It was a five-hour drive out and five hours back. What would motivate Rick Gelscheit, the owner of Bruin Brake Cables to set aside a full schedule Wednesday, Oct. 21, at his Fox Lake, IL, manufacturing plant to drive to Burlington, IA? Some might say that he drove out to see Presidential Candidate Donald Trump, and that’s true. But, it was more than that.
“I drove to Burlington to see Donald Trump because he’s the only candidate for president who seems to understand that the $400-billion trade deficit we have with China is a trifle undesirable,” said Gelscheit with a note of sarcasm at the end. “Trump is the only candidate that recognizes that the U.S. is accepting an unfavorable trade posture with the world’s second largest economy.”
While Gelscheit thinks this should matter to all Americans, he has personal reasons to have concerns about China’s approach to trade with the U.S. In fact, Gelscheit can name at least 10 reasons off the top of his head. Those 10 reasons are the 10 Americans who used to work for Gelscheit. Now, people in China, making a fraction of what Gelscheit pays his employees, have those jobs.
There’s another very big reason that Gelscheit is concerned about trade with China – the Chinese frequently sell products to Americans that are unsafe. For instance, earlier this year, it was discovered that Lumber Liquidators was selling Chinese-made hardwood flooring that had dramatically and dangerously high levels of formaldehyde.
In Gelscheit’s industry, the issue is the safety of Chinese-made emergency brake cables
“We test our brake cables to 1,200 foot pounds and they pass 99 percent of the time,” said Gelscheit. “We also purchase the Chinese made emergency brake cables at area parts stores and test them. On a good day, half will pass the test. On other days, the Chinese are lucky if one in 10 of their cables pass. Some of their cables explode out of the testing equipment at 150 foot pounds.”
Gelscheit said that, while the Chinese are lucky if half their emergency brake cables pass the tests, American drivers and their families could be very unlucky if they’re relying on one of the Chinese-made cables.
At the event, Trump spoke about the trade imbalance for a sizeable portion of the more than one-hour speech. Gelscheit found that encouraging.
“If Donald Trump keeps the pressure on, maybe we can do something to level the playing field with the Chinese,” said Gelscheit. “At the very least, shouldn’t we expect the Chinese to sell products that are safe for Americans?”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened a case to investigate the danger the question of the safety of Chinese-made emergency brake cables. However, as with most government bureaucracies, they’re moving with the speed of a glacier.
“Our hope is that someone will do something about this before too many people are hurt,” said Gelscheit. “Unfortunately, they probably won’t act until it’s too late – until a family dies in a fiery wreck because their emergency brake cable failed.”