Dave Templeton, Designer/Drafter
Floe International, Inc.
48473 State Highway 65
McGregor, MN 55760
Dear Mr. McGregor:
This responds to your letter requesting a clarification of lighting standards for trailers. Specifically, you asked whether a specific trailer design is compliant with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, with regard to the front and rear side marker lamps and side reflex reflectors. We cannot answer all of your questions, because this office does not give advance approvals of designs for motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. However, your submission showed that you have placed the front side marker lamps on the trailer tongue of the vehicle. With regard to this specification, we believe that this is a permissible location for those lamps.
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.
For reference, side marker lamps are required by S5.1 of Standard No. 108. The requirements for side marker lamps are specified in Table IV of the standard, which states that side marker lamps are required [o]n each side 1 red as far to the rear as practicable, and 1 amber as far to the front as practicable. The lamps are also required to be located not less than 15 inches above the surface of the road.
Whether or not the trailer you pictured complies with Standard No. 108s requirement for side marker lamps depends on several factors. As you did not provide any dimensions of the trailer or specify the exact placement of the lamps, we will not comment on whether
or not they appear to be compliant. As it appears your trailer may be quite small, we will note that S126.96.36.199 states that A trailer that is less than 6 feet in overall length, including the trailer tongue, need not be equipped with front side marker lamps and front side reflex reflectors. Therefore, front side marker lamps and reflex reflectors may not be required on your trailer, depending on its length.
The other salient characteristic of your trailer shown in the picture is that the front side marker lamps are located on the trailer tongue (or tow bar). The requirement for the location of the amber front side reflex reflector for your vehicle is given in Table IV-Location of Required Equipment, and states that they should be located as far forward as practicable. Paragraph S188.8.131.52 of Standard No. 108 further modifies this requirement, stating that [o]n a trailer, the amber front side reflex reflectors and amber front side marker lamps may be located as far forward as practicable exclusive of a trailer tongue [emphasis added]. We interpret this paragraph to mean that it is permissible to locate the front side marker lamps on the body of a trailer, even if it is practicable to locate them on the trailer tongue. It does not, however, preclude a manufacturer from locating the amber reflex reflectors on the trailer tongue, as long as they meet all other relevant requirements from that position. We note that lamps on the trailer tongue may potentially be obscured by the trailer and/or tractor, depending on the viewing angle.
If you have any further questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke