Reid & Priest
701 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Ms. Price:
This responds to your questions about how this agency's regulations apply to a product known as a Brake Locker that is manufactured by your client, Maatzorit. You requested this agency to confirm your understanding that installation of the Brake Locker is not precluded by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 105, Hydraulic Brake Systems, FMVSS No. 106, Brake Hoses, or Section 108(a)(2)(A) of what you refer to as the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act ("Safety Act.").
According to your letter, the Brake Locker prevents the theft of a parked vehicle by locking its brakes, without affecting brake usage while the vehicle is driven by an authorized driver. You stated that the Brake Locker is installed in the engine compartment on the brake fluid line between the brakes and the brake pump. An electronic coded transmitter is used to activate a motor which in turn activates a check valve, thereby preventing the release of the brakes by restricting the flow of brake fluid. When the check valve is activated, you state that "every press on the brake pedal causes the brakes to be locked."
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under Title 49, Chapter 301 of the United States Code to issue FMVSSs that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, Chapter 301 establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. The agency periodically tests new vehicles and items of equipment for compliance with the standards.
Nothing in FMVSS No. 105 nor FMVSS No. 106 precludes the inclusion of a hydraulic brake lock, nor does NHTSA have any other regulations specifically covering such a product. Therefore, Maatzorit, as the device's manufacturer, would not have any certification responsibilities. Nevertheless, the requirements of FMVSS No. 105 are relevant to a hydraulic brake lock. That standard specifies a number of brake performance requirements to which the vehicle manufacturer must certify compliance. Since the installation of a hydraulic brake lock requires the installation of a check valve on the brake fluid line between the foundation brakes and the brake pump, it is possible that the installation of such a device could affect a vehicle's compliance with FMVSS No. 105.
If the Brake Locker is installed as original equipment on new vehicles prior to the first sale of the vehicle to a consumer, then the vehicle manufacturer is required to certify that with the Brake Locker installed, the vehicle complies with all applicable FMVSSs, including FMVSS No. 105 and FMVSS No. 106. A vehicle manufacturer's specific certification responsibilities depend on when the brake locker is installed and are set forth in 49 CFR Parts 567 and 568. For instance, if a vehicle has already been certified by the vehicle manufacturer but has not yet been sold to the consumer, then the person doing the installation after that time would be considered to be an "alterer" who would have to certify that the vehicle, as altered, continues to comply with all of the safety standards affected by the alteration.
If the Brake Locker is installed after the first consumer purchase, then 49 U.S.C. 30122 is relevant to your client's product. That section provides that
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.
This provision would prohibit any of the named commercial entities from installing a Brake Locker, if such installation makes inoperative the compliance of the vehicle with any applicable safety standard, such as FMVSS No. 105. For example, if the Brake Locker, caused the vehicle to no longer comply with the parking brake or service brake requirements in FMVSS No. 105, then installation of the system would make inoperative compliance with that standard. Any violation of this prohibition is subject to a potential civil penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation. Please note that the "make inoperative" provision does not prohibit owners from modifying their vehicles, even if such modification adversely affects the compliance of the vehicle with safety standards.
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:567#105 d:3/8/95 In 1994, Congress codified the Safety Act. The new citation for 108(a)(2)(A) is 49 U.S.C. 30122. In addition, please be aware that on February 3, 1994, NHTSA issued FMVSS No. 135 Passenger Car Brake Systems that will eventually supersede FMVSS No. 105 with respect to passenger cars. Please note that your client's product will be subject to the same responsibilities, regardless of which FMVSS applies.