Robert Charles Maltzahn, Esq. 418 Northwest Midland Building 401 Second Avenue South Minneapolis, MN 55401
Dear Mr. Maltzahn:
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 client's high pressure "waterjet cutting and cleaning equipment" manufactured as a mobile trailer. As explained below, the answer is no.
Your letter describe your client's product as "manufactured for use in the construction industry for hydrodemolition and cleaning and for industrial use." The letter states the equipment is mobile to facilitate towing from site to site, but is "not used primarily on the roadways and highways of the United States."
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you explained that the length of time the equipment is at a job site depends on the task. The equipment could be at a ship cleaning site for over a year, or at a hydrodemolition site for five days. You stated that the equipment very rarely stays at a job site for less than a week.
The FMVSS's apply only to "motor vehicles," within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. '30102(a)(6). That section defines "motor vehicle" 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.
Whether the agency considers your trailer to be a motor vehicle depends on its use. It is the agency's position that this statutory definition does not encompass mobile construction equipment, such as cranes and scrapers, which use the highway only to move between job sites and which typically spend extended periods of time at a single job site. In such cases, the on-highway use of the vehicle is merely incidental
and is not the primary purpose for which the vehicle was manufactured. In contrast are instances where vehicles, such as dump trucks, frequently use the highway going to and from job sites, and stay at a job site for only a limited time. Such vehicles are considered motor vehicles for purposes of the Safety Act, since the on-highway use is more than "incidental."
Based on your description, it appears that your client's equipment is not a motor vehicle. This is because the equipment appears to stay on job sites for extended periods of time (ranging from a week to over a year). Therefore, your client's equipment need not meet Standard No. 115, or any other FMVSS. I note that, if the agency were to receive additional information indicating that your trailer used the roads more than on an incidental basis, then the agency would reassess this interpretation.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama at (202) 366- 2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel