Mr. Michael P. Hancock
Advanced Fire Control Technologies, Inc.
13685 E. Davies Place
Centennial, CO 80112
Dear Mr. Hancock:
This responds to your letter requesting an interpretation regarding how Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 304, Compressed Natural Gas Fuel Container Integrity, would apply to your companys product. Your letter explained that your company produces fire suppression delivery systems that are all or in part powered by high pressure compressed air. You stated that under your design, this high pressure compressed air is usually stored in DOT controlled cargo bottles which are fixed to the carrying vehicle, but your company would like to switch to lighter composite type high pressure bottles. Specifically, you asked whether the agency regulates compressed natural gas (CNG) high pressure composite bottles that are filled with compressed air under FMVSS No. 304 (49 CFR 571.304), and if so, whether it is possible to obtain an exemption from those requirements. Based on the information you have provided, we have concluded that your compressed air tanks would not be subject to the requirements of FMVSS No. 304 for the reasons that follow.
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 (see 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301). NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to self-certify that their products conform to all applicable safety standards that are in effect on the date of manufacture. NHTSA selects a sampling of new vehicles and equipment each year to determine their compliance with applicable FMVSSs. If our testing or examination reveals an apparent noncompliance, we may require the manufacturer to remedy the noncompliance, and may initiate an enforcement proceeding, if necessary, to ensure that the manufacturer takes appropriate action.
FMVSS No. 304 applies to each passenger car, multipurpose passenger vehicle, truck, and bus that uses CNG as a motor fuel and to each container designed to store CNG as motor fuel on-board any motor vehicle (see S3). The standard does not apply per se to tanks that simply are capable of holding CNG, but instead, it is concerned with CNG-fueled vehicles
and the tanks that hold CNG for those vehicles. It is plainly conceivable that the same type of high pressure bottles could be suitable for holding a variety of different substances. Thus, the only tanks that are subject to FMVSS No. 304 are those that are designed to and do store CNG as motor fuel for motor vehicles. Even if, as you suggest in your letter, the bottles which your company uses for compressed air were originally designed to store CNG for fueling a vehicle, in your application the tanks would not be subject to the requirements of FMVSS No. 304. As we have concluded that your bottles are not subject to FMVSS No. 304, there is no need to discuss the issue of an exemption from FMVSS No. 304.
Furthermore, we note that despite the fact that your bottles are not subject to FMVSS No. 304, they may be subject to other applicable Federal regulations or to State regulations. However, we cannot advise you regarding those provisions. We are forwarding this letter to the Office of Chief Counsel of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, and you may also wish to contact them for guidance on whether the bottles that you are producing are in fact subject to the Federal hazardous materials laws.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rebecca Schade of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke