The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Member, U. S. House of Representatives
10 Franklin Road, S.E.
Roanoke, VA 24011-2121
Dear Congressman Goodlatte:
Thank you for your letter on behalf of your constituent, Mr. John Bradshaw, who would like to know whether information in the motor vehicle owners manual can be put on compact discs (CDs). As explained below, as long as certain information that we require is provided to consumers in written form, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not prohibit manufacturers from providing information on CDs.
NHTSA is authorized to issue and enforce Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not require owners manuals to be provided only in print. However, because important safety information about motor vehicles should be provided directly to consumers and be easily accessible to them, in some FMVSSs, we require information to be placed in owners manuals, if a manual is provided, or otherwise provided in a paper format. For example, we require that the owners manual include an accurate description of the vehicles air bag system in an easily understandable format. Similarly, our consumer information regulations require vehicle manufacturers to provide certain information (in not less than 10 point type) in an owners manual or in a one-page document, such as information about how to contact NHTSA to report safety-related defects, or how to safely load slide-in campers.
While we specify certain safety information to be provided in an owners manual or in a paper document, we do not prohibit owners manual information from being provided on CDs. Vehicle manufacturers may provide CDs to enhance the consumers understanding of their vehicles.
The Honorable Bob Goodlatte
Nonetheless, we do note that some drivers consult an owners manual mainly when they encounter a vehicle emergency or notice something amiss with their vehicle. For example, if a driver sees an unknown flashing icon on the front dashboard, he or she may consult the owners manual to learn the meaning or significance of the icon. If drivers do not have a device that reads the CD in the vehicle, they would be unable to immediately access the information on the CD. Thus, an advantage to a hard copy version of the owners manual is its accessibility to the consumer.
Mr. Bradshaw could consider contacting the manufacturer of his vehicle to see if the owners manual is available on CD. Many motor vehicle manufacturers are providing owners manual information electronically, so as to supplement the hard copy version of the manual. For example, many manufacturers provide websites where owners manuals (by model year and vehicle model) can be downloaded. Some manufacturers provide CDs or DVDs containing vehicle information to vehicle owners.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me or Stephen P. Wood, NHTSAs Acting Chief Counsel, at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Deputy Administrator
cc: Washington Office