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The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) board of directors voted Nov. 14 to establish a new “Emergency Living Unit” (ELU) seal to be applied after Jan. 1 to temporary shelter units built to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) specifications.
Go RVing assessments will not apply to these newly designated ELU units for which manufacturers will pay only a basic $4.05 RVIA seal fee. On all conventional recreational vehicles equipped with holding tanks, manufacturers will be required to affix traditional RVIA seals and pay the accompanying Go RVing assessments of $61 per towable unit, even if they are sold to FEMA.
The Nov. 14 decision reportedly goes a long way toward defusing a growing debate among some RVIA members regarding the application of traditional RVIA seals to units built specifically for use as temporary shelter – most recently Gulf Coast hurricane evacuees. At least two RVIA member-manufacturers, Riverside, Calif.-based Fleetwood Enterprises Inc. and Coburg, Ore.-based Monaco Coach Corp., had declined to affix regular seals on thousands of FEMA units on the premise that those products weren’t built as – nor used as – recreational vehicles.
RVIA’s leadership subsequently went to work on trying to resolve the debate – an effort that has resulted in the third RVIA policy reversal regarding FEMA shelter trailers in a little more than a year.
RVIA’s board in September of 2004, informed by FEMA that storm shelter units wouldn’t be resold on the open market as used RVs, voted to exempt them from RVIA seals. After FEMA began selling trailers at public auction earlier this year, however, RVIA countered with a requirement that seals be affixed to all units. Now, a partially exempt status has been granted with a new ELU seal.
“The whole goal was to come up with a long-term solution so that we don’t get whipsawed every time FEMA changes its mind,” RVIA President David J. Humphreys told RV Business.
He stressed that the policy doesn’t specifically address the actual distribution channel – whether FEMA-style units are sold to the federal government through manufacturers, dealers or intermediaries. “Nothing in the policy says how they are to be sold – directly to the government or indirectly to the government,” he added.
The bottom line, he maintained, is that ELU trailers are not to reach the used retail marketplace. “If FEMA asks someone to build a unit with holding tanks, it will be considered an RV,” he said, “because somewhere down the line it is going to be retailed.”
As for Fleetwood and Monaco, neither had a lot to say publicly about the resolution of the FEMA unit debate. Fleetwood President Elden Smith declined comment on the new policy, while Craig Wanichek, Monaco’s director of investor relations, issued the following statement: “We don’t believe that RVIA should be involved in inspecting and tagging emergency housing units built to FEMA specs. But in a conciliatory action – and in keeping with the industry organization – we’ve agreed to purchase and apply the new Emergency Living Unit seal.”