Kei controversy DMV asks owners to return truck registration

Kei controversy: DMV asks owners to return truck registration


EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A fight over miniature-Japanese vehicles has made its way to Smith Hill.


Earlier this year, Sen. Lou DiPalma said a number of his constituents were told they had to return the plates and registration for their “Kei trucks.”

According to the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), the Kei vehicles “are primarily mini-trucks manufactured for the Japanese market designated as ‘kejidosha’ light weight vehicles.”

The mini trucks are generally used for things like farm work. They weigh about 1,500 pounds and can only reach speeds of about 75 mph.

A miniature white truck is parked next to a fence. It has a small empty bed and a small cabin.
FILE – A “Kei truck” (Getty Images)

The DMV said Kei vehicles were never manufactured in compliance with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, but are allowed to be imported under federal law if the vehicles are more than 25 years old. Whether the vehicles are allowed on public highways, however, is up to individual states.

There are about 30 Kei trucks in Rhode Island, according to the DMV.

DiPalma said his constituents’ trucks were previously registered with the DMV, some for several years.

“One of my constituents … called the DMV to say, ‘Can I register this?’ He was told ‘Yes,’” DiPalma said. “So he … was not going to purchase the vehicle and go acquire it if he couldn’t register it.”

DiPalma said his constituents were “taken aback” when they got notices from the DMV this year asking them to turn in their registrations and keep their Kei vehicles off the road.

The DMV said the mini-antique trucks aren’t safe and pose a danger to those driving them, passengers, pedestrians and other members of the public.

Other antique vehicles are “grandfathered” because they met U.S. safety standards at the time they were manufactured, the DMV noted.

The DMV’s rationale didn’t make sense to DiPalma, so he collaborated with Rep. Michelle McGaw to introduce legislation that would allow people who have already bought and registered Kei vehicles to continue using them.

“What the bill seeks to do is grandfather everybody who has [a Kei vehicle] and has it registered. It would allow you to re-register if you had it prior to 2021,” DiPalma explained.

The DMV sent a letter opposing the bill which read in part, “the DMV has made efforts over the last several years to prevent any additional registration of these vehicles… there are, however, 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.”

The legislation has already cleared the R.I. Senate. It does not address the purchase of Kei vehicles after 2021.