Jeff Vey, President
P.O. Box 369
22611 FM 15
Troup, TX 75789
Dear Mr. Vey:
This responds to your letter in which you seek clarification as to whether your product called the Thoroughbred Stallion, a three-wheeled vehicle designed for on-road use and weighing 1700 lbs, would be classified as a motorcycle for purposes of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs). Based on the information provided in your letter and the analysis provided below, the Stallion would be considered a motorcycle for purposes of the FMVSSs.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. A manufacturer must certify compliance of the product with all applicable FMVSSs prior to offering such product for sale.
Pursuant to the definition of "motorcycle" set forth in 49 CFR 571.3, all three-wheeled motor vehicles with motive power and a seat or saddle are classified as motorcycles, regardless of their weight. The pertinent portion of that section reads as follows:
Motorcycle means a motor vehicle with motive power having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground.
As the Stallion is a three-wheeled motor vehicle with motive power, and has a seat for the rider, it would be considered a motorcycle under the FMVSS.
We note that you asked your question in connection with concerns you have about how your vehicle may be classified under California law, and that you ask for our opinion in order to pursue legislative changes in California.
Although we make no comment on California law, we note that if a State law classifies a vehicle differently than Federal law, preemption is an issue under 49 U.S.C. section 30103(b) if the State classification results in: (1) the vehicle being subject to a State
standard that regulates the same aspect of performance regulated by an FMVSS, and (2) the State standard is not identical to the FMVSS. In such an instance, the State safety standard would be preempted.
We hope this opinion is of assistance to you. If you have any other questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke