P.O. Box 2424
Columbia Falls, MT 59912
Dear Mr. Stiede:
This responds to your letter to Walter Myers of my staff, and to subsequent telephone conversations with Mr. Myers, about this agency's standards for the product you manufacture. At Mr. Myers' request, you provided detailed schematics of your product and several pictures of it connected to various types of towed vehicles. It appears from these that the product is a trailer converter dolly.
You stated that your product is intended as a towing device for a variety of trailers, such as "gooseneck flatbed, equipment, utility, farm equipment, horse trailers, along with 5th wheel recreational vehicles." You further stated that it has a combined load range of 3,500 to 15,000 pounds, depending on the trailer weight and engine power of the towing vehicle. You stated that there may be some state restrictions applicable to your trailer dolly, and suggested that some Federal regulations may have to be amended to address such a vehicle.
By way of background information, this agency has the authority under Federal law to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) and related regulations applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Vehicle and equipment manufacturers are responsible for "self- certifying" that their products comply with all applicable FMVSSs. They must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects. Once the vehicle or equipment is sold to the first retail customer, the product is no longer subject to the FMVSSs.
The first question you raise is whether your trailer dolly is a "motor vehicle." The answer is yes. "Motor vehicle" is defined in 49 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) '30102 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.
Your trailer dolly clearly meets the definition of a motor vehicle since the dolly is designed to be drawn by mechanical power on the streets, roads, and highways. It is referred to in NHTSA regulations (49 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), section 571.3) as a "trailer converter dolly," which is defined as "a trailer chassis equipped with one or more axles, a lower half of a fifth wheel and a drawbar."
We note that a trailer converter dolly, although fabricated on a trailer chassis, is not a trailer. It is a motor vehicle designed to tow another vehicle rather than carry persons or property itself.
The following standards and regulations apply to your manufacture of the trailer converter dolly. As a manufacturer of a motor vehicle, you must submit certain identifying information to NHTSA in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification (copy enclosed). You must also ensure that a dolly with a hydraulic braking system must meet FMVSS No. 116, Motor vehicle brake fluids (49 CFR 571.116). You must also comply with the requirements of 49 CFR Parts 567, Certification. In addition, in the event that you or NHTSA determines that your product contains a safety- related defect, you would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge. The enclosed information sheet briefly describes those responsibilities.
As Mr. Myers discussed with you, since your trailer dolly is designed and intended for interstate marketing and transport, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) may have requirements applicable to your product. Accordingly, I will forward a copy of your letter to Mr. James Scapellato, Director, Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards, FHWA, this address, for further response. In the alternative, you may contact Mr. Larry Minor of Mr. Scapellato's staff at this address or at (202) 366-4012 to discuss pertinent FHWA regulations.
Finally, you mentioned in your letter that some states may have certain restrictions or requirements for your trailer dolly. NHTSA does not have information on those state requirements. However, you may be able to obtain such information from:
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators 4200 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1000 Arlington, VA 22203 (703) 522-4200
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or seek additional information, please feel free to contact Mr. Myers at this address or at (202) 366-2992, or by fax at (202) 366-3820.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel