Michael E. Ogle, Sales Manager
Schiller International Corp.
120 Newsons Gait
Fayetteville, GA 30215
Dear Mr. Ogle:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether a Liebherr mobile construction crane that your company has imported into the United States is a "motor vehicle." This letter confirms that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not consider the mobile construction crane to be a "motor vehicle."
You have enclosed brochures (with a photograph and diagrams) describing the crane at issue, the Liebherr LTM 1090/2, 110 ton mobile crane.
By way of background information, NHTSA interprets and enforces the laws under which the Federal motor vehicle safety standards are promulgated. NHTSAs statute at 49 U.S.C. Section 30102(a)(6) defines the term "motor vehicle" as follows:
a vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways, but does not include a vehicle operated only on a rail line.
Further, if a vehicle is a "motor vehicle," it must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards in order to be imported into the United States (49 U.S.C. 30112(a)). The question is whether the Liebherr LTM 1090/2 is a "motor vehicle."
Whether the agency will consider a construction vehicle, or similar equipment, to be a motor vehicle depends on its use. It is the agency's position that this statutory definition does not encompass mobile construction equipment, such as cranes and scrapers, which use the highway only to move between job sites and which typically spend extended periods of time at a single job site. In such cases, the on-highway use of the vehicle is merely incidental and is not the primary purpose for which the vehicle was manufactured. In instances where vehicles, such as dump trucks, frequently use the highway going to and from job sites, and stay at a job site for only a limited time, such vehicles are considered motor vehicles for purposes of the Safety Act, since the on-highway use is more than "incidental."
Based on the literature provided in your letter, we believe the on-highway use of your equipment is merely incidental and not the primary purpose for which they were manufactured. Therefore, we do not consider it to be a "motor vehicle."
We note that our interpretations in this area are based on a court decision issued in 1978. Subsequent legal developments make the holding of that court decision open for reassessment. Moreover, some mobile construction equipment may be using the public roads with greater frequency than the equipment the court decided were not motor vehicles subject to our jurisdiction. At some point in the future, we may revisit the issue of whether certain mobile construction equipment should be considered motor vehicles. However, if we were to take such action, we would announce it publicly, and address such issues as what standards should apply to the vehicles and what effective date is appropriate.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.