment on the RPTIA ad.
Garpow said he received word of the RVIA board’s action Tuesday in a telephone call from RVIA President Richard Coon after The Truth ad already had been scheduled.
The square footage dispute centers around RVIA granting members the authority effective Jan. 1 to build travel trailers up to 400 square feet in size, rather than the 320 square feet they’ve been limited to since 1987. RPTIA fears that larger travel trailers will compete unfairly with so-called park models between 320 to 400 square feet that are manufactured by it members, some of which also build travel trailers.
After RPTIA objections last fall, RVIA abandoned a concurrent plan to ask Congress to allow fifth-wheels to be larger than 400 square feet, a limit now established by federal statute.
"The ad is a way to show that we are serious about what we are saying," William Garpow, RPTIA executive director, told RVBusiness. "We published it in the hometown paper of the RV industry to get the industry’s attention. We hope to alert the dealers and RV consumer that what RVIA is doing is putting them at some risk."
RPTIA was even more critical in an accompanying press release that said RPTIA was "exposing" RVIA for allowing the "production of supersize travel trailers that violate state and federal building and safety codes."
"We think dealers should be alarmed," the press release said.
RVIA has acknowledged that travel trailers larger than 320 square feet will not be in compliance with the ANSI code, but that compliance on the part of the association and its members is voluntary, even though a number of state regulations cede their authority to regulate RVs to the ANSI code.
RVIA said it will work to change statutes in those states — including California, Arizona and Florida — where a large number of RVs are sold, and to seek to revise the ANSI standards during the next review cycle which won’t be completed until 2011.
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
INDOOR AIR QUALITY OF KATRINA TRAILERS MAY CAUSE BUILDING RULES TO TIGHTEN UP
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The trailers used to house victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have turned indoor air quality into a front-burner issue and could lead to sterner building codes for manufactured housing and even regular homes, environmentalists and engineers say.
The Indianapolis Star reported that a pair of congressional committees have opened inquiries into the higher formaldehyde levels measured inside some of the travel trailers and mobile homes made expressly for more than 100,000 Louisiana and Mississippi residents displaced by the 2005 storms.
Indiana trailer makers, including Coachmen Industries Inc., Gulf Stream Coach Inc. and Pilgrim International Inc. have until Friday (March 7) afternoon to produce documents ordered by the House Oversight and Government Procurement Committee. The committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., is looking into the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) response to reports that formaldehyde, a chemical used in wood adhesives and found in nature, was sickening trailer residents.
FEMA, a federal agency that provides disaster assistance, ordered 56,000 trailers and turned them over primarily to Katrina victims in 2005 and 2006 as temporary housing until their homes were restored.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified eight manufacturers at the center of the formaldehyde controversy. Six have extensive operations in Indiana, where about 23,000 workers form the center of the nation's manufactured housing industry.
When FEMA ordered the emergency trailers, it did not spell out the building specifications for manufacturers in detail, said Joseph Hagerman, who heads the building technology group for the Federation of American Scientists in Washington.
The Star reported that many manufacturers used inexpensive plywood from China and employed sloppier production methods than are usual as a way to cut costs and make higher profits, said Hagerman, an architect and civil engineer who studied the FEMA trailers for the federation.
"My one concern is this is going to kill the manufactured housing industry in the United States,'' Hagerman said. "It's going to create the perception that all manufactured housing is full of formaldehyde.''
The federation, whose funds include grants from the U.S. Department of Energy, was hired by the state of Mississippi to help design a safer emergency trailer for storm victims after the formaldehyde issue surfaced.
Because of the congressional probes, Hagerman said he expects trailer makers will fight back against a public perception that they are making unhealthy houses.
"What you're going to see is a move to a tougher code,'' Hagerman said.
Builders could launch a campaign to point out that they have upgraded standards, he said, and the campaign could carry over to builders of regular homes, which he said emit formaldehyde just as the emergency trailers do. Emergency trailers are far smaller than regular homes and contain less air, so the formaldehyde is more concentrated, he said.
To reduce formaldehyde, he said, trailer manufacturers could adopt the plan the federation developed for Mississippi. Among its specifications, he said, are that a venting system is in place, wooden surfaces are sealed with special paint to keep the gas from escaping, plywood use is minimal, and drywall replaces natural wood molding and trim on walls.
Formaldehyde is a colorless gas emitted naturally as wood decomposes or, scientists say, as some foods are fried in cooking oil. It is also commonly put in glue. Today, millions of homes contain furniture and cabinets put together with glue using formaldehyde. The chemical helps wooden molecules bind tightly in plywood and particle board.
In Mississippi, about 1,200 trailers have been built to the federation's 60-page specifications, Hagerman said, noting each unit costs $17,000 to $32,000, compared with $14,000 to $27,000 for the trailers FEMA purchased.
The Star reported that two decades ago, makers of mobile homes and travel trailers in Indiana and throughout the nation fended off air quality concerns by adjusting production processes to use less formaldehyde. The issue surfaced again early in 2006 on the Gulf Coast, where residents living in the FEMA trailers complained of respiratory ailments.
Both the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the Recreational Park Trailer Association (RPTIA) last year adopted formaldehyde emission control standards established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development for the manufactured housing industry.
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
CDC TESTING REPORT NAMES BRAND NAMES
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
A report released Monday (March 3) by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided brand-specific information gleaned from the agency’s recent testing of formaldehyde levels on 519 trailers, park models and manufactured houses used for emergency relief following the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The Associated Press reported that CDC said formaldehyde levels in the trailers provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) vary greatly by brand. According to the report, air samples from trailers made by Gulf Stream Coach Inc., Keystone RV Co., Pilgrim International Inc. and Forest River Inc. contained more than four times the formaldehyde levels that are found in newer U.S. homes.
All four manufacturers, which had no comment or were unavailable when contacted by RV Business, are headquartered in Northcentral Indiana. Rep. Mark Souder, who represents the state's third district including a major portion of Elkhart County, recently met with several Indiana manufacturers and is questioning CDC's findings. Souder also sits on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has been looking into formaldehyde levels and alleged respiratory ailments in trailers for more than a year.
“I have several problems with CDC’s conclusions, particularly that there wasn’t any distinction made between the trailers built specifically for FEMA with different specs and mainstream trailers from dealers,” Souder told RV Business.
In a letter to CDC Director Julie Gerberding, Souder also noted that no set standard was used in the testing and other variables outside of outgassing from trailers could raise fume levels. “It does not appear that in analyzing the ambient level of formaldehyde in mobile homes and travel trailers, all potential sources of that formaldehyde were fully considered,” he wrote. “Formaldehyde is a common chemical used in many household products, and the level of ambient formaldehyde can be elevated by, among many other things, pollution, mold, smoking and cooking.”
The Associated Press reported that air samples from 358 travel trailers, 82 park models and 79 mobile homes were taken from Dec. 21 through Jan. 23, said Mike McGeehin, director of a CDC division that focuses on environmental hazards.
CDC said that the fume levels in the majority of the 519 trailer and mobile homes in Louisiana and Mississippi were higher than what people are exposed to in most modern homes.
The CDC found average levels of 77 parts formaldehyde per billion parts of air, significantly higher than the 10 to 17 parts per billion concentration seen in newer homes. Levels were as high as 590 parts per billion.
In the latest report, the CDC found an average level of 108 parts per billion in Pilgrim-brand travel trailers, 103 in trailers made by Gulf Stream, 102 in those built by Keystone and 85 in those made by Forest River.
Fleetwood trailers had average levels of 39 and 42 parts per billion. All other brands of travel trailers, analyzed collectively by the CDC, averaged 73 parts per billion.
By far the most prevalent brand among FEMA's nearly 47,000 trailers, park models and mobile homes is Gulf Stream, with more than 14,600 trailers. Forest River is the second most common with about 3,200 trailers.
The CDC study found that formaldehyde levels in park models and mobile homes were on average lower than those in travel trailers.
According to the Associated Press, the study did not prove people became sick from the fumes, but merely took a snapshot reading of fume levels. They tested only for formaldehyde, a colorless gas with a pungent smell that can cause respiratory problems and has been classified by scientists as a carcinogen.
It's not clear whether the finding in the Gulf Coast trailers can be applied to travel trailers elsewhere in the country, McGeehin said. Scientists have said that heat and other factors may increase formaldehyde levels.
“We have to limit ourselves to the data in front of us,” he said. “Right now I don't feel any cause for alarm for people who own these units.”
DAN GAMEL OWNING AND RUNNING HIS COMPANY AGAIN
Monday, March 3, 2008
Dan Gamel is back in charge of the California-based recreational vehicle empire that bears his name, trying to keep it afloat despite a declining economy, sliding home values and rising number of foreclosures sending ripples through the industry.
The Fresno Bee reported that Gamel confirmed he recently reacquired the company from the employees he sold it to in 2005 – and subsequently closed two California stores last week. He shuttered a dealership in Santa Rosa on Tuesday and his Chico facility Thursday, laying off a total of 70 people. Gamel dealerships in Fresno, Bakersfield, Modesto, Redding and Rocklin are staying open.
"The gravy train is over," said competing RV dealer Paul Evert of Fresno. "Only the strong and smart will survive, and that is the truth."
Evert said the employees who sold the business back to Gamel ran into tough times: "It's not their fault. Gamel had to take it back, whether he wanted to or not."
The Santa Rosa store opened in July but never gained traction. The store in Chico, opened in 1990, was hurt when Gamel debuted a bigger outlet along Interstate 5 in Redding in 2003. "When we opened Redding, we just killed Chico," he said.
That wasn't a problem when things were going well, but the Chico outlet became a liability. "I can afford a crippled store in a strong market, but not when it is taxing resources,” Gamel said. “I don't have a lot of time and energy to continue to nurse that market along."
Gamel also cited soaring health care and insurance costs and the price tag of doing business in California as factors that contributed to financial woes at his company.
Evert said he was fortunate that his business broke even in 2007: "Instead of selling 100 units a month we're selling 75 a month. That's 25% of the profit."
He said the next three or four years could be rough for the industry. A small dealer down the street from his lot on Highway 99 went out of business last week and a few more could fall by the wayside, he said. "When your business is off 25% or 30%, you have to change things and have to work damn hard," he said.
Dan Gamel RV Centers lost money last year but is expected to be profitable in 2008, he said. Gamel said he is optimistic about the long-term fortunes of the industry, especially if interest rates remain low. The high exchange rate driving up the cost of travel to Europe also could benefit RV dealers in this country, he said.
FLEETWOOD LAUNCHES OWN FINANCIAL SERVICES
Monday, March 3, 2008
Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. announced today (March 3) that it is launching Fleetwood Financial Services (FFS), a new RV finance unit that will provide exclusive benefits to its recreational vehicle dealers, as well as competitive retail financing to the dealers' customers.
According to the Riverside, Calif.-based builder, the core offerings of FFS were co-developed with Bank of America Dealer Financial Services and are designed to “strengthen Fleetwood's partnership with its dealers and drive retail sales by enhancing customer financing options.”
Fleetwood said the new venture will provide “attractive” wholesale and retail finance alternatives, reduce dealers' flooring costs, and further enhance the competitive advantage of Fleetwood's RV products as they are marketed through its U.S. network of independent RV dealers.
"This initiative is more comprehensive than any financing program currently available in the recreational vehicle industry and we believe it has exceptional potential to benefit our business partners," said Paul C. Eskritt, president of Fleetwood's RV Group. "One of its unique characteristics is the scalability of the various wholesale and retail financing programs, which will allow dealers of all sizes to have an opportunity to participate, making them and their retail customers the greatest beneficiaries of this exclusive arrangement."
Bank of America, which has a strong presence in the RV retail lending sector, has a longstanding relationship with Fleetwood as it provides a major share of floorplan financing for the company’s products.
"Bank of America is an ideal choice for this venture because of its size, scale and prominence in the recreational vehicle financing arena," said Elden L. Smith, president and CEO of Fleetwood. "As a result, FFS will offer very attractive exclusive financing options to our dealers. We expect that the alliance will enable both Fleetwood's RV Group and Bank of America Dealer Financial Services to increase revenues, market share, and dealer distribution.”
He added, “Various programs and incentives will be employed to support our products; increase the value and importance of our relationships with our dealers, which should result in increased shelf space; and drive retail sales of our products. FFS is positioned to make Fleetwood's dealers more profitable as well as significantly increase the cost effectiveness of our marketing efforts."
Monday, March 03, 2008
RECALL: MONACO/HOLIDAY RAMBLER (LP HOSE)
HOLIDAY RAMBLER / SCEPTER 2006-2007
MONACO COACH / CAMELOT 2006-2007
Manufacturer : MOTOR COACH INDUSTRIES, INC Mfr's Report Date : FEB 26, 2008
NHTSA CAMPAIGN ID Number : 08V098000 NHTSA Action Number: N/A
Component: EQUIPMENT:RECREATIONAL VEHICLE:LPG LINES AND FITTINGS
Potential Number Of Units Affected : 122
MONACO IS RECALLING 122 MY 2006-2007 CAMELOT AND HOLIDAY RAMBLER SCEPTER CLASS A MOTOR HOMES. THE RUBBER LIQUID PROPANE (LP) HOSE ON THE BACK OF THE REFRIGERATOR MAY HAVE EXTRA LENGTH OF HOSE. THIS EXTRA HOSE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PULLED BACK BY THE MAIN HOUSE CONNECTION AND SECURED. THIS EXTRA HOSE POTENTIALLY CAN BE DAMAGED BY HEAT FROM THE BURNER TUBE IF THE HOSE COMES IN CONTACT WITH THE BURNER FLUE.
IF THE HOSE IS IN CONTACT WITH THE BURNER FLUE FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME, THE HOSE CAN MELT CAUSING AN LP LEAK WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF A FIRE.
DEALERS WILL INSPECT THE REFRIGERATOR COMPARTMENT AND FOR EXCESS LP HOSE. IF THE HOSE IS NOT DAMAGED, IT WILL BE SECURED WITH A CLAMP AWAY FROM THE BURNER FLUE. IF THE HOSE SHOWS ANY SIGN OF MELTING OR FATIGUE, IT WILL BE REPLACED FREE OF CHARGE. THE RECALL IS EXPECTED TO BEGIN DURING LATE MARCH 2008. OWNERS MAY CONTACT MONACO AT 1-800-685-6545.
CUSTOMERS MAY ALSO CONTACT THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION'S VEHICLE SAFETY HOTLINE AT 1-888-327-4236 (TTY 1-800-424-9153), OR GO TO HTTP://WWW.SAFERCAR.GOV.