The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510-1702
Dear Senator McConnell:
Thank you for your letter on behalf of your constituent, Mr. Charles Gatten, Jr., concerning the licensing of mini-trucks imported into the United States. Your constituent specifically asked how to get a copy of the applicable Federal motor vehicle safety and emissions standards. Mr. Gatten indicated that a vehicle at issue is a 2000 mini-truck, with a speed capability of 70 mph. He also identified certain safety equipment that is included on the vehicle.
While Mr. Gatten did not identify a specific model name, the vehicles generally referred to as mini-trucks are typically smaller than conventional small trucks manufactured for sale in the United States and are manufactured in Japan, China and other countries. These vehicles are not manufactured to meet U.S. safety standards.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation that is responsible for improving safety on our Nations highways. To achieve this goal, NHTSA develops and enforces the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), which require minimum levels of safety performance for motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. Federal statute generally prohibits any person from manufacturing for sale, selling, offering for sale, introducing or delivering for introduction in interstate commerce, or importing into the United States any motor vehicle unless the vehicle complies with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards and the manufacturer has certified that the vehicle meets those standards.
As to the importation of motor vehicles, to be imported free of restriction, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must be originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS and bear a label certifying such compliance that is permanently affixed by the original manufacturer. A motor vehicle that is not so manufactured and/or certified can be lawfully imported on a permanent basis only if NHTSA decides that the vehicle is eligible for importation based on its capability of being modified to conform to
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
all applicable FMVSS. NHTSA makes these decisions in response to petitions that are filed by importers specially registered with the agency (referred to as registered importers) to import nonconforming motor vehicles and to perform the necessary modifications on those vehicles so that they conform to all applicable FMVSS.
In the past, NHTSA has issued interpretations of the statutory term motor vehicle, concluding that a number of non-certified mini-trucks are not motor vehicles and therefore need not comply with any of the Federal safety standards. The conclusions in these interpretations were generally premised on several important facts including: the vehicles (1) were intended solely for off-road use, e.g., on farms and closed locations like college campuses and industrial plants, and would in fact be so used, and (2) had a top speed of 25 mph. Because these vehicles are not manufactured to meet U.S. safety standards, NHTSA cannot endorse their use on public highways.
In your letter, you asked about licensing requirements. We note that registration and licensing are generally matters of State law.
Mr. Gatten asked how to get a copy of the Federal standards. Like other Federal regulations, the FMVSS are located in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Specifically, the FMVSS are located in Title 49, Part 571. Mr. Gatten can access the CFR through the website of the Government Printing Office (http://www.gpoaccess.gov).
Emissions standards are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Mr. Gatten may wish to contact the EPA Imports Team at (734) 214-4100 for information regarding the applicability of its regulations to the mini-trucks at issue. He can also use their website (http://www.epa.gov) to find information on this issue.
If you have any questions, please have your staff contact Stephen P. Wood, Acting Chief Counsel, at (202) 366-9511.
Stephen P. Wood
Acting Chief Counsel