Mary M. Mann, Director
Federal Government Regulations
National Marine Manufacturers Association
Washington Harbour
3050 K Street, N.W., Suite 145
Washington, D.C. 20007

Dear Ms. Mann:

This responds to your letter of September 15, 1994, to Patrick Boyd of this agency. As he has told you, we did not receive a copy of it until around November 9. You ask for confirmation of your understanding of the conspicuity requirements of S5.7.1.4 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 as they apply to large boat trailers, based upon a meeting you had with him and Taylor Vinson of this Office earlier in the summer. We have paraphrased your concerns for conciseness in our discussion which follows.

Side treatment

1. Paragraph S5.1.1.9 allows a double-faced clearance lamp to be mounted at or near the midpoint of wide boat trailers to indicate the extreme width. Paragraph S5.7.1.4, in essence, prohibits retroreflective material from being closer than 75 mm to the edge of any required lamp. While the closest edge of the fender-mounted lamp will be further than 75 mm from the body-mounted retroreflective material, when viewed from the side the separation distance vanishes and the material appears next to the lamp. You asked whether this configuration complies with Standard No. 108.

NHTSA regards this configuration as meeting the requirements of Standard No. 108 since the actual physical distance between the closest edge of the lamp and the material is more than 75 mm. But the more important point is that the spacing of side conspicuity material is a consideration only for required side lamps. The amber lamp in question is a front clearance lamp and the proximity of side facing reflectors has no effect on its visibility from the side.

2. Paragraph S5. requires that the material cover at least half the trailer length and that it be distributed as even as practicable. For purposes of calculating the 50 percent minimum, you asked whether the following two applications are acceptable: a) The sheeting can be on the angled portion of the trailer that is the tongue, regardless of its effect on the reflectivity of the tape when viewed from the side.

NHTSA has traditionally included the trailer tongue in determining the overall length of the vehicle for compliance purposes. Therefore, sheeting applied to the trailer tongue may be used in calculating the 50 percent minimum.

(b) The sheeting need not all be on the same horizontal plane.

This is correct. If a manufacturer applies sheeting to the tongue and fender in fulfilling the 50% minimum obligation, the material need not be at the same height as the other sheeting on the trailer. However, wherever applied, each discrete portion of sheeting must be mounted as horizontal as practicable.

Rear Treatment

1. Paragraph S5. specifies the application of three Elements of sheeting to the rear of trailers. However, it excuses container chassis and platform trailers without bulkheads from being equipped with Element 2 treatment, and trailers without underride protection devices from the requirements of Element 3. You asked whether NHTSA would also excuse boat trailers without bulkheads in the same manner as platform trailers, requiring compliance only with Element 1.

This is correct. The configuration of a boat trailer without a bulkhead is essentially that of a platform trailer, and it may also be exempted from providing Element 2 conspicuity treatment. Due to their low heights, boat trailers are not equipped with rear underride devices, and those trailers without underride devices are excluded from the requirement for providing Element 3 treatment.

2. Element 1 retroreflective material is to be applied "across the full width of the trailer" but under paragraph S5.7.1(a) it need not be applied to "items of equipment such as door hinges and lamp bodies." There is a cross member at the rear which will have conspicuity treatment across the full width; however, mounting brackets attached to the cross member obscure portions of the conspicuity treatment. You asked for confirmation that this configuration is in accordance with Standard No. 108.

The exclusionary term "items of equipment" is not limited to the two examples cited in S5.7.1(a), door hinges and lamp bodies. We believe that any equipment to which it is impracticable to apply retroreflective material may be excluded from the requirement. You have not included any pictures of the mounting brackets, but this will confirm that NHTSA regards the mounting brackets as "items of equipment" to which the treatment need not be applied, if it is impracticable to apply material to it. In this event, application of conspicuity treatment across the full width of the cross member meets Standard No. 108 even if the subsequently added mounting brackets without treatment obscure part of it.

3. Does NHTSA interpret "full width of the trailer" to include the rear of the fender assembly, so as to require the application of conspicuity treatment to it? You asked for confirmation that the phrase applies only to the rear of the frame.

NHTSA has defined "overall vehicle width" to exclude flexible fender extensions, but it has not adopted a definition for "full width." We understand from your first question, on the centrally mounted clearance lamp, that boat trailer fenders will be located at or near the center of the trailer rather than at the rear. Under this circumstance, we interpret "full width" to include only the vehicle structure at the rear end of the trailer, including its frame and rear cross members.

4. With respect to the relative location of the edge of retroreflective sheeting to the edge of required lamps, S5.7.1.4(b) prohibits white sheeting from being closer than 75 mm to the edge of any required lamp whether red or amber, while S5.7.1.4(c) prohibits red sheeting from being closer than 75 mm to the edge of any required amber lamp only. You asked for confirmation "that the edge of the red portion of the sheeting may abut a rear identification lamp but that the white portion of the sheeting must be at lease (sic) 3mm (sic) from those lamps." (We believe you mean 3 inches).

This is correct. S5.7.1.4(c) does not prohibit red sheeting from being closer than 75 mm (3 inches) to the red rear identification lamp, and the two may abut. However, S5.7.1.4(b) does not allow the edge of white sheeting to be closer than 75 mm to the edge of the luminous lens area of the identification lamp.

Finally, you have asked for confirmation of your understanding "that it is not acceptable for trailer manufacturers to give rolls of reflexive sheeting tape and instructions to dealers regarding its application. Rather, the sheeting must be installed at the factory."

We confirm your understanding. The manufacturer of the trailer is required to certify compliance of its product with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards upon its completion and before its delivery for introduction into interstate commerce. As this certification includes compliance with S5.7 of Standard No. 108, the conspicuity treatment must be applied as part of the manufacturing process and not delegated to dealers.


Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel ref:108 d:1/11/95