Visionary Lighting Systems
1409 Sweetgum Circle
Keller, TX 76248
Dear Mr. Tubbs:
We have received your letter of March 23, 1995, asking for a waiver of 49 U.S.C. 30112(a) which will enable the introduction of a new lighting system that you have developed for large trailers. You envision that this system will eventually be installed on emergency vehicles and school buses. We understand that you wish to market this system as original equipment.
You have asked that we "provide adequate safeguards to prevent unauthorized dissemination of this information." As Taylor Vinson of this Office explained to you before you wrote, all the agency's letters of interpretation must be made available to the general public, and these letters must include enough information to make the interpretation comprehensible. Mr. Vinson telephoned you on March 30, 1995, and informed you that we proposed, in this instance, to limit the description of the system to the number, location, and quantity of lamps, to withhold the incoming letter with the exception of Attachment A, and to exclude your name and address from the copy made publicly available. You concurred with this treatment of your letter, except that you preferred not to have your name and address withheld in the event a reader might be interested in getting in touch with you.
You believe that the current lighting and conspicuity requirements for large trailers are inadequate for safety when compared with your system. This system consists of 18 "strip lights on the side and rear" of large trailers which are "Aviation Green" in color. The side and rear lighting schemes are depicted on Attachment A to your letter. As we interpret Attachment A, two of the strip lights are mounted in the upper right and left rear corners, while eight lights are on each side of the trailer (four right- angle lights in each upper and lower corner, and four lights deployed at one-third body-length intervals at the top and bottom).
Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment is the Federal regulation that governs original lighting equipment on trailers. These requirements must be met upon the manufacture and sale of trailers. With respect to the rear of a van trailer, your Attachment A depicts only strip lights in the upper right and left corners. This is not permissible under Standard No. 108. The Federal regulation requires the conspicuity treatment specified by S5.7 to be applied in this area, as well as clearance lamps. With respect to the side of a van trailer, Standard No. 108 requires horizontal conspicuity treatment to be applied near the lower edge of the trailer as close to the front and rear as practicable, though it need not be continuous as long as it covers at least half the trailer length. Because of the gaps between the strip lights on the trailer side as depicted in Attachment A, it is possible that conspicuity treatment could be applied between the strips that would total half or more of the trailer length.
However, supplementary lighting equipment such as your system is not permissible under Standard No. 108 (paragraph S5.1.3) if it impairs the effectiveness of the lighting equipment required by the standard. Standard No. 108 restricts the color of exterior lights to red, amber, and white, the former two of which are associated with caution. Green is not used as an exterior lighting color because it is the recognized signal to proceed rather than to warn. We believe that use of the color green has the potential to create a measure of confusion rather than caution, thereby affecting the effectiveness of the mandatory side lighting equipment, i.e., amber front side markers, red rear side markers, and red and white conspicuity striping or red reflectors.
A vehicle manufacturer may petition for a temporary exemption from a Federal motor vehicle safety standard under the conditions specified in 49 CFR part 555, a copy of which is enclosed. Therefore, a trailer manufacturer interested in using your system could apply for a 2-year exemption on the basis that the exemption would make easier the development or field evaluation of a new motor vehicle safety feature providing a safety level at least equal to the safety level of the standard. The effect of an exemption is to allow the manufacture and sale of a nonconforming vehicle without violating 49 U.S.C. 30112(a). I am sorry to inform you that the exemption is not available to equipment manufacturers.
If you have data that sustains your belief that your system enhances safety, our Office of Research and Development would be interested in corresponding with you. The Associate Administrator of that Office is George Parker.
If there are other questions you have, Taylor Vinson will be happy to answer them for you.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel ref:108 d:4/13/95