HUD Publishes Proposed Roof Truss Testing Rule

MHARR logoHUD has published a proposed rule to revise its roof truss testing procedures under section 3280.402 of the Construction and Safety Standards. The proposed rule (copy attached) was published in the Federal Register on June 16, 2010. Comments from interested parties are due on or before August 16, 2010.

This matter has a long history, dating back to 2003, when the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) first submitted proposed roof truss testing amendments to HUD as part of its initial package of recommended changes to the standards. The roof truss testing proposal, however, was severed and returned to the MHCC for “further consideration” when HUD published a final rule incorporating the MHCC package in 2005. The MHCC subsequently revised portions of the roof truss testing proposal and re-submitted it to HUD. The proposed rule, as published, is based on this revised MHCC recommendation, but has been further modified by HUD without any additional input from the MHCC.

MHARR will conduct an in-depth review of this proposal and will seek your input and observations for the comments that it will file soon on behalf of HUD Code manufacturers. Based on a preliminary review of the proposed rule, however, there are two major procedural issues that you should be ware of.

First, HUD, in its proposed rule, has modified the MHCC-recommended standard based on: (1) a roof truss testing study conducted and published by the “Research Center” of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB-RC); and (2) “the requirements of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) consensus process related to uplift testing.” (See, page 34067, col. 2).

Regarding NAHB-RC, HUD should not be modifying standards for manufactured housing based on the research — and conclusions drawn from research — conducting by competitors of the manufactured housing industry. Such research, because of potential bias, is inherently suspect and therefore lacks credibility. It should be noted that HUD routinely relied upon such studies in the 1980’s, leading a number of manufacturers to take legal action to stop that practice. In the wake of that litigation, HUD backtracked, but this latest action could signal a return to this discredited practice, which must be opposed. Very simply, with so much construction data and related research available, it is indefensible for a regulatory agency to rely on potentially tainted research by the direct competitors of the industry it regulates.

Regarding the “NFPA consensus process,” that process became irrelevant with the passage of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 and the establishment of the MHCC. That NFPA “process,” unlike the statutory MHCC process, does not require any consideration of cost or balancing of the costs and benefits of any proposed code revision. For example, the NFPA 501 standard mandates fire sprinklers for manufactured homes, which have never been part of the HUD Code. This is why manufactured housing industry representatives (manufacturers, MHARR, MHI and others) left the NFPA 501 committee en mass years ago and have instead participated in the consensus process of the MHCC.

Because the NFPA process does not consider cost-impact, which the MHCC must consider under relevant law, and because industry representatives are no longer part of the NFPA process, that committee’s work is irrelevant to matters before HUD and the MHCC. HUD, accordingly, should not use or consider the NFPA 501 committee’s output now or in the future. This is precisely why there is an MHCC and an MHCC process set out in law that must be complied with.

Second, HUD should have consulted with the MHCC regarding its changes to the rule as proposed by the MHCC. MHARR has consistently maintained that HUD modifications to MHCC proposals should be brought back to the Committee for its input as to both substance and cost. In this case, HUD has substantively modified the testing requirements for certain wind zones, which will have a specific cost impact. Those specific issues should have been addressed with the MHCC prior to publication and should be handled that way in the future as a matter of sound policy and respect for the consensus process established by the 2000 reform law.

Please share the attached proposed rule with your company’s technical, regulatory and legal executives, as MHARR will be seeking your input regarding this proposal for the Association‘s comments.

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