By Russ and Tiña De Maris
More RV industry woes: If tariffs on imported steel and aluminum weren’t enough to keep RV manufacturing execs awake at night, now a new worry looms: Propane containers. American RV manufacturers put thousands of imported LP tanks and cylinders into the rigs they build, and now two American LP container manufacturers are crying foul.
Manchester Tank & Equipment and Worthington Industries have stirred the pot at the International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce, raising concerns that propane cylinders from Thailand and China may be being “dumped” in the U.S., and that China potentially unfairly subsidizes its manufacturers. If the investigation substantiates such claims, then imported cylinders could see additional duties that could tack on anywhere from 27 to 122 percent to their price.
Already the International Trade Commission (ITC) has taken testimony from the RV industry. On June 12, the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s government affairs director told the ITC that RV manufacturers aren’t keen on buying American-made propane containers. Why? Because the industry feels American manufacturers have problems in both quantity and quality. In 2014 and 2015, dockworkers on the West Coast went out on strike, forcing RV manufacturers to look to U.S. LP container makers for their supply. Result? The wait for cylinders doubled, and of those that were delivered, many had to be sent back because they were dented or bent. According to the RVIA, they figure that U.S. producers could supply only 25 to 40 percent of those needed by the RV industry.
For now, RV manufacturers will be holding their collective breath for the outcome. The ITC will wrap up its investigation by early July. If it deems there is an “injury or threat of injury” to U.S. LP cylinder builders, then it will be at least late October before decisions are made as to how much foreign manufacturers will be penalized.