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RPTIA Contests Increasing Trailer Size

January 22, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

Recreational park trailer manufacturers say that the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is going to damage its trade group financially by allowing RVIA members to build travel trailers between 320 and 400 square feet – a market niche heretofore occupied exclusively by park models.
And the prospect of losing revenue – and perhaps members – to RVIA, the nation’s largest RV manufacturer-dominated trade group, is not being warmly received by the Newnan, Ga.-based Recreational Park Trailer Industry Association (RPTIA).
“It will have a financial impact on us,” said Bill Garpow, RPTIA executive director. “If someone takes 25% of our income just because they can, we are going to feel threatened. What they are doing is not illegal, but it sure is selfish.
“Beyond that, we think that they are doing damage to a standard that is accepted by everybody.”
Garpow discussed that issue with his board during a Jan. 14 meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn, Brandon, Fla., and reviewed the ramifications of RVIA’s decision to temporarily put aside an effort to increase the square footage of fifth-wheel trailers beyond the 400 square feet they are now limited to by federal law.
During a special RVIA board meeting in November, members were authorized to begin building travel trailers up to 400 square feet, effective Jan. 1, which RPTIA also opposes.
“There are potential financing problems and citing problems,” said Garpow, who added that a “big reason” for the increase in square footage is that some manufacturers have designed trailer floorplans larger than 320 square feet that under RVIA rules can’t be shown at the annual RVIA-sponsored National RV Trade Show in Louisville, Ky.
Both organizations issue seals that are affixed to units, attesting to the fact that the RVs were built to association standards. Now, RPTIA expects that some manufacturers will build to the RVIA travel trailer standards instead of the RPTIA park model standard.
Garpow contends that the RVIA’s action has created two safety standards for the same trailer, a situation that RVIA doesn’t refute. “The way the definitions are outlined, you could in fact have a product that could be a travel trailer or a park trailer,” said Bruce Hopkins, RVIA vice president of standards and education. “It’s kind of a no-man’s land as it stands right now, but because there is an overlap, the manufacturer will have the right to declare a trailer either way. He just needs to declare before we inspect it.”
The 320-square-foot limit, unchanged since 1987, originally was established by RVIA bylaws to distinguish between travel trailers and recreational park trailers. The limit has since been adopted in ANSI and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards that are somewhat different for the two types of trailers.
Beyond 400 square feet, units are considered manufactured homes that are regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Because some state regulatory statutes are tied to the ANSI and NFPA standards, Garpow said that travel trailers larger than 320 feet couldn’t be legally hauled on the roads in those states, an assertion that RVIA also does not challenge.
RPTIA members build park models that typically are 8 1/2 to 12 feet wide. It is the 8 1/2-foot-wide units that can be hauled without a permit that RPTIA is concerned about. Those accounted for approximately 3,600 of the 9,000 park models sold in the U.S. last year, Garpow said.
While acknowledging that RVIA can ignore the ANSI and NFPA rules and continue to issue its seal, Garpow said RPTIA will fight the change if it is proposed to be added to the ANSI RV standard. That can’t happen until 2011 under the procedures set out to adopt new guidelines. “We are not going to sit back and be the dog’s lunch,” Garpow said.

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