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The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), rejecting multiple appeals from the RV industry, will require, beginning Wednesday (June 11), that Californians who want to drive motorhomes longer than 40 feet be screened by a physician to receive a new license endorsement.
The medical screening requirement was part of the 2001 California law that allowed motorhomes longer than 40 feet to be driven on the Golden State’s highways.
Though the law also requires a written and driving skills test, the medical screening will be required every two years along with the renewal of the endorsement.
Industry officials earlier had expected that RVers would be able to self-administer a health questionnaire, as do those who seek a license endorsement to tow travel trailers weighing more than 10,000 pounds and fifth-wheels exceeding 15,000 pounds. The questionnaire is the same for motorized and towable license endorsements.
“It is a decided inconvenience to our members,” said Sue Bray, president of the Good Sam Club, a unit of Affinity Group Inc. (AGI).
AGI also is the parent of TL Enterpries Inc., publisher of RV Business and RVBUSINESS.COM.
“While we weren’t arguing that the DMV shouldn’t require some sort of medical information, it was not the intent at all that they would have to go to a physician,” Bray said. “These units have an excellent safety record. It’s just overkill.”
The Good Sam Club, Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) all appealed the DMV’s decision. However, their appeals were rejected last month.
In his appeal, RVIA President David Humphreys said that evidence of medical problems could be detected during the operational test, and that 40 foot-plus motorhomes have been driven on California highways for 10 years without a serious incident being reported.
The issue of licensing 40 foot-plus motorhomes, referred to by the California DMV as “house cars,” has been a long-term dilemma for the state, which realized during the late 1990s that it was issuing license plates for the vehicles that couldn’t be driven legally on the state’s highways.
Gov. Gray Davis vetoed one bill approved nearly unanimously by the California legislature, citing non-specific safety concerns. He later signed another bill into law that was changed only slightly from the first.
An administrative law judge rejected Humphreys’ safety claims saying that the
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) could provide no breakdown of the number of accidents or fatalities involving 40 foot-plus motorhomes.
“The department tried to obtain statistics from other states but we were unable to find any statistics on house-car operators’ health conditions or accident rates. … To assume lack of statistics to prove (sic) a safety point could prove dangerous,” the judge wrote.
RVIA General Counsel Craig Kirby termed the physician requirement “an unnecessary hurdle” and he believes few RVers requesting the 40 foot-plus endorsement on their licenses will be rejected.
“The operators of these large units are extremely safe and cautious,” Kirby said. “They don’t want to put themselves into a dangerous situation. People who develop medical conditions probably will sell their unit rather than keep driving it.”