As I write, members of the brake pad industry are waiting
at the table to work out a reasonable solution to an
unreasonable bill circulating in California’s legislature.
SB 346 (Kehoe) is designed to address water quality issues in San
Diego and Los Angeles by reducing copper dust from
brake pads that washes into the urban watersheds.
These are earnest, worthwhile environmental goals.
However, the bill also undermines the most critical
job of a vehicle’s brakes – ensuring driver and passenger safety. At the same time we are pleading with legislators to
consider driver safety, they brush off our appeals
and work feverishly to cram through this bill.
As it is currently written, Senate Bill 346 has immovable deadlines for making changes to eliminate
the copper content in all brake pads. That means SB
346 does not give the auto industry time to research,
develop and design new copper-free brake pads to fit every size and style of car
and truck on our roads.
SB 346 needs to allow a process for experts, industry representatives
and legislators, to evaluate the progress and likelihood
of a safe copper-free friction material. We would conduct this review at a fixed future date
and in advance of compliance deadlines. If there are unforeseen technical challenges to providing
copper-free brakes in advance of the set deadlines, the legislation
needs to provide the flexibility to evaluate how to
We feel this is a sensible and workable compromise.
In fact, our industry just recently worked with Washington
State to pass first-of-its-kind legislation which sets aggressive copper reduction
goals for brake pads to protect the state’s water quality and salmon population. We did this without compromising vehicle safety or
the expectations of consumers. The Washington law shows that reasonable, balanced
policy is possible to achieve.
The motor vehicle parts manufacturing industry plays
an important role in California’s economy, providing almost 25,000 jobs and indirectly creating more than 120,000 jobs.
Now is not the time to create unnecessary hardships
for local businesses and entire industries. It is never
the time to undermine the performance or safety guarantees
of a vehicle’s brake system.
Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) and its affiliate association Automotive Aftermarket
Suppliers Association (AASA) believes we can achieve a legislative solution if
author Senator Christine Kehoe (Dist. 39) and the bill’s supporters would earnestly consider the safety shortcomings
of SB 346.
Our objections have been snubbed time-and-time again while frenzied legislators led by Senator
Kehoe rush through this bill. It is hard to believe that a group of elected officials
who are so rigorously negotiating a statewide budget
would give such little concern to vehicle safety.
SB 346 needs to be revised to afford more flexibility and
ensure development of a safe copper alternative. These
considerations in revising the legislation will go
a long way towards achieving environmental protection
without putting public safety at risk.
However to get there, legislators need to acknowledge
that the bill is flawed and show some willingness to
work toward a solution.