Search Interpretations


    Mr. Eric J. Zerphy
    Executive Vice President & COO
    Solar Technology, Inc.
    7620 Cetronia Road,
    Allentown, PA 18106

    Dear Mr. Zerphy:

    This responds to your request for an interpretation concerning whether your companys "Agile Displays" products are "motor vehicles" making you subject to the requirements of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act to provide certain specified "early warning reporting" (EWR) information to NHTSA. You have enclosed literature describing the products, which are all portable, solar-powered LED displays that are intended to convey messages. Our response is provided below.

    By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) administers the laws under which the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) are promulgated.

    The information you provided, along with your website, indicate that your products fall into a number of categories, such as portable trailer mounted displays, vehicle mounted displays, and wall mounted displays.

    You asked whether any of the Agile Displays products are considered "motor vehicles". 49 CFR Part 579, "Reporting of Information and Communications About Potential Defects" at Section 579.4(a) states that for purposes of EWR, "motor vehicle" is used as defined in 49 U.S.C. Section 30102. This statutory provision is also used to determine applicability of the FMVSSs. 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.

    We have issued a number of interpretations of "motor vehicle". Whether the agency considers your products with axles to be "motor vehicles" depends on their 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. 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".

    We have carefully reviewed the product literature included with your letter. We note that among the descriptions of the products are the following:"with trailer-mounted options, Agile Displays answers your needs for both permanent and temporary, easy-to-move signage;" "easy portability, Agile Displays mobile LED signage goes anywhere you need your message to go;" and "Easily relocated to any location where information is needed immediately". These descriptions indicate that the Agile Displays products on wheels are intended to regularly use the public roads.

    Thus, it is our opinion that the following products are motor vehicles, specifically trailers: all Silent Messenger models; the Silent Messenger II; the Silent Messenger III; and the Silent Sentinel. The agency would consider the use of these products on the public roads to be a primary purpose, and not incidental. Since these products are motor vehicles, they would be subject to the FMVSSs. Each of these products 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.

    In addition, as a manufacturer of motor vehicles, you would be required to submit identifying information on your company and its products to this agency in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification and vehicle identification number (VIN) deciphering information in accordance with 49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number Requirements. 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.

    I also note that the Vehicle Mount Arrow Boards and Message Signs appear to be items of motor vehicle equipment. The two-pronged test for whether a product is "motor vehicle equipment" is first, whether a substantial portion of its expected use is related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles and second, whether the product is intended to be used principally by ordinary users of motor vehicles.

    Based on the product literature, it appears that a substantial portion of the expected use of the Vehicle Mount Arrow Boards and Message Signs is related to being placed on a motor vehicle. The product description includes: "Dimensions at base are designed to fit a wide variety of truck beds" and "Skid takes minimal space in truck bed, leaving room for cargo and tools". Photographs of the stand depict them as being exactly wide enough to fit into the beds of Ford F150 pick-up trucks.

    Further, the advertising of the product focuses on ease of use - "quick programming" and "rapid, simple, one-person deployment and transportation". These statements lead us to conclude that the product is intended to be used principally by ordinary users of motor vehicles. For these reasons, we conclude that the Vehicle Mount Arrow Boards and Message Signs are motor vehicle equipment.

    NHTSA has not issued any Federal motor vehicle safety standard that directly regulates the performance of products such as the Vehicle Mount Arrow Boards and Message Signs. Nevertheless, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, your company is subject to the requirements in Title 49 U.S.C. Sections 30118 30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with defects related to motor vehicle safety. In the event that the manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.

    In a telephone conversation, you advised Dorothy Nakama of my staff that SolarTech manufactures more than 500 trailers per year. Early warning reporting requirements for your company as a manufacturer of trailers are specified at 49 CFR Section 579.24. You may review NHTSAs early warning information on-line at Under the heading "March 19, 2004" is listed the "Compendium for Early Warning Reporting for Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles Having an Annual Production of 500 or More Vehicles" and a compendium for motor vehicle equipment manufacturers.

    I hope this information is helpful. In addition to "Requirements for Trailer Manufacturers," I am enclosing a fact sheet entitled "Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment". If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Nakama at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.


    Stephen P. Wood
    Acting Chief Counsel