Kostow & Daar, P.C.
200 South Wacker Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60606
Re: Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108
Dear Mr. Fisher:
This responds to your letter of July 31, 1995, to Philip R. Recht, formerly Chief Counsel of this agency. You have asked several questions relating to use of the word "practicable" in the lamp location requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108.
Your first question is "with respect to truck, trailer identification lights (red), what is meant exactly by `practicable' as used in SS126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52." Your second question is whose responsibility it is to make the determination of practicability. Your final question is whether there is any way for a manufacturer of "a single rear identification light" to know where a trailer manufacturer will install the product on any given trailer.
We don't see the word "practicable" in S184.108.40.206. However, S220.127.116.11 does provide that rear clearance lamps need not meet the requirement of Table II that they "be located as close as practicable to the top of the vehicle" when the rear identification lamps are located at the extreme height of the vehicle. Table II specifies location of lighting equipment on the vehicle, and it is therefore the responsibility of the vehicle manufacturer, in certifying that its vehicle complies with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, to determine what is practicable. As you indicate, a trailer manufacturer may make such a determination "in light of the particular design/configuration of the trailer involved." NHTSA will not contest this determination unless it is clearly erroneous. In short, "practicable" as meant by S18.104.22.168 or any other place where the word occurs, is not a term defined by Standard No. 108, and derives its meaning from specific factual contexts. We note that the Random House Dictionary of the English Language (1967) defines "practicable" as "capable of being done, effected, or put into practice with the available means" (p. 1127).
There is no responsibility under Standard No. 108 for the manufacturer of identification lamps to know where its products will be installed on the motor vehicle. Its responsibility under Standard No. 108 is to ensure that any identification lamp that it manufactures for replacement purposes is designed to conform to Standard No. 108's performance specifications and so certified at the time the lamp is shipped from the factory.
If you have any further questions you may phone Taylor Vinson of this office (202-366-5263).
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:108 d:8/30/95