175 Rock Rd.
Glenn Rock, NJ 07452
Dear Mr. McAvey:
This responds to your letter regarding the Fuel-Tool, an onboard gasoline refueling system you have developed. You ask us to evaluate your product with respect to our laws and regulations.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (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. We also investigate safety-related defects.
In your letter, you describe the Fuel-Tool as an onboard gasoline refueling system. You state that the Fuel-Tool allows a user to refuel auxiliary equipment and vehicles directly from the host vehicles fuel tank. Your website (www.fueltool.com) shows the Fuel-Tool system consisting of a pump that is attached directly and permanently to the fuel line, and a hose and nozzle stored in the vehicle. Once the Fuel-Tool is activated, the fuel pump sends fuel through the fuel line at a rate of two gallons per minute through the nozzle and directly into the item the consumer wishes to refuel (for example, your website appears to show the refueling of an all terrain vehicle using the Fuel-Tool). You state that the Fuel-Tool will not be installed as original equipment on motor vehicles, but will be installed by a U-Fill certified technician or by the retail customer as an aftermarket item.
We appreciate your effort to contact NHTSA about your product. However, as stated above, NHTSA is unable to evaluate individual products for compliance with the FMVSSs. We can provide some general information about our requirements.
In addition, the Department of Transportations Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) administers regulations that relate to, among other things, the transportation and discharge of gasoline for fueling auxiliary equipment. For information on this subject, you may contact PHMSAs Office of Hazardous Materials Safety at (202) 366-0656.
There currently are no FMVSSs that directly apply to the Fuel-Tool as an aftermarket item of equipment. Our standard for Fuel System Integrity, FMVSS No. 301, applies to new complete motor vehicles, and not to aftermarket components that attach to the fuel system.
While no FMVSS applies to the Fuel-Tool as an aftermarket item, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements of the Vehicle Safety Act concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety-related defects (49 U.S.C. 30118-30121). I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those and other manufacturer responsibilities. In the event you or NHTSA determines that your product contains a safety-related defect, you would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
In addition, a relevant statutory provision for determining the legality of modifications to motor vehicles is 49 U.S.C. 30122, Making safety devices and elements inoperative. This section reads, in part:
A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard prescribed under this chapter .
If the Fuel-Tool were installed in the aftermarket by a U-Fill technician or any other manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or repair business, the provisions of 49 U.S.C. 30122 would apply. Under 49 U.S.C. 30122, the commercial installer of the U-Fill would need to be sure that the installation of the U-Fill does not bring the vehicle out of compliance with the FMVSSs. As you correctly identified in your letter, FMVSS No. 301, Fuel System Integrity, would be the most likely standard impacted by the installation of the Fuel-Tool, since it limits fuel spillage and other failure modes in vehicle crashes. However, the commercial installer would also need to ensure that compliance with other FMVSSs is not adversely affected by installation of the Fuel-Tool.
49 U.S.C. 30122 does not apply to individual owners that are modifying their own vehicles. Thus, under NHTSAs regulations, individual owners may install any item of motor vehicle equipment regardless of its effect on compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, NHTSA encourages vehicle owners not to degrade the safety of their vehicles or motor vehicle equipment.
You indicated that you intend to eventually partner with a vehicle manufacturer to include your product as an option on new vehicles. If the Fuel-Tool were added to a new vehicle, i.e., before the vehicle is sold for the first time to a consumer, then the vehicle must meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 301 and all other FMVSSs with the Fuel-Tool installed. Also, as noted above, the vehicle manufacturer would have to ensure that the vehicle is free of safety-related defects.
In addition to the requirements outlined above, individual States are free to establish requirements for vehicles used in the State, and may have laws that apply to the installation of a device such as the Fuel-Tool. For information about those requirements, you should contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in any state in which the equipment will be sold or used. Further, for information on private tort liability, we suggest you contact your private attorney or insurance carrier.
If you have any further questions, please contact Ari Scott of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke