What Is Your Role in the New Brake Pad MOU?

Posted by Aaron Lowe on January 26, 2015

You may have read in this week’s Capital Report or in other industry press about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that the Auto Care Association, along with other aftermarket groups and the vehicle manufacturers, signed on Jan. 21 with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would significantly reduce the content of copper in automotive brakes. The MOU is a direct result of legislation enacted in the states of Washington and California which requires that brake pad manufacturers reduce copper to no more than 5 percent per weight by 2021 and to .5 percent by 2025. Water agencies and environmental groups have been pushing for the reduction in use of copper due to concerns that the element was seeping into the rivers and streams and having a significant adverse impact on aquatic life.

The MOU is a major achievement for the motor vehicle and auto care industry for two reasons. First, it is a positive step that the industry can take to reduce the environmental impact of one of our products. Second, the MOU seeks to reduce the threat that our industry would need to comply with a myriad of different state laws and regulations that might occur if other states determine to implement their own brake pad rules. EPA gains since they will not need to go through the expensive and time-consuming process of developing a rulemaking on the subject, but will still obtain the desired copper reductions.

Of course, I don’t want to take away from the hard work that went into developing this MOU. The effort to develop consensus on the brake pad legislation in Washington and California between government, industry and environmental groups was a long and arduous process. A lot of engineers from brake pad companies, government affairs professionals from trade groups, environmental groups and government representatives worked long hours to develop the laws and regulations that are in place in both states. In fact, this is a great example of how groups could work through their differences to come up with a consensus position rather than to simply fighting each other. How rare is that?

I also don’t want to give anyone the impression that the MOU is the end of the process. It is clearly not. Engineers from many of the brake pad companies are working to develop innovative solutions to replace copper in brake pads as soon as possible. I know this is not an easy task, but I also know that some great people are working at our member companies to make this happen, and they are doing everything possible to ensure success.

For those that distribute, sell and install brake pads, the MOU also will require their efforts to ensure that only products that meet the standards set in the California and Washington state laws and the MOU are sold throughout the distribution chain (it is important to remember that there are sell through dates to help reduce the burden on distributors and retailers of the new rules). There are labels both on the boxes and on the brake pads themselves to help make that job easier, but each company in the distribution chain will need to commit to the terms of the MOU for this effort to be ultimately successful.

To help our industry in complying, the trade groups including Auto Care have created a website www.copperfreebrakes.org. At this site, you can find information on the MOU and links to some of the key state regulations on this subject. Companies should remember that some requirements of the state laws and MOU have already kicked-in so it is imperative to become familiar with new brake pad rules as soon as possible.

So congratulations to everyone involved in making the brake MOU happen and thank you in advance to everyone that is involved in helping our industry realize the important environmental gains that will come from this MOU.
Keywords: Environment