NHTSA Logo Guidance

    DOT Logo Memorandum
    U.S. Department of

    National Highway
    Traffic Safety

    Use of the NHTSA Logo 
                                      Date: Jan 18, 2000 
    Frank Seales, Jr. signature Frank Seales, Jr.
    Chief Counsel
    Reply to
    Attn. of:
    To: Adele Derby
    Associate Administrator for
    State and Community Services

    Several weeks ago, representatives from the offices of Chief Counsel, State and Community Services, Traffic Safely Programs, and Safety Performance Standards had discussions about the use of NHTSA's logo, in combination with the logo (or other identifier) of non-Federal sources, on documents of varying authorship. These discussions arose because of your expressed interest in changing the agency's policy on the use of our logo.

    Current Policy

    To date, the agency's policy on the use of NHTSA logos and identifiers has been that materials developed by others, without NHTSA participation, may not carry NHTSA logos or identifiers, but may include reference to the fact that the materials were developed in support of objectives supported by the agency. Materials developed jointly by NHTSA and others may carry the logos or identifiers of both NHTSA and the other contributors, subject to prior NHTSA approval. This policy is based on the premise that NHTSA's logo is in the nature of a signature, and that it should not appear on materials unless NHTSA plays a substantive role in their creation.

    Similarly, the logos of others should not appear on materials containing the NHTSA logo unless those others have played a substantive role in their creation. This policy is based on the added concern that NHTSA must avoid creating the appearance that it is promoting or endorsing an outside entity.

    These policies date back to 1992, when it was documented in writing as a result of increased agency activities with partnerships and coalitions (see "NHTSA Participation in Coalitions-Description and Guidelines").

    Your Request

    You have asked that we revisit these policies, to allow more flexibility in the use of logos. Specifically, you seek to allow the NHTSA logo to appear on materials developed by others (in particular, by States) without NHTSA participation. You also seek to allow others (in particular, States and certain national organizations) to place their logos on materials developed by NHTSA, without the participation of these entities. In support of this request, you explain that highway safety materials can be marketed to greater effect to targeted audiences when the logos or identifiers of entities that are recognized and respected by these audiences appear on the materials.

    Finally, you seek to streamline the approval process for these materials. In this regard, you have prepared a draft document, "NSC Policy and Procedures for Review of Materials," which sets forth suggested review procedures, and you request our review of this document.

    Public Sector Logos on Materials Created by NHTSA

    I have carefully considered your request to revisit these logo policies, in light of the discussions that have taken place on this subject. I recognize that the concerns underlying the 1992 policy regarding the appearance of other logos on NHTSA-created materials are mitigated when the logo or identifier that is to appear on these materials along with the NHTSA logo is that of a public sector entity (i.e., a State, political subdivision of a State, or unit of State or local government), as distinguished from a private sector entity. In this instance, I do not oppose a relaxation of the policy.

    I believe that such a public sector entity may add its logo or identifier to NHTSA-created materials bearing the NHTSA logo, regardless of its level of participation in the creation of the materials, provided relevant NHTSA program officials deem it consistent with NHTSA's mission to allow the entity to do so in the particular case.

    If the materials at issue have been reviewed previously by this office, no further review by this office is necessary before the entity's logo is added. If the materials have not been reviewed previously by this office, or if changes are made to previously-reviewed materials in the course of adding the other entity's logo, this office will need to review the product, just as it reviews other NHTSA products prior to release.

    This change in policy assumes, again, that the cognizant program office has determined that the inclusion of the public sector logo or identifier on NHTSA materials, without regard to authorship, serves this agency's mission (i.e., this should not be construed as a blanket permission for any State or local entity to include its logo on a NHTSA document, without evaluation of the particular circumstances by NHTSA program officials). I am guided in this decision by the knowledge that the agency produces many materials with the specific goal and intent that they be embraced and freely used by the States.

    NHTSA Logo on Materials Created by Others

    The addition of NHTSA logos or identifiers to materials created by and bearing the logos of others, even if they are State or local entities, presents a different issue. Because materials bearing our logos or identifiers carry the implication of agency authorship, the potential ramifications of this course of action are more significant. Consequently, if NHTSA logos or identifiers are to appear on materials created by other entities, these materials must first be reviewed by this office. Our review is required even if we have previously reviewed the materials without the inclusion of NHTSA logos, because the inclusion of our logos or identifiers fundamentally changes the nature of the materials and the assumptions that existed during the earlier review.

    Review by the Office of Chief Counsel

    In summary, with the above changes, this office. will not independently question the inclusion of State or local logos or identifiers on NHTSA-created materials, irrespective of the level of participation by these entities in the creation of the materials. We will assume that the cognizant program official has evaluated the particular case and determined that the inclusion of these logos furthers the agency's mission. However, we will continue to review these materials for substantive content as we would review any other NHTSA materials, unless we have previously reviewed them. This office will review materials created by other entities (regardless of identity) if the NHTSA logo is proposed to be included, even if we have previously reviewed them. In this latter situation, we reserve the right to address the appropriateness of including the NHTSA logo on these materials, as well as addressing the substantive contents of the materials that are to bear the NHTSA logo.

    Please note that our relaxation of the policy concerning the appearance of the logos of others on NHTSA documents does not extend beyond the examples described above, involving States, political subdivisions of States, and units of State and local government. Accordingly, logo issues involving the private sector, including for-profit and not-for-profit companies, trade groups, organizations, associations, and the like, will continue to be examined closely by this office, and we will base our evaluation on the facts of each case. Any such cases should be brought to our attention, as they often present ethics or conflict-of-interest issues.

    Proposed NSC Policy

    With respect to the details of the review process, the draft NSC document ("NSC Policy and Procedures for Review of Materials") is, in several particulars, inconsistent with the approach detailed in this memorandum. Inasmuch as it was prepared without the benefit of this information, you may wish to make conforming changes in the document prior to our formal review. We would be pleased to assist your staff in that effort, if you so desire, and to provide prompt review of the finalized changes.

    I must highlight an issue for particular consideration. Among the procedures in your draft guidance document, you recommend a fixed ten-day review cycle, after which a submission would be deemed automatically approved in the absence of receipt of comments from a reviewing office. I am unwilling to abide by such a system, because it might lead to instances where a product receives no review by this office. However, I am willing to make accommodations to address your concerns.

    I propose the following approach. For products of a routine nature, I believe that we can complete our review within ten working days. For more complex or lengthy products, or products that raise significant or controversial issues, it is appropriate for your office to allow additional review time. If a product is time-sensitive, I ask that you identify the specific programmatic urgency at the time the product is submitted for review, so that we may manage our workload accordingly. My staff will work closely with yours to expedite these reviews. If you have not received a response from my office by the due date for a particular product, please contact us to determine its status before proceeding.

    As a general matter, it is helpful if we receive reasonable notice of projects as they unfold, including those at the regional level. Early involvement enables us to become familiar with the issues over time, and avoids the learning curve that is otherwise necessary during the review period. I recognize that it is not always possible to provide such advance notice. However, to the extent practicable, I hope that you will encourage this partnership approach, so that our staffs may benefit and our reviews may be accomplished expeditiously.

    I have read your December 10, 1999 memo, commenting on an earlier draft of this memo. You state that our "proposed" system concerning the use of logos will result in less positive exposure for the agency, and suggest that my office develop a set of guidelines for use of the NHTSA logo in lieu of our traditional review role. Please note that, except for a relaxation of the policy on inclusion of State logos, this memo does not propose any new policy or approach. It simply restates the review process that has been in place for many years. To my knowledge, this process has worked successfully with other offices, provided my staff is given reasonable notice of developing projects.

    If you have any questions concerning this guidance, please do not hesitate to contact me or Heidi Coleman or John Donaldson of the General Law Division.


      cc: Executive Director
      Associate Administrator for Traffic Safety Programs
      Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards
      Associate Administrator for Plans and Policy
      Director of Public and Consumer Affairs