Sikeston Trailer Sales, Inc.
Route 2, Box 2291
Sikeston, MO 63801
Dear Ms. Hull:
This responds to your letter of May 16, 1994, addressed to Mr. Robert Hellmuth, whom you identified as Chief Counsel. For your future information, Mr. Hellmuth is Chief of the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance of this agency. I am the Acting Chief Counsel.
Your letter referred to a May 13, 1994 telephone conversation that you and Mr. David McCormick had with Walter Myers of my staff concerning new and used tires on trailers. You asked for confirmation of your understanding of what was said during that conversation, as follows:
(a) That as a trailer manufacturer you can sell to a dealer new trailers that are stacked one on top of the other, with new tires on the bottom trailer but no tires or wheels on the stacked trailers;
(b) That you can sell used tires and rims but not installed on the new trailers; and
(c) That you can separately sell used tires and rims to the purchaser of a trailer, then install them on the new trailer if the purchaser so requests.
FMVSS No. 120, Tire Selection and Rims for Motor Vehicles Other Than Passenger Cars (copy enclosed) provides that vehicles equipped with pneumatic tires for highway service shall be equipped with tires that meet the requirements either of FMVSS 109, New Pneumatic Tires, or FMVSS No. 119, New Pneumatic Tires for Other Than Passenger Cars. Both those standards specify requirements for new tires. As an exception to those requirements, however, paragraph S5.1.3 of FMVSS No.120 provides that:
[A] truck, bus, or trailer may at the request of the purchaser be equipped
at the place of manufacture of the vehicle with retreaded or used tires owned or leased by the purchaser, . . . Used tires employed under this provision must have been originally manufactured to comply with Standard No. 119, as evidenced by the DOT symbol (emphasis added).
With that background in mind, your understanding (a) above is correct. You stated to Mr. Myers that it is common practice in the industry to stack completed trailers one on top of another for shipment, with the bottom trailer being equipped with new tires. This office stated in a letter to Mr. Steve Thomas dated April 14, 1993 (copy enclosed), that new trailers may be sold without tires and wheels. Accordingly, it is permissible to ship trailers without tires and wheels, with new tires on the bottom trailer that is carrying the others.
Your understanding (b) is also correct, but with a caveat. No provision of Federal law or regulation prohibits you from separately selling used tires and wheels that you own to anyone you want, including dealers. However, the practice you describe implies that the dealer will be installing the used tires you've provided on the new trailers, which would amount to a violation of Standard No. 120. The standard specifically provides that used or retreaded tires may be installed on new vehicles only at the place of manufacture; the dealer is not permitted to install used tires on new trailers, whether or not owned and requested by the purchaser. Further, a manufacturer that includes used tires with new vehicles, even though not installed on the new vehicle, could be considered to be contributing to a potential violation of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards by the dealer.
With respect to understanding (c), S5.1.3, as noted above, requires that used or retreaded tires installed on a new vehicle be owned or leased by the purchaser of the vehicle. The standard, however, does not specify any length of time that the used or retreaded tires must be owned or leased by the vehicle purchaser, nor does the standard specify the source(s) from which the purchaser must have acquired the used or retreaded tires. Therefore, there is no prohibition against the purchaser of a trailer purchasing used or retreaded tires from a trailer manufacturer or from any other source, then requesting the manufacturer to install them on the new trailer. However, we have the following observations about the practice. The used/retreaded tire exception in S5.1.3 was included in the standard to accommodate bus and truck fleets who either purchase or lease tires on a mileage contract basis or who maintain tire banks. A mileage contract purchaser or lessor is one who purchases or leases tires on a per-mile basis. A tire bank is composed of serviceable tires that have been removed from vehicles no longer in service. Mileage contract purchases and tire banks are standard practices in the transportation industry and the agency assumed that those purchasers would select only safe, serviceable tires from their inventories for installation on their new vehicles. The agency also assumed that those purchasers would have owned and used those tires for some length of time prior to their being selected for installation on new vehicles. Thus, the practice of a new vehicle purchaser purchasing used tires from a trailer manufacturer and then asking the manufacturer to install them on the new vehicle was not envisioned by this agency when issuing Standard No. 120.
None of the above would relieve trailer manufacturers from their responsibility to attach the required labels with the recommended tire and rim sizes and inflation pressures in accordance with 49 CFR Part 567.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Mr. Myers at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel