Buy America Act

There have been two acts passed in the US in the 20th century regarding the United States Government’s purchasing of items.  The first, passed in 1933, is the Buy American Act.  This requires the Federal Government to prefer American-made goods over foreign goods.  The second, similarly named act, the Buy America Act was passed as part of  the 1982 Surface Transportation Assistance Act that deals only with Roads and Rail and contains requirements associated with the purchase of goods and materials for construction of infrastructure.

The 1933 Buy American Act is the better known of the two.  It was established on Hoover’s final day in office in an effort to bolster domestic manufacturing and production during the Great Depression.  This forces the US -government to purchase domestic products unless several compliance issues cannot be met such as insufficient quantities from domestic producers or the foreign producer is 25% less expensive.

The 1982 Buy America Act relates exclusively to rail and road construction and deals largely with steel, iron and manufactured goods which includes things such as manhole covers.  According to the FAST Act (a subset act), steel used or purchased must have a 70% or greater content from domestic steel producers.  This increased from 60% in 2016.  It further describes that to adhere to the requirements, manufactured sub-components must also comprise of at least 60% (now 70%) manufactured in the US.  It doesn’t necessarily state that those subcomponents must adhere to the original 60% figure, so those manufacturers can use as many foreign parts as necessary.  

Another aspect of the Buy America Act that resembles the Buy American Act is the 25% cost increase cut off.  If a foreign supplier is 25% less expensive than a domestic supplier, the federal government can be granted a waiver to purchase the foreign product.  Another waiver is granted if domestic companies are unable to produce the required goods in sufficient quantities.

Generally, this act is relatively straightforward.  Transportation-related products, steel and iron must be purchased domestically and must comprise 70% domestic-made supplies.  The steel used in the manhole covers must originate at 70% from a US-based steel mill.  That means up to 30% of the steel can come from any other country and these manhole covers can still be sold to the federal government or can be purchased with federal funds.  Of course, these don’t apply if the US transportation Secretary grants exemptions individually.  

As an American manufacturer, we at Manhole Covers Direct are compliant with this act, so if you are in the procurement process and need manholes and other similar products we can help. Generally you should be able to see on a vendor website if they are compliant, so make sure you are asking about this when talking to potential suppliers and vendors. Contact MCD today to learn more about manhole covers and related products.