Trailer certification offers risk management, consumer confidence

Sometimes going above and beyond for the customer means doing exactly what is required.

Trailer certification programs ensure companies are in accordance with the law.

“We can ensure that they’re building all the trailers in accordance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards,” said Pam Trusdale, executive director of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.

The standards and regulations required of manufacturers can be incredibly complicated, especially as many regulations vary from state to state.

“Some states will have no brake laws whereas other states have very robust and expensive brake laws,” said Robert E. Newsome, vice president, engineering standards, membership & association marketing of NMMA. “What we do through certification is ensure that trailer manufacturer working with their dealers is not knowingly selling a trailer contrary to that state’s brake laws.”

Compliance crackdown

Compliance is more important than ever for manufacturers, as the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration has begun to crack down on non-compliant companies. According to the NATM, NHTSA assessed more fines in 2015 than in the history of the agency, and that will trickle down to the marine industry soon.

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“Trailers manufacturers have not always been subjected to fines. A lot of times, the focus has been on the auto industry. However, now they’re starting to take a closer look at the trailer industry,” said Trusdale.

In December 2015, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), Public Law 114-94, was signed into law. Section 24110 of the act requires NHTSA to issue a final ruling providing an interpretation of the penalty factors in Section 31203(b) of MAP-21. When the Secretary of Transportation certifies that NHTSA has done this, the maximum amount of civil penalty for each violation of the Safety Act increases from $7,000 to $21,000 per violation and the maximum amount of civil penalties that NHTSA can collect for a related series of violations increases from $35,000,000 to $105,000,000.

The NATM does its best to keep its manufacturers up-to-date on changes like this to ensure they do not incur fines.

“Most people don’t have the time to monitor the Federal Register to keep up on all the latest changes, and ignorance of the law is not an excuse for not complying with the law, so we’re really diligent about making sure we keep up on all the latest changes and all the regulations, and any potential rulemakings or regulations that could impact trailer manufacturers,” said Trusdale.

Consumer confidence

Newsome says certification can look attractive to dealers and consumers, as it shows a commitment to product safety and quality.

“When you make a decision to get certified when it’s not legally required, you are making a decision and putting resources toward doing something above and beyond,” he said. And for the consumer, “it’s all about ensuring you’re purchasing from someone – or, from the dealer’s perspective, selling to someone – knowing that the product has undoubtedly met all of these requirements.”

Certification also provides manufacturers risk management. Having another set of eyes that hasn’t worked on the product day-in and day-out and can look purely at the compliance issues confirms that the product is safe.

“If and when that may ever be questioned, not only can the trailer manufacturer say they did what they were required to do or what they were attempting to do, but we can come in with an external organization’s inspection reports and checklists, and we’ll have any documentation of how they remedied things,” said Newsome.

For a list of trailer manufacturers, please see the Trailers Guide.

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