Mr. Tab Hauser
HASCO Components International Corp.
906 Jericho Turnpike
New Hyde Park, NY 11040
Dear Mr. Hauser:
This responds to your letter requesting information on how to get your product, the Electronic Flare, approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). Please note that DOT does not provide approvals of such products. In this letter, we provide a discussion of relevant requirements of two DOT agencies, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Unlike the practice in many countries, NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards.
One FMVSS is FMVSS No. 125, Warning devices, which applies only to warning devices that are designed to be carried in buses and trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds. FMVSS No. 125 specifically applies to devices, without self-contained energy sources. (See S3. Application.) Since the Electronic Flare is battery operated, it has a self-contained energy source. Therefore, FMVSS No. 125 does not apply to the Electronic Flare.
Even though not covered by FMVSS No. 125, the Electronic Flare is motor vehicle equipment, and is subject to various provisions of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, Motor Vehicle Safety. Motor vehicle equipment is defined at 49 U.S.C. Section 30102(a)(7) as:
(A) any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured;
(B) any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as an accessory or addition to a motor vehicle; or
(C) any device or an article or apparel (except medicine or eyeglasses prescribed by a licensed practitioner) that is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle and is manufactured, sold, delivered, offered, or intended to be used only to safeguard motor vehicles and highway users against risk of accident, injury or death.
In determining whether an item of equipment is considered an accessory ... to a motor vehicle, NHTSA analyzes two criteria. The first criterion is whether a substantial portion of the expected uses of a product is related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. NHTSA determines expected uses by considering product advertising, product labeling, and the type of store that retails the product, as well as available information about the actual use of the product. The second criterion is whether the product is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles.
Applying these two criteria to the Electronic Flare, NHTSA concludes that a substantial portion of the expected use of the Electronic Flare is related to motor vehicles. Your website, www.electronicflare.com, shows that the Electronic Flare is marketed for use in conjunction with motor vehicles, to be deployed (in lieu of incendiary flares) on the side of the road in the event a vehicle is disabled. Product literature provided with your letter shows the Electronic Flare marketed as a device that can give your family and automobile the protection it needs in the event you have a flat tire or are stalled on the side of the road and as an environmentally friendly alternative to the incendiary flare. Further, you are marketing the product to ordinary motor vehicle owners and drivers for their purchase. For these reasons, we conclude that your product is an item of motor vehicle equipment.
Manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment must ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects. If you or NHTSA should determine that your product contains a safety-related defect, you would be responsible for notifying NHTSA and purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge. (See 49 CFR Part 573, Defect and Non-Compliance Responsibility and Reports.)
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the agency responsible for safety regulations applicable to the operation of commercial motor vehicles, in interstate commerce. We consulted with FMCSA about your inquiry, and it provided the following information. The requirements for emergency equipment on all power units, specified in 49 CFR 393.95, require in part that each truck, truck tractor, and bus (except those towed in driveaway-towaway operations) to be equipped with (1) three bidrectional emergency reflective triangles that conform to the requirements of FMVSS No. 125, or (2) at least 6 fusees or 3 liquid-burning flares. Other warning devices may be used in addition to, but not in lieu of, the required warning devices, provided those warning devices do not decrease the effectiveness of the required warning devices.
In addition, the States regulate the use of vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. Some States may regulate the warning devices that operators of vehicles may or must use when a vehicle is stopped. The States can provide information on whether they have any requirements for warning devices to be used with motor vehicles.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions about NHTSA requirements, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992. If you have any questions about FMCSA requirements, you may call Mike Huntley at (202) 366-9209.
Anthony M. Cooke