The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) is assembling a special task force to deal with member manufacturers selling travel trailers without RVIA seals to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to be used as temporary housing by hurricane victims.
“Our attempt is to get to the right solution as soon as possible,” said Robert M. “Mac” Bryan, RVIA vice president of administration. “There are legitimate, differing views that need to be sorted out. When we get all the facts on the table the solution will be self-evident.”
At least one company – Fleetwood Industries Inc., Riverside, Calif. – has declined to apply RVIA seals to specially built units being shipped to hurricane-swept areas of the South because it doesn’t feel the units qualify as “recreational vehicles.”
RVIA’s board has voted twice – during RVIA Committee Week in June and at the association’s annual meeting in September – to require the seals be applied on all units, regardless of their special construction (FEMA units don’t have holding tanks) or end use. The trade organization, faced with members who feel otherwise, is now considering its options.
The RVIA board in September ordered the task force assembled with the expectation that a solution might be reached at the board’s next meeting in March. “There are strong feelings on all sides of this, and there are many ways that it can be resolved,” said RVIA President David J. Humphreys.
Fleetwood President Elden Smith told RV Business that some 7,500 travel trailers being built under contract to FEMA should not be considered recreation vehicles any more than childrens’ playhouses. “These units are being built to specific government specifications,” Smith said. “They are inspected by FEMA on delivery and have to meet their specs. There’s no real reason to put an RVIA seal on them. They are being built as emergency housing.”
Smith noted that conventional trailers sold to FEMA through Fleetwood dealers do in fact have the RVIA seal applied to them.
Other companies are believed to have shared Fleetwood’s view on all of this, but RV Business could not independently verify which others were following suit.
However, Humphreys indicated the Monaco Coach Corp., Coburg, Ore., had been cited by RVIA inspectors for shipping units without FEMA seals.
Monaco representatives declined comment.
Following last year’s hurricanes in Florida, RVIA’s board decided that seals weren’t necessary on units built specifically for FEMA because government officials assured the association that the units wouldn’t be resold later at retail and therefore would not surface on the market as used RVs.
In June, the board reversed that decision after FEMA began to auction to the public some of the units that had been used last year in Florida.
Pete Liegl, president of Forest River Inc., says his Elkhart, Ind.-based company is applying seals to the approximately 7,000 travel trailers Forest River is building for FEMA. “As a member of the association, whether I like it or not, we should abide by RVIA’s decision,” Liegl told RV Business. “The seals ought to be on there to give the people living in them the certainty that we are building them to codes and standards.”
Dan Shea, president of Gulf Stream Coach Inc.’s towable division, said the Nappanee, Ind., manufacturer will apply RVIA seals to the approximately 50,000 trailers – valued at $521 million – that FEMA has ordered.
“I know there’s been some debate as to whether they (seals) should be on there or not,” said Shea, an RVIA board member. “We are trying to stay out of that debate.”