Assembled Vehicles Legislation

This is an example of what was used to talk to Legislators about Assembled Vehicles.  This was posted in hopes that it will help get into more detail of the bill that has been introduced, you can research the actual rule by googling.

86(R) HB-1755 Representative Thompson District 29
86(R) SB-1462 Senator Hughes District 1

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1.  What is the purpose of the proposed legislation?

The proposed legislation is to create a new section of the Texas Transportation Code that defines Assembled Vehicles and how these vehicles would be regulated by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.  The new section of the Transportation Code will provide definitions of Dune Buggies, Sandrail & Kitcars to ALL be defined as Assembled Vehicles, to describe and define the legal ability for a hobbyist to assemble the vehicle, the definition and methodology to have the vehicle legally inspected by a certified state inspector, the method by which the vehicle is tiled and registered, and the appropriate fees that accompany titles and fees for Assembled Vehicles.

2.  What is the issue being addressed by this legislation?

The issue being addressed by the legislation is to provide clarity in the law as to what is an Assembled Vehicle. Currently, an Assembled Vehicle is defined only in the TxDMV manual, not in statute, yet there are state inspection forms that accompany an Assembled Vehicle to be used for the ability to gain a title, registration through the normal DMV/DPS process.  As a result of the lack of clarification, Kitcar companies and those customers that assemble kitcars and Dune Buggies & Sandrails, that have had their vehicles legally inspected, have received proper insurance, and have in many cases received title and registration, have had their title and registration revoked by the TxDMV.

In addition and to further complicate the issue, staff at TxDMV in 2014 proposed an Administrative Rule to essentially ban Dune Buggies from operating on Texas streets and roadways by deeming them as “off-road” vehicles.  As a consequence, numerous private citizens that purchased Dune Buggies after 2014 were not aware of the administrative rule and only realized their investment was essentially worthless when they were unable to gain title and registration to operate Dune Buggies on streets and roadways, as has been the practice for over 50 years.  Ironically, if a citizen had already purchased a Dune Buggy prior to the Administrative Rule and had the vehicle legally inspected, titled, and registered those vehicles remain legal to operate on streets and roadways.  

And while Kitcars are not Dune Buggies but still in the Assembled Vehicle class and have not been subject to an Administrative Rule banning their operations, staff at the TxDMV have subjectively deemed some Kitcars as “on track” vehicles, essentially race cars, and therefore deemed illegal to operate on streets and roadways.  

The rulings by the TxDMV is inconsistent and has caused great confusion among Dune Buggy, Sandrail and Kitcar enthusiasts and parts suppliers of those vehicles to a point where the TxDMV board announced in its August 16, 2018 board meeting that this matter is best for the legislature to handle.

3. Background (history)

The TxDMV first adopted a policy regarding Dune Buggies not being eligible for Texas title in 2013 and published this policy on May 5, 2014. Any applications for title for a Dune Buggy on or after this date are rejected and any titles issued in error after this date are revoked. Dune buggy titles issued prior to May 5, 2014, remain valid; however, they will not be issued a subsequent title for any new purchasers. This decision was made in accordance with Transportation Code, Section 502.048, which grants the authority to refuse registration to any vehicle deemed unsafe (emphasis added). Any vehicle not eligible for registration, unless otherwise specifically specified, is not eligible for a Texas title.  

According to department staff, they came to the conclusion that Dune Buggies were unsafe for on-road operation based on a number of factors and the experience of staff having reviewed numerous such vehicles over many years. Staff at the TxDMV claim that they review each vehicle individually and do not compare one type of vehicle to another, further claiming their observation has been that these vehicles (stripped down, kits, or otherwise) are often lacking basic, visually verifiable safety components such as windshields, wipers, or their entire body. On more than one occasion, TxDMV staff claim they have seen plastic water tanks used as the fuel cell. In an effort to limit some of the subjectivity, Dune Buggies were deemed unsafe.

Subsequently, the TxDMV Board adopted Texas Administrative Rule on March 6, 2015, which prohibited Dune Buggies from being eligible for title. This is located in Texas Administrative Rule 217.3 (6) and reads (in part):
(6) Not Eligible for Title. The following are not eligible for a Texas title regardless of the vehicle’s previous title and/or registration in this or any other jurisdiction. (B) Vehicles designed or determined by the department to be a dune buggy;

In 8 months of participating in working groups with the TxDMV staff and other interested parties, private citizens working as a group called the Assembled Vehicle Coalition of Texas (AVCT) pointed out the flaws in staff’s decisions in the types of vehicles staff illustrated as “not safe”.  TxDMV staff displayed vehicles that have been built from various vehicles parts from junk yards (some vehicles built with 2×4 boards in one case and an actual coffin with four wheels and a motor in another case).  The ACVT pointed out that Dune Buggies and Kitcars are not built from various pieces from junk yards, 2×4 lumber, or coffins or any other junk vehicle part but are legitimate, designed and well-known vehicles provided by Kitcar companies located in Texas and around the United States and among Dune Buggy enthusiasts all over the nation.  Legitimate Kitcars and Dune Buggies use Federal Motor Safety Vehicle Standard parts and pass certified ASE inspection accordingly.  As a point of reference, a Dune Buggy is a well-recognized vehicle that has been a part of the American fabric of hobbyist vehicles since 1965 (the first dune buggy was created by Bruce Meyers) and Dune Buggies have even been previously featured for sale in Sears catalogs.  

The TxDMV referred to vehicles not built by a known manufacturer (Ford, GM, Toyota, etc.) as “frankencars” and have deemed them unsafe, with the thought that these vehicles are made of vehicle parts shopped from junk yards.  This is far from the truth.  The members of the AVCT pointed out that there are already definitions of Assembled Vehicles and inspection forms for assembled vehicles promulgated by the TxDMV and these Assembled Vehicles do pass certified inspectors and are insured by major vehicle insurance companies.

4. Related initiatives?

“Custom vehicles” and “Street Rods” are defined in Texas Transportation Code § 504.501 and are closely related in description of an Assemble Vehicle found in the TxDMV manual.  

And when reading these definition of an Assembled Vehicle it is obvious to the reader that these definitions comport to the description of a Dune Buggy and kit car describing as follows:

 (iii) assembled from a kit even if a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin or Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin is provided (emphasis added).

Once legislation is passed TxDMV staff would develop rules governing the new statutes on Assembled Vehicles.

5.  What are the mechanics (how is this different from current law)?

The proposed legislation simply creates a new section of the Transportation Code dedicated to Assembled Vehicles and clarifies what is an Assembled Vehicle, the definition of what a Hobbyist is and what a Hobbyist is not, clarifies the definition of an ASE (American Service Excellence) certified vehicle inspector/technician and provides language regarding the method for titles and registration with the appropriate fees. The inspection, title, registration and fee process for Assembled Vehicles aligns with current law for motor vehicles as defined in law so as not to provide any special considerations in the importance of inspection, title, registration and appropriate fees for those Assembled Vehicles.

It was acknowledged by TxDMV board members at the August 16, 2018 board meeting that when the Texas Legislature created statutes governing motor vehicles it did so in the knowledge of regulating well-known manufacturers of vehicles.  It was further acknowledged that Kitcars or Dune Buggies were not contemplated in the early creation of the Code.  The board also acknowledged that among the 27 million or more vehicles on the road today Kitcars and Dune Buggies are a minute segment of the motor vehicle being driven on Texas streets and roadways, and even these Assembled Vehicles are “fair weather” vehicles not intended to be “every day” vehicles

6. Statistics

No statistics are known or provided when requested regarding concerns communicated by TxDMV staff.

7.  Broader goals and messages?

In recent years, federal law has recognized the Kitcar industry by passing H.R. 22 by Rep. Green, D-Texas that allows companies to manufacture kit cars at a low volume rate; the Kitcar companies can manufacture no more than 350 per year nationally not more than 5,000 world-wide.

The broader message is that these types of vehicles, be they Dune Buggies or Kitcars, are a recognized and familiar vehicle in the United States and Texas statute should reflect this reality and provide language regarding the proper regulation of the vehicles for operation on Texas streets and roadways.  Currently, 31 other states recognize these vehicles and have laws and policies governing their assemblage, inspection, title, registration and appropriate fees.

8. Fiscal Implications?

With the ability of these inspected Assembled Vehicles to legally operate on Texas streets and roadways the fiscal impact to the state will be as follows:  more revenue will be collected from title and registration fees and license plates from assembled vehicles; parts for these assembled vehicles from legitimate parts suppliers will continue to be sold; tax revenues from additional gasoline sales for the vehicles will increase; some expected revenue increases in hotel occupancy taxes and sales and beverage taxes will occur in hotels and restaurants as these hobbyists tend to form clubs and have rallies in Texas towns and cities on weekends at certain times of the year to meet and enjoy the camaraderie that goes with these clubs; more insurance policies will be sold by insurance companies that provide policies for Assembled Vehicles; additional jobs created from Kitcar companies that choose to provide kits to Kitcar and Dune Buggy enthusiasts.

9.  Specific Impact?

The legislation would provide clarity to the Transportation Code regarding a certain type of vehicle that exists and is deemed safe and reliable for operation on Texas streets and roadways.

10.  Stakeholders/Support/Opposition (Who is or is not impacted)?

Strong support will come from thousands of Texas private citizens who own kit cars and dune buggies who are, in many cases, not able to operate their vehicle on Texas streets and roadways as they have in the past.  Strong support will come from the vehicle parts suppliers both in Texas and around the nation that will have an increase in this specific market segment to sell quality vehicle parts to the enthusiasts.  The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA, will strongly support the legislation

Early opposition came from TxDMV staff, however, the TxDMV board rejected a proposed rule seeking to clarify this issue and board members requested this matter be in the hands of the Texas Legislature.

Lastly, the representative for the Assembled Vehicle Coalition of Texas specifically asked TxDMV staff if there are groups or individuals opposing assembled vehicles; if there are crash or inspection statistics supporting their claim that these vehicles are deemed unsafe; if any outside individual or group filed or otherwise voiced any complaints of Assembled Vehicles – the answer was negative that any of the above mentioned complaints were made.  The Texas Association of Automobile Dealers has signaled their opposition to the bill before it was filed or reviewed.

Faron Smith
Save the Texas Dune Buggy, Sandrail, & Kitcar