John Russo Industrial, Inc.
575 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, CA 95126
Dear Mrs. Colet:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether Standard No. 115, Vehicle identification number - basic requirements or any other Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) applies to your "aircraft rescue and fire-fighting vehicle." As explained below, the answer is no.
Your letter states that your company is constructing the vehicle "to satisfy proposed U.S.A.F. and D.O.D." specifications. The vehicle is made to operate on airfields. You described the unusual configuration of the vehicle as having a "cockpit" that is "similar to 117A Stealth Fighter," having bumpers that are 5 feet high, and having a "power water turret on top." You further stated that vehicle uses tires 54 inches high and over two feet wide, that are made to be run on only for 20 minutes, at a speed of up to 65 miles per hour.
Enclosed with your letter is a picture of the vehicle, which you asked be kept confidential. Although your request for confidentiality does not comply with NHTSA's regulations at 49 CFR part 512 Confidential Business Information, in order to save time, I will not publicly disclose the picture.
The FMVSSs apply only to "motor vehicles," within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. '30102(a)(6). "Motor vehicle" is defined at section 30102(a)(6) 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.
We have interpreted this language to mean that vehicles designed and sold solely for off-road use are not considered motor vehicles, even though they may be operationally capable of highway travel. In an interpretation letter of
December 28, 1979, to Walter Motor Truck Company, NHTSA determined that the Walter airport crash-fire-rescue vehicle does not qualify as a motor vehicle subject to the FMVSS. Your description of your aircraft rescue vehicle indicates that the vehicle is to be used only within an airfield. In particular, the size and 20 minute running time of the tires, appears to make the vehicle impracticable for highway use.
Based on the information you have provided, and our understanding that your vehicles are neither used on public roads nor suitable for such use, we conclude that the "aircraft rescue and fire-fighting vehicle" is not a "motor vehicle" within the meaning of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Thus, your vehicle is not subject to Standard No. 115. Since you are not a manufacturer of a "motor vehicle," you do not have to furnish NHTSA with information pursuant to 49 CFR part 566 Manufacturer Identification. Enclosed with this letter is your picture of the aircraft rescue and fire-fighting vehicle. If you have any questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel