White Bear Sales, Inc.
P.O. Box 16718
Milwaukee, WI 53216
Dear Mr. Sommer:
This is in reply to your FAX of July 28, 1995, to Taylor Vinson of this Office.
You report that Chicago's police department is using four- wheeled all terrain vehicles (ATVs) for patrol work in the downtown area, and that they have been licensed by Illinois for on-road use. You believe that the vehicles are illegal to use on the streets and that city employees are at risk. You have been asked by the director of Chicago's fleet "to compile all federal definitions and statutes which apply to the quad runners, regarding classification, certification, and compliance for street use." You have asked for our assistance.
I note first that while Federal law regulates the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles, the individual States establish their own requirements for the licensing of motor vehicles. Therefore, the question of whether the ATVs may legally be used on the road is a matter of Illinois law rather than Federal law.
Your letter does, however, raise the issue of whether the manufacture and/or sale of the ATVs was consistent with Federal law. We do not have specific information about the ATVs at issue; however, I can provide general information about how Federal law applies in this area.
By way of background information, Chapter 301 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code authorizes NHTSA to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle equipment. All motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment manufactured for sale in the United States must comply with all applicable safety standards set forth in 49 CFR Part 571.
The issue of whether the ATVs were required to comply with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards is dependent on whether they are considered "motor vehicles." I have enclosed several interpretation letters which address the criteria which NHTSA applies in determining whether a vehicle with on and off-road capability is a motor vehicle (addressed to Mr. Matthew Plache, dated December 3, 1991; Mr. Hiroshi Kato, dated October 31, 1988; Mr. Wayne Kirby, dated February 8, 1983; and Mr. Leonard Fink, dated March 25, 1982). If an ATV is a motor vehicle, it must be certified to comply with all applicable safety standards.
If, after reviewing this information, you believe that a violation of Federal law may have occurred, you may wish to contact Mr. Luke Loy of NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance at (202) 366-5288. If you have further questions about the applicability of our standards, please feel free to contact Mr. Taylor Vinson of my staff (202-366-5263).
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel
Enclosures ref:VSA d:9/19/95