Structural Composites Industries
325 Enterprise Place
Pomona, CA 91768
Dear Mr. Anthony:
This responds to your inquiry about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 304, Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fuel Container Integrity, which takes effect on March 27, 1995. I apologize for the delay in our response. You stated that you manufacture CNG containers for OEMs. You further stated that some of your customers have requested that containers they purchase prior to FMVSS No. 304's effective date be labeled with a statement that they comply with FMVSS No. 304. Specifically, you asked whether your containers could be labeled with the statement "This CNG container meets the requirements of DOT FMVSS No. 304 effective March 27, 1995" or "DOT effective March 27, 1995." As explained below, prior to the effective date, you are prohibited from labeling a container with information that could appear to be a certification to the FMVSS.
In the preamble to the final rule establishing FMVSS No. 304, NHTSA stated that
a manufacturer may not certify a container as meeting the equipment standard until the standard goes into effect. Under the Vehicle Safety Act, a certification is a statement that a vehicle or item of equipment meets all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that are then in effect. Therefore, until a standard is effective, manufacturers may not certify compliance with it (59 FR 49010, 49020 September 26, 1994).
Based on this discussion, you acknowledge that it would be impermissible for a manufacturer to include the symbol DOT on CNG containers manufactured prior to March 27, 1995. Nevertheless, you wish to specify information on the container that the container will comply with the soon to be effective FMVSS.
As discussed in our September 1994 notice, a manufacturer may not certify a container as meeting the equipment standard until the standard goes into effect. Any label on a product about meeting a standard tends to create the appearance of a certification. It is therefore our opinion
that, along with not using the symbol DOT, any such statement on a container label must affirmatively indicate that (1) no standard applies to the container, and (2) the statement is not a certification.
With these considerations in mind, your suggestion to include the statement "This CNG container meets the requirements of DOT FMVSS No. 304 effective March 27, 1995" would not be permissible because it might be read as constituting a certification. Moreover, the symbol DOT may not be included in your statement because its inclusion might be misinterpreted as implying that the container has been certified to an FMVSS that is in effect, since use of the DOT symbol is the usual method by which certifications are made.
You may, however, label a container with the following statement: "This CNG container would comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 304, that takes effect on March 27,1995. However, since this container was manufactured before the effective date of FMVSS 304, it cannot be certified to comply with that standard. No FMVSS applies to the container."
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Marvin Shaw at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Philip R. Recht Chief Counsel
ref: 303 d:3/2/95