collateral_damage_dvdIn warfare there is a term – collateral damage – that is used to describe damage to people and property which is unintended or incidental to the intended outcome. It is important we understand that, unlike land closures and noise ordinances, the latest threat to our vintage dirt bike hobby, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act of 2010, is not targeted toward vintage dirt bikes, or motorcycles, or even off-road vehicles in general.

It is targeted at the thousands of foreign manufacturers who ship electronics, toys, clothing, and consumer goods into the US. It is intended to make those companies subject to, and easily accessible by, the US tort system. It also includes any suppliers to those companies – such as companies that make boxes, pallets, packaging materials, straps, plastics, etc.

We, the vintage dirt bikers, are just a little invisible community that will be squashed if this bill passes.

I read an interesting quote today from the folks at Downsize DC, an activist group fighting for smaller government:

Politicians and bureaucrats constantly speak with a forked tongue…

  • They claim they’re protecting “the little guy” from “the fat cats,” when in reality…
  • The State actually works for the fat cats (though in an unreliable Mafia kind of way).

This is quite perceptive, and is what is actually occurring with H.R.4678. The bureaucrats and politicians push out one more sweeping piece of legislation, under the guise of protecting us, that incidentally crushes the small guys while offering barely a hurdle to the billion-dollar corporations.

Here is a sad, relevant tale of collateral damage under the CPSIA – the story of small-but-growing home business crushed under the weight of legislation which big corporations are now using to browbeat their small suppliers.

To address the reams of similar horror stories that have emerged from CPSIA, H.R.4678 contains provisions for rule-making on the “minimum amount” that triggers the need to register — a process that, ostensibly, will relieve the burden on small businesses. But how will that work? Let’s look at one observer’s analysis — Rick Woldenberg of CPSIA blog:

And consider how this rule might be applied. To determine whether you are above or below the threshold, you must disclose your revenues and volumes to the government for their scrutiny and approval. This is remarkably invasive and is reason enough for many factories to concentrate on sales to South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Who needs this nonsense?

[And if registration is unavoidable, the registration process itself is also tedious and requires the disgorgement of lots of detailed information – which not only will discourage participation but also sets up the foreign manufacturers for liability to the government for “false” statements if they make errors. We have 1500 catalog items, so I can identify with the problems that this kind of requirement might create. It’s nothing more than a bureaucratic set-up for regulators to accumulate causes of action to use as they see fit.]

There are people, some of them knowledgeable, who disagree with Woldenberg. But to his point, how else will the US Government or Agency know that you are under its threshold for registration if you don’t disclose all the relevant information?

If you are GMC of Australia, or Sammy Miller Products of the UK, or that guy in Australia who re-pops rubber carb boots and such out of his shed, are you going to hire a solicitor in your country to guide you through this process? Are you going to turn over your books to the US Government? What if you’re Northwest Maico/CZ, or AMS Racing? Are you going to get all your suppliers certified with the government?

What about individuals, can we order something from overseas even if it isn’t imported? Are we then importers? Will the item be allowed through Customs? I do not know the answers to these questions.

What I do know is that if this piece of legislation passes, rule-making or no, it is a potential nightmare for our hobby. The only way we can fight back is to contact our Congressmen now and let them know the serious impact this could have, and that their solution to the problem is inadequate.

This bill has 63 cosponsors ( list available at and if your representative is on this list it is critically important you make your views known now, early in the process. If you are importing parts, you should contact your Congressman now.

We are unlikely to get support from any of our organizations. We are too few, too quiet, and too easily dismissed. We must stand up for ourselves, before it is too late.