State Senate bill would update off-road vehicle registration

A bill introduced last week by State Sen. Brian Jones, R-Santee, would close loopholes in the regulation of off-road vehicles used for competitions.

The bill, SB 894, would create a new identification system for competition vehicles, which were left in limbo after the program that registered them ended last year without a replacement, Jones said.

Providing a registration system is key to enforcing their legal use, he said.

“People who ride motorcycles want to comply with the law and have legal use of their motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles,” he said. “If there is no legal outlet for them, there will be a number of people who, because they have no legal use, will use them anywhere.”

Off-road vehicles include anything designed for use in steep or rough terrain, such as quad bikes, dirt bikes, dune buggies, and race bikes. According to California Department of Motor Vehiclesthese means of transport do not require regular vehicle registration, but they must display an identification plate.

They are popular with Southern California off-roaders, who travel to places such as Ocotillo Wells or San Imperial Dunes ride on public land. Lines of trucks with trailers carrying off-road vehicles can be seen heading to or from the desert most weekends.

Conflicts erupted between off-roaders and ecologists or land managers, who point out that vehicles can cause soil erosion, wildlife disturbance, air pollution and public safety hazards. To limit this, the state has designated areas for their use and regulates their emissions.

Most recreational vehicles are identified by the “green sticker” program, which certifies that they meet air emissions standards set by the California Air Resources Board.

A specialist group of competition vehicles has operated under the Air Board’s “red sticker” program for the past two decades. These are mostly two-stroke motorcycles designed for competition, which do not meet strict emissions standards.

The red sticker program was introduced in 1998 to allow off-road vehicle manufacturers to upgrade to more stringent exhaust standards. But in a Analysis 2019the air board concluded that many riders were not embracing newer, cleaner technology.

The board found that many people misused “red stickers” to drive competition vehicles recreationally and violate state rules to operate them in high-smog areas during the summer. The red sticker program ended last year without a replacement.

Jones said this left legal racers without a way to register their vehicles and created uncertainty for competition organizers and local businesses in areas where competitions take place. Without selling the stickers, he said, the state loses money for environmental work and enforcement related to off-road use.

“CARB felt like too many people were taking advantage of the program, so they ended it and left the legitimate people without any program to replace it,” he said.

Jones pointed out that the state dropped the registration process for motorcycles but did not ban their sale.

His bill, introduced on Monday, would come into force on January 1, 2024. It would provide a way to register off-road competition vehicles that more tightly limits their use and requires them to be equipped with a muffler, a spark arrester and a muffler.

“If they’re not registered, it’s difficult for law enforcement to issue citations and regulate their use,” Jones said. “With or without an invoice, these motorcycles are sold in California. Let’s create a legal route for their use.

This is the third time Jones has introduced legislation to address this issue. His previous bills — SB 227, drafted last year with State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego and other senators, as well as SB 1024 from the previous session — never reached votes. final.

Norman D. Briggs