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Rhode Island Is Trying To Ban Kei Trucks Again

Unlike last time, though, Kei car owners have some congressional support against the RI DMV.
1988-90 Honda Acty kei pickup
Honda via Favcars

It’s been a while since Rhode Island’s Department of Motor Vehicles began asking Kei car owners to return their registrations. It was in 2021 when the DMV suddenly decided that such vehicles were no longer legal to drive on public roads, but it’s cooled off for a bit. However, if you thought the Rhode Island DMV completely forgot about Kei truck owners, think again because it’s back at it. This time, however, owners have some backup.

Senator Louis P. DiPalma recently proposed legislation that would grandfather in all existing Kei truck owners, allowing them to continue registering their trucks. It doesn’t allow future new Kei truck registrations, though, so any new buyers will have to take their Honda Actys and Toyota Hiaces elsewhere. And since new registrations can’t be issued, existing owners wouldn’t be able to sell their vehicles in Rhode Island, only keep them until they’re no longer usable.

According to Hemmings, the DMV is pushing back on this proposed bill, saying there are “A handful that still remain registered, and the proposed bill would restrain the DMV’s ability to further eliminate unsafe vehicles from the public roadways of the state.”

1990 Honda Acty kei truck. Honda via Favcars

The DMV defines Kei vehicles: “Primarily mini-trucks manufactured for the Japanese market designated as ‘kejidosha’ light weight vehicles.” But why the decision to ban Kei trucks from Rhode Island streets? Because the DMV claims they don’t meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). And while it’s true Kei vehicles don’t meet those safety standards, they shouldn’t have to. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), imported vehicles at least 25 years old are exempt from FMVSS. DiPalma makes the argument that there are plenty of other lightweight, slow antique vehicles that don’t meet FMVSS but are still allowed registration, such as the Ford Model T.

When his constituents began complaining about this issue back in 2021, DiPalma contacted the DMV and that seemed to cool the situation off for a while. However, according to the Providence Journal, a Rhode Islander recently tried registering a different vehicle but was denied because they own a Kei truck. “We need to do something about this,” said DiPalma.

Dipalm’s proposed bill passed the Senate Committee on Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs on May 7. It’s a shame that Rhode Islanders can’t buy and register new Kei trucks but at least existing owners now have some congressional support backing them up in this years-long fight to keep their vehicles.

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