The Regulatory Maze - which keeps getting lengthier, more complicated and more burdensome for auto dealers - should be very familiar to you by now. It's a topic we've covered in a couple of recent newsletters. Here's a quick summary of some additional issues Attorney Doug Greenhaus, Director of Environment, Health and Safety in the Regulatory Affairs Department at the National Automobile Dealers Association, told us dealers need to get up to speed on.
The Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act in 2000, a result of the Ford/Firestone blowout, brought a slew of changes in tire labeling requirements that auto dealers must comply with. In brief, any time a dealership changes tire size, tire pressure, a vehicle's weight or its cargo capacity it must change the vehicle's tire labels prior to its first sale. Technically, it could even extend to a one pound change, such as a heavier sound system, says Mr. Greenhaus.
NADA is working with the U.S. Department of Transportation to try to relieve much of the re-labeling burden that's been placed on deal-erships and is trying to arrange for a safe harbor - a certain weight below which dealers won't have to re-label tires for minor additions. A decision is expected by mid-year, says Mr. Greenhaus. Meanwhile, he says to continue to get replacement labels and remember to look at shipping weights of added parts.
Wage and Hour Laws
The new wage and hour laws, and the associated penalties that have been imposed, "are a wakeup call for dealers to take a close look, if they haven't already, not only at white collar positions but all positions to make sure folks are being appropriately classified," says Mr. Greenhaus. NADA has come out with a new dealer guide that addresses this.
To qualify for exemptions, executive and administrative professionals must be paid a threshold salary equivalent to $26,000 a year. Administrative employees are also required to exercise discretion or independent judgment - a very grey area. If in doubt, be conservative and treat them as non-exempt. "Ratchet down on overtime and pay them if they work it," he says. If you wrongly classify them as exempt, the department of labor can go back two to three years and you'd be liable for overtime pay, he says.
Aboveground Oil Storage
If you've got 1,320 gallons of aboveground oil at your facility - as do most dealerships - you're required to have a Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan. The written plan must be prepared by a professional engineer and indicate what you'd do if you had an oil leak or spill. NADA, which went to the Environmental Protection Agency in early 2004 and argued that a certified plan imposes a costly paperwork burden on small facilities, says to keep your eyes open for pending regulatory relief. Instead of a plan, NADA is trying to win approval for facilities with capacity between 1,320 and 5,000 gallons to simply be allowed to fill out a statement stating they're aware of the rules and have taken steps to comply (i.e., secondary containment, keeping cleanup supplies on hand such as absorbent socks and kitty litter).
Processed water used for service, vehicle cleaning, body shop and detailing operations is not permitted to be disposed of through underground injection (wells and septic systems). The best practices, says Mr. Greenhaus, are to store it and to minimize the waste water you're generating. Hooking up to a municipal waste water treatment system may be an option, although this may require pretreatment. Make sure your training is constant and vigilant. Purchasing machines to clean your floors and paving over drains are other actions to consider. NADA came out with a comprehensive Clean Water Guide last year.
Dealership personnel who ship or receive hazardous materials must be trained and certified under Federal Department of Transportation Hazmat Transportation Regulations. Enforcement is getting stricter. Mr. Greenhaus told us of a dealer hit with a $50,000 fine after a battery broke in transit. Check out NADA's Dealer Guide to Federal Hazardous Materials Transportation. Hazmat-U (www.hazmatu.com) and Kip Prahl Associates (www.kpaonline .com) offer online training and retraining, he says.
NADA members and nonmembers can order copies of guidelines and bulletins discussed in this article. Members can go to www.nada.org and find a wealth of regulatory information by clicking on "regulatory affairs." Mr. Greenhaus also encourages NADA members to call him (703-821- 7040). For more articles on federal regulations, go to www.dealers edge.com/newsletterextras.