Mr. Richard L. Godsey
Continental Biomass Industries, Inc.
22 Whittier St.
Newton, NH 03858
Dear Mr. Godsey:
This responds to your letter dated December 4, 2009 asking whether the grinding, chipping, and shredding units you manufacture are motor vehicles regulated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Our answer is no.
By way of background, NHTSA is authorized by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, Safety Act) to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. 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. NHTSA also investigates safety-related defects.
The following is our interpretation of the FMVSSs based on the description in your letter.
You state that Continental Biomass Industries, Inc. (CBI) manufactures grinding, chipping, and shredding equipment units. The brochures you enclosed indicate that the units are used to grind, chip, and shred logs, forestry debris and wood waste wood products (e.g., trees, stumps, railroad ties). These units can be stationary or mobile. You state that the mobile equipment is non-motorized and relies on a tractor to be transported from the factory to the jobsites. CBIs website www.cbi-inc.com indicates that some of the units (e.g., the 8600 Magnum Force Series) are mounted on a tri-axle trailer frame with tires.
The Safety Act (49 U.S.C. Section 30102(a)(6)) defines a motor vehicle as:
A vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways, but does not include a vehicle operated only on a rail line.
If a vehicle is a motor vehicle under the above definition, then it is regulated by NHTSA and must, among other things, comply with all applicable FMVSSs.
Whether the agency considers your work units to be motor vehicles depends on the use of the vehicles. In past agency interpretations, we have determined that vehicles which are primarily used off-highway and which only incidentally use the highways (to move between jobsites) are not motor vehicles under the Safety Act. An example of this is mobile construction equipment which use the highway only to move between jobsites and which typically spend extended periods of time at a single jobsite. In such cases, the on-highway use of the vehicle is merely incidental and is not the primary purpose for which the vehicle was manufactured.
However, certain types of construction equipment make more frequent use of the roadways and the agency has determined that such equipment are motor vehicles under the Safety Act. For example, dump trucks have been determined to be motor vehicles because they regularly use the highways to travel between jobsites and stay on such jobsites for only a limited period of time, thereby rendering their on-highway use more than incidental.
The photographs you enclose with your letter and on your website show the grinding, chipping, and shredding units to be fairly massive units. The jobsites are located where there are forestry debris and wood waste wood products present. You do not state how long a mobile unit may remain on a jobsite but we understand from the information you provided that the units are towed to the jobsites and remain there for a period of time. It appears that use of the units on streets or highways appears to be incidental to their use on jobsites. Based on the above information, we do not believe that the grinding, chipping, and shredding units are motor vehicles under the Safety Act.
This determination is based on the information provided. If in fact the grinding, chipping, and shredding units are using the roads and highways more than on an incidental basis, then the agency would reassess this interpretation.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent