Travel Tray, Inc.
P.O. Box 395
Pleasant Grove, UT 84062
Dear Ms. Castillo:
This responds to your letter to Mr. John Womack of my staff, asking about safety regulations for the "Travel Tray," a product you wish to manufacture. The brochure you enclosed with your letter states that the Travel Tray is a plastic tray that is designed to lay across the top of a child's car seat. The tray attaches to the car seat by the use of straps with "velcro" ends. Children would use the tray to "play on with their toys or to eat on."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA has used its authority to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 213, "Child Restraint Systems," to reduce the number of children killed or injured in motor vehicles. (This standard is found in volume 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 571.213.) Each new child restraint system, which includes "car seats," must be certified as complying with the requirements of Standard No. 213. This means that, if the Travel Tray were marketed as part of a car seat, the car seat would be required to comply with all of the requirements of the standard, with the tray attached.
Section S188.8.131.52 of Standard No. 213 prohibits any fixed or moveable surface in front of the child except for surfaces that adequately restrain a test dummy in a 20 mile per hour test. This requirement is to prevent items that could injure a child in a crash from being installed where they could be impacted by a child. Your tray is incapable of restraining a test dummy in a crash. Since the tray is unable to restrain the dummy, a car seat with the tray would not comply with Standard No. 213. In other words, a manufacturer of a car seat could not sell such a tray as a part of its child seating system.
If your tray is manufactured and marketed separately to consumers who own child seats, the tray would not be required to comply with the requirements of Standard No. 213. The standard applies to new child restraint systems, or car seats, that are designed to restrain, seat or position children. Your tray sold by itself would not be designed to restrain, seat or position children and thus would not be subject to this standard.
While no FMVSS applies to the Travel Tray, your product is considered to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. As a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements of 49 U.S.C. ''30118-30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those and other manufacturer responsibilities. In the event you or NHTSA determines that your product contains a safety- related defect, you would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
In addition, manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to 49 U.S.C. section 30122, which states: "A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business may not knowingly make inoperative ... any part of a device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard ...." It appears unlikely from the nature of your product that it would be placed in vehicles by commercial businesses instead of car seat owners. However, if your product were to be installed by persons in the categories listed in section 30122, that would constitute a potential violation of the "make inoperative" provision of section 30122.
The prohibition of '30122 does not apply to individual owners who install equipment in their own vehicles. Thus, individual owners may install any item of motor vehicle equipment regardless of its effect on compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, NHTSA encourages consumers not to degrade the safety of their vehicles or equipment.
I hope this is helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Ms. Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel