A couple of recent stories illustrate the hurdles that STOVs face at the local and state level despite the vehicles being perfect for a given application. In one instance the small town of Clendenin, WV is auctioning off their mini-truck because town officials have determined it is not legal to drive the vehicle on city streets. For several years the town has been using the vehicle to haul debris and carry salt on the narrower and hillier streets where access by full-sized trucks is difficult. While officials and workers thought the mini-truck was “perfect” for the tasks at hand the state of West Virginia does not allow mini-trucks to be registered. The town council passed an ordinance allowing the vehicle to be used within the city but their local ordinance cannot trump state law. The town is now using a F-150 Ford pick-up which costs $75 to fill-up instead of $20 for the mini-truck which is headed for the auction block.
In the second story a disabled man who had been using a Gator to travel around the roads of the small village of Union, IL was abruptly told he could no longer use the vehicle on city streets after years of doing so. He was told it was a matter of public safety. While Illinois state law allows non-highway vehicles on roads with speed limits of 30 mph or less, local municipalities must pass an ordinance to do so. Proponents are using a social media campaign to encourage local officials to pass an ordinance.
Commentary: While the trend has been towards more and more municipalities allowing a wider range of STOVs on local streets, the process is very much piecemeal. As illustrated in the second story there are also instances where use is allowed or tolerated by not officially codified by a local ordinance. The issue is local control of streets, where in theory and more than likely in practice, local officials know what is best for their town. On the other hand, statewide regulations allowing STOVs on local low-speed streets would be a big boost to the STOV market and a much more efficient regulatory approach. The use of these vehicles are not likely a priority for many municipalities, even if officials perceived no safety hazard, so the widespread passage of local ordinances will take a long time to enact.