Jean Beaulieu, Eng.
21 Emilien Frenette
Ste-Therese (Quebec) J7E 5K6
Dear Mr. Beaulieu:
This responds to your letter requesting an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 500, Low Speed Vehicles. Specifically, you ask whether your clients vehicle must meet the State of New Yorks requirement that low speed vehicles (LSVs) be equipped with lighting equipment compliant with FMVSS No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment. As explained below, pending the establishment by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) of performance requirements for required LSV lighting equipment, mirrors, and parking brakes, States may adopt and apply their own performance requirements. As such, based upon your representations concerning the nature and scope of the relevant New York State statute, on which NHTSA expressly does not state an opinion, we conclude that your client would be responsible for meeting the New York regulations.
Let us begin by stating that this office has no special knowledge or expertise with respect to individual State laws. Our answer will address only the requirements of the laws and regulations administered by this agency.
By way of background, the NHTSA is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). Generally, under Federal law (49 U.S.C. 30103(b)(1)), when a Federal safety standard is in effect, a State may prescribe its own standard applicable to the same aspect of performance only if the standard is identical to the [Federal] standard
In the original LSV final rule (see 63 FR 33194), NHTSA determined that States were preempted from adopting performance requirements for most of the types of equipment required by Standard No. 500. However, in a September 1, 2000 response to petitions for reconsideration, NHTSA reversed this position and specifically stated that it was not asserting preemption with regards to performance requirements of required LSV lighting equipment, mirrors, and parking brakes. In that rulemaking, NHTSA stated that:
[W]e agree that the states may adopt and apply their own performance requirements for required LSV lighting equipment, mirrors, and parking brakes until we have established performance requirements for those items of equipment.
Thus, until NHTSA establishes applicable performance requirements, if New York were to require additional performance requirements for vehicle lighting equipment, it would not be preempted by Federal law.
If you have any more questions, contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke