A Step in the Right Direction

  • April 15, 2024

Libertarians – those dangerous people who think everyone has a natural (God given) right to go about their business in peace so long as their business is peaceful – won a small but important victory the other day in Texas that threatens to spread to other states.

Hopefully, at any rate.

What happened was the Texas DMV said people who buy one of those little “Kei” pick-up trucks you may have seen can now legally drive them on Texas roads.

Kei is short for Keitora – and refers to a type of very small truck sold in Japan and other countries where it is still legal to sell vehicles that are not legal to sell here (new) because they do not comply with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. And while you can buy one used from a specialty importer (here’s one in my area) many states will not issue registration/tags for these little trucks, which makes them illegal to use on public (that is to say, the government’s) roads.

Anyone who dares to drive them on the government’s roads is subject to a Hut! Hut! Hutting! if an armed government worker catches them doing it. Never mind that they’re not harming anyone else – or even themselves – by doing it.

It is worth pointing out that a Mercedes S-Class sedan made circa 2000 is also not compliant with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The take-home point being FMVSS regulations are more about compliance than safety – unless you think a circa 2000 S-Class full-size Mercedes sedan is an “unsafe” car.

Well, neither is a Kei truck. It’s just small, light, simple and useful. Some have bed walls you can fold to the sides to increase the bed’s capacity. Some are dump trucks, perfect for hauling gravel or mulch from the garden store back home.

They are also affordable.

Like the compact-sized trucks formerly sold by Chevy, Mazda, Ford and Nissan that you can’t buy new anymore – in part because of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

The least you can get now – that’s new – is a 4,000-plus-pound mid-sized truck that’s almost as big, just as heavy and more expensive than the full-sized truck of the ’90s. Models such as the ’24 Toyota Tacoma ($31,500 to start and 4,265 lbs.) and the Ford Ranger ($32,565 to start and 4,203 lbs.) and the Chevy Colorado ($29,500 to start and 4,280 lbs.) and the Nissan Frontier ($30,030 to start 4,495 lbs.).

All of these used to be inexpensive compact-sized pick-ups.

They’re not anymore. And there’s no new alternative to them.

But you can legally buy a used Kei truck – as well as a number of other Japan Domestic Market (JDM) vehicles originally sold in Japan that have been imported here by dealers that specialize in this trade. Some of these JDM models – like the Toyota Hi-Lux/Surf, which is basically a Toyota 4Runner/Tacoma – were available with a diesel engine that was never offered here. These models are much more fuel efficient than the gas-engine-only versions we’re allowed to buy as well as more durable.

They are thus very desirable.

The difference is the Kei trucks are newer. Or – rather – they are not old enough to be classified as exempt from all the regulatory folderol, which is how it’s possible to register and plate a ’90s-era diesel-powered Hi-Lux. If it’s 25 years old or older, it is grandfathered, at least as far as the feds are concerned. 

But the newer Kei trucks are essentially in the same position as the ATVs and side-by-sides sole by Polaris and Kawasaki and others that are classified as not legal for street use, even though they are no less “safe” than something like a Meyers Manx dune buggy from the ’70s – which could be (and still can be) registered and tagged and legally driven on government roads.

Most states say you can’t drive a Polaris or similar ATV on government roads, because they’re not compliant with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Which is strange because many of these ATVs and side-by-sides have full roll cages and some even have ABS – “safety” features no Meyers Manx dune buggy ever had. That no VW Beetle (the car used to make the Meyers Manx) ever had, either. And it’s perfectly legal to drive an old Beetle or Manx on government roads because you can get it registered and tagged just like any other vehicle.

Well, now you can legally drive a Kei truck on the government’s roads in Texas.

Counties should begin accepting and processing title and registration applications for mini vehicles and ensure the applicant or dealer provides all required title and registration documents, including import documents when applicable,” reads the letter issued by the Texas DMV.

This is pushback against the apparat, which does not want Americans to be able to drive inexpensive, simple vehicles – which have been taken off the roads by removing them from the showrooms, via the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.

Something called the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators – which is as “American” as Chevrolet is Russian – issued a “recommendation” that states ban all “non-FMVSS compliant” vehicles. This could – it is ultimately intended to include – vehicles that were legal for sale in this country when they were made but which do not comply with the latest Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Potentially, cars made before air bags were effectively required would be forced off the government’s roads this way. The administrators – such a benign sounding term – itch to do this. (If you haven’t already, you might read Philip Dru: Administrator. It is about Woodrow Wilson’s Rasputin, a guy named Edward Mandell House.)

So, this is an important tactical victory. Very much of a piece with the one that was won when Florida ditched “mask” mandates. This led to “mask” mandates being ditched in other states.

It is very important that things like this spread.

The more states that become freer, the harder it is for other states to be less free. This was precisely the purpose of the divided sovereignty built into the original American system, which was not intended to be a consolidated, centralized, one-size-fits-all regime. America was supposed to be a place in which people were free to go about their business, so long as their business was peaceful. There is nothing harmful in driving a Kei truck. If you don’t want to drive one, then don’t. But if your neighbor does, he has every right to. And neither you nor any “administrator” has any business telling him he can’t.

. . .

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