Spencer Testing Services
P.O. Box 429
Spencer, WV 25276
Dear Mr. Helbig:
This responds to your letter asking me to confirm your belief that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) lacks the authority to require the periodic reinspection of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) containers used as fuel tanks on alternative fuel motor vehicles. You are correct. NHTSA has no authority to require the reinspection of motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment.
Congress has authorized NHTSA to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. The agency has used this authority to issue FMVSS No. 304, Compressed natural gas fuel container integrity, (49 CFR 571.304) which specifies requirements for the integrity of new CNG containers used to fuel motor vehicles. Each new CNG container manufactured on and after March 27, 1995 (the date the standard took effect) must comply with FMVSS No. 304 and be certified as complying with that standard when it is sold. However, after the first consumer purchase of a motor vehicle or an item of motor vehicle equipment, NHTSA's authority is much more limited and does not extend to the reinspection of motor vehicles or such equipment.
I wish to note that another agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), is authorized by Congress to issue standards for containers, including CNG containers, used to transport hazardous materials. RSPA, however, does not have the statutory authority to regulate CNG containers that are used to fuel a motor vehicle. In other words, there are no Federal requirements applicable to the reinspection of CNG containers designed to fuel a motor vehicle.
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.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:303 d:6/7/95