Newly Introduced Federal Legislation Would Ensure That Three-Wheeled Automobiles Are Not Classified As Motorcycles

Last week the Motorcycle Riders Foundation announced the introduction of federal legislation that would create a new classification of motor vehicle.  This legislation is aimed at three-wheeled automobiles such as the Polaris Slingshot and the Campagna T-Rex, which are currently defined as motorcycles under federal guidelines.

Many motorcycle rights organizations are currently addressing this situation on the state level.  Last year, Virginia created a new classification of motor vehicle called an autocycle.  Under Virginia law an autocycle is defined as follows:

“Autocycle means a three-wheeled motor vehicle that has a steering wheel and seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride and is manufactured to comply with federal safety requirements for motorcycles. Except as otherwise provided, an autocycle shall not be deemed to be a motorcycle.”

The reason that state motorcycle rights organizations are addressing this issue is to prevent these vehicles, which are growing in popularity, from being included in motorcycle crash data.  Including motor vehicles which are not actually motorcycles in the corresponding crash data unfairly skews the data.  On the flip side, manufacturers of these vehicles want to be considered motorcycles since it allows them to avoid having to meet federal automotive safety standards; this allows them to manufacture these vehicles at a lower cost than if they were forced to meet the safety standards.

While addressing this issue on the state level helps, until it is addressed on the federal level we will continue seeing these three-wheeled automobiles included in federal motorcycle crash data.  I have copied the announcement from the Motorcycle Riders Foundation below.

As always, if you have any questions or comments about anything that I have written, please feel free to contact me.

Matt Danielson
McGrath & Danielson
The Motorcycle Law Group

From the Motorcycle Riders Foundation
March 19, 2015

Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced legislation that would create a new class of vehicle, reports the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. S. 685 would create a new class of vehicles known as autocycles, to accommodate a growing trend in vehicle design. An emerging vehicle style, three-wheeled enclosed vehicles equipped with a steering wheel are growing in popularity. These types of vehicles have been lumped in with motorcycles and therefore tagged and registered as motorcycles. Clearly these vehicles are not motorcycles and they do need their own category. It is easy to see why the efficient, affordable transportation would catch on so quickly.

U.S. Senate file 685 would require the new class to meet both motorcycle safety standards as well as passenger vehicle standards in vehicles weighing less than 10,000 pounds. These standards include seating systems, belted occupant protection, child restraints, roof crush resistance, and flammability protections.
There are many new three-wheeled vehicles coming into the marketplace. Some examples are the Polaris Slingshot and Toyota i-Road (built by Elio Motors). Elio is based out of Senator Vitter’s home state of Louisiana. Senator Vitter is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

It remains to be seen whether this is the answer to this growing vehicle class, but with numbers climbing something is going to have to happen with government vehicle classes. According to the Elio webpage, over 40,000 of the enclosed three-wheeled vehicles have been reserved.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation will keep you updated on this issue.

Ride With The Leaders TM by joining the MRF at  or call (202) 546-0983