East Highway 28
Morris, MN 56267
Dear Ms. Anderson:
This responds to your letter of July 13, 1995, concerning a van which your company is modifying. The van is owned by a local school system. The school system has asked your company to raise the roof, extend the side door, install wheelchair tiedowns, and install a wheelchair lift. The vehicle was certified as a "bus," but your modification would reduce the seating capacity so that the vehicle would become a "multipurpose passenger vehicle" (MPV). You asked whether this vehicle must be certified following the modifications. The answer to your question is no.
By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles. A vehicle must be certified as complying with all applicable safety standards before it can be sold or imported.
After the first retail sale, there is a limit on modifications made to vehicles. Manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and repair businesses are prohibited from "knowingly making inoperative" any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle in compliance with an applicable safety standard (49 USC '30122). In general, the "make inoperative" prohibition would require a business which modifies motor vehicles to ensure that they do not remove, disconnect, or degrade the performance of safety equipment installed in compliance with an applicable safety standard.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Mary Versailles of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:VSA d:8/31/95