Mr. Warren Duvall
Sentry Compliance Solutions, LLC
2620 Centenary Blvd.
Bldg. 2 Suite 212
Shreveport, LA 71104
Dear Mr. Duvall:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether there are any National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requirements which your product, the Driver Alert System, must meet. You state that the device is intended for commercial vehicles or school buses.
According to your letter, the driver alert system sounds an audible alert inside the cab of the vehicle when the vehicle crosses the white line on the shoulder of the road, crossing the center line, or crosses specially marked school zones. You stated that your product does not render any other function of either a commercial or non-commercial vehicle inoperable in any way. The sensors cause an audible alert to sound inside the vehicle when the vehicle crosses any of the lines mentioned. You state that you were directed to NHTSA by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
By way of background information, NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new 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 certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards. Manufacturers must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects.
Your product is an item of motor vehicle equipment and is regulated by NHTSA as such. This agency has not issued any FMVSS that directly applies to your product. However, beyond compliance with relevant Federal safety standards, manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment have additional responsibilities, including a requirement to notify purchasers about safety-related defects and to provide a remedy free of charge, even if their equipment is not covered by a safety standard. 49 U.S.C. 30118-30120.
The relevant Federal prohibition on the modification of vehicles or items of equipment is 49 U.S.C. 30112, 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 unless the manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or repair business reasonably believes the vehicle or equipment will not be used (except for testing or a similar purpose during maintenance or repair) when the device or element is inoperative.
Under the make inoperative provision, if your product were installed in a vehicle by a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business, the installer would have responsibilities relating to ensuring that the vehicle met, or continued to meet, all FMVSSs with the product installed.
With the make inoperative provision in mind, I would like to bring to your attention a provision in FMVSS No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release, relating to an audible alarm system. The standard specifies at S22.214.171.124 that for each emergency exit door on school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 10,000 pounds, when the release mechanism is not in the position that causes an emergency exit door to be closed and the vehicles ignition is in the on position, a continuous warning sound shall be audible at the drivers seating position and in the vicinity of the emergency exit door. Any manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business installing your product must ensure that the product does not make inoperative the compliance of the school bus with S126.96.36.199.
The make inoperative provision does not apply to vehicle owners modifying their own vehicles. However, we encourage owners not to degrade the safety systems of their vehicles.
As you are aware, other governmental entities may have authority over your product. We note from your letter that you have contacted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for information about FMCSA regulations that may apply to your product. In addition, States have the authority to regulate the use and licensing of vehicles operating within their jurisdictions. Therefore, you may wish to check with the Department of Motor Vehicles in any State in which the product will be sold or used regarding any such requirements.
I hope this information is helpful. I have enclosed a fact sheet entitled "Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment." If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke