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Parts Manufacturers Call For Changes in California Copper Brake Bill

June 15, 2010

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In a testimony before the California Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, Terry Heffelfinger, director of product engineering, R&D, and quality for Affinia Global Brake and Chassis, called for different implementation procedures for SB 346, a bill that would mandate a reduction in the use of copper in brake products.


Heffelfinger testified Tuesday on behalf of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA); Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) and Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA), affiliate associations of MEMA; the Brake Manufacturers Council, an operating council of AASA; and the Heavy Duty Brake Manufacturers Council (HDBMC), an operating council of HDMA.

The bill would require brake manufacturers to cut the amount of copper in pads to 0.5 percent by 2025. A previous version of the bill allowed for a 5 percent limitation in 2021, followed by the 0.5 percent limitation in 2032. While the industry does not have an issue with meeting the 5 percent limitation, the industry is concerned with the 0.5 percent limitation and the effects this will have on performance and safety, according to Mark Iasiello, vice president, member development, with HDMA.

"While we understand the intent of the bill, we oppose the bill as it is currently written," said Bob McKenna, MEMA's president and CEO. "We hope that the Committee will recognize that further amendments are needed to allow for practical implementation of its provisions."

Testing and Certification Issues

According to Heffelfinger's testimony, the 2025 deadline does not allow suppliers and vehicle makers to collaborate in the introduction of acceptable new brake systems, especially given customer needs for stopping power and brake performance. The schedule also doesn't provide enough time for sufficient research and development to test, validate and verify the manufacture of safe and effective brake materials.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, the bill would also require manufacturers of brake friction materials sold in the state to obtain a certification of compliance with these requirements from a third-party testing certification agency. If companies violate the bill's provisions, they would be subject to a civil fine of up to $10,000 per violation.

The industry is also concerned with getting the certification procedures developed, as certain certifications are self-certified, said Iasiello.

Heffelfinger also commented on the need for a viable "off-ramp" assessment period to accommodate unforeseen circumstances that may delay compliance with the 0.5 percent copper limit as well as changes to the inventory run-off and certification process.

Washington's Bill

Washington became the first state to pass such legislation, calling for a 5 percent copper limitation by model-year 2021. The bill also set up an advisory committee to see if a 0.5 percent mandate would be possible in later years. In addition, starting in 2014, brake pads cannot contain more than trace amounts of cadmium, chromium, asbestos, lead and mercury.

According to Washington's Department of Ecology, the copper in vehicle brake pad dust is toxic to aquatic life, including salmon. In addition, the Department said the dust flows into Puget Sound, as rainwater runoff washes it from the roads into streams and rivers.

"MEMA has been very involved with the bill since its introduction," McKenna said. "We are grateful to have the opportunity to testify before the committee and hope our points will be taken into consideration. The legislation must create a balanced approach that addresses the concerns of brake manufacturers and the challenges facing California. The result will be a more workable bill for brake manufacturers that still meets the necessary environmental objectives."

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