Search Interpretations


    Ms. Sherra C. Jarrells
    191 Montrose Drive
    Mooresville, NC 28115

    Dear Ms. Jarrells:

    This responds to your request for an interpretation of whether your proposed product, a "large Kayak with retractable gear legs for the purposes of not needing a trailer to transport the boat" is a "motor vehicle." We have also received via e-mail, photographs of the product in production. This letter confirms that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) considers your product to be a "motor vehicle," specifically a trailer. You also asked several questions relating to requirements for trailer manufacturers, which are answered below.

    By way of background information, NHTSA administers the laws under which the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) at 49 CFR Part 571 are promulgated.

    You wish to know whether your product is a "trailer", and thus, a "motor vehicle".NHTSAs statute at 49 U.S.C. Section 30102(a)(6) defines "motor vehicle" as:

    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.

    Whether the agency considers your kayak with axles to be a "motor vehicle" depends on its use. It is the agencys 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. (Such equipment is the subject of the October 20, 2003, letter to Mr. Michael E. Ogle of Schiller International Corp. that you provided to us.) 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 contrast are 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 our statute, since the on-highway use is more than "incidental".

    Based on the information you have provided, it is our opinion that your product is a motor vehicle, specifically a trailer. You indicated that the purpose of the retractable gear legs/wheel assemblies is so that a trailer is not needed to transport the boat, and that the product is intended for highway use. Given the nature of the product, we believe that owners would routinely tow it behind their vehicles to take it to various recreational areas. Thus, the agency would consider the use of your product on the public roads to be a primary purpose, and not incidental. Since your product is a motor vehicle, it would be subject to the FMVSSs. Your product would be considered a trailer, defined in NHTSAs regulations at 49 CFR Part 571.3 as:

    [A] motor vehicle with or without motive power, designed for carrying persons or property and for being drawn by another motor vehicle.

    I am enclosing an information package, "Requirements for Trailer Manufacturers" issued by NHTSAs Enforcement Office, which explains in some detail NHTSA regulations that apply to the manufacture of trailers. Since the agency has determined that your product is a motor vehicle, the product must comply with applicable FMVSSs, including FMVSS No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, which addresses conspicuity, FMVSS No. 119, New Pneumatic Tires for Vehicles Other than Passenger Cars, and FMVSS No. 120, Tire Selection and Rims for Motor Vehicles Other Than Passenger Cars. The content requirements for the vehicle identification number are found at 49 CFR Part 565. In addition, while your vehicle is not required to be equipped with brakes, if it is equipped with hydraulic brakes, then you would need to use brake hoses and brake fluids that comply with FMVSS No. 106, Brake Hoses, and FMVSS No. 116, Motor Vehicle Brake Fluids. Please note that trailers equipped with air brakes are required to comply with FMVSS No. 121, Air Brake Systems.

    In addition, as a manufacturer of motor vehicles, you would be required to submit identification information to this agency in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification. You would also be required to certify that each trailer complies with all applicable FMVSSs. The certification procedure is set forth in 49 CFR Part 567, Certification.

    You also ask how to ensure that your trailer complies with the laws of each of the fifty States. We regret that we cannot provide this type of information. You may wish to contact the various States and/or a private attorney concerning this question.

    Finally, because NHTSA has no statutory authority to regulate "boats," I am unable to provide an opinion whether your product is also a "boat".

    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.


    Stephen P. Wood
    Acting Chief Counsel