2484 Hyde Road
Grove City, OH 43123-1414
Dear Mr. Gray:
This responds to your request for an interpretation as to whether Aa truck and trailer that passes all highway safety, and federal regulations [may] be joined together legally . . . . @ In telephone conversations with my staff, you explained that you would like to design a type of trailer that a Amodification shop@ would install on new trucks. Our answer is that the regulations of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) permit the joining of the truck and trailer, provided that certain safety requirements are met.
You describe your product as a "trailer" with no articulation, that would lock under the chassis of a truck, and that can be temporarily disconnected in minutes. In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that locking your product onto a truck chassis (by means of a "pintle hook") would enable the truck to carry up to 10,000 pounds more of weight.
This agency has the authority under Federal law to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards and related regulations applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve or endorse products. Vehicle and equipment manufacturers are responsible for "self-certifying" that their products comply with all applicable standards. They must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects.
None of the safety standards specify how a truck may be joined to a product such as yours. However, since your product is designed to carry property and will be towed by another motor vehicle, NHTSA would consider your product a trailer. When sold to the first purchaser, the trailer must meet all standards applicable to trailers. There are additional NHTSA requirements that the manufacturer of your product must meet. I am enclosing a copy of our fact sheet "Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment," that briefly describes these requirements.
A trailer manufacturer must submit certain identifying information to NHTSA in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification (copy enclosed). The manufacturer must also meet 49 CFR Part 567, Certification, and place on the trailer a label with information specified in 49 CFR 567.4, including the vehicle's gross axle and gross vehicle weight ratings.
A person or business modifying a new truck (i.e., the Amodification shop@ of your inquiry) to incorporate the trailer would be considered an "alterer" of the truck, and would have certain certification responsibilities. An alterer is a person who modifies a previously certified, new motor vehicle (i.e., before the first purchase of the vehicle in good faith for purposes other than resale). Under 49 CFR 567.7 if a new vehicle is altered in such a manner that its stated weight ratings are no longer valid, the alterer must allow the original certification label to remain on the vehicle, and affix to the vehicle an additional label with the following information:
(a) The statement: "This vehicle was altered by (individual or corporate name) in (month and year in which alterations were completed) and as altered it conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards affected by the alteration and in effect in (month, year.)"
(b) If the gross vehicle weight rating or any of the gross axle weight ratings of the vehicle as altered are different from those shown on the original certification label, the modified values shall be provided.
We offer no opinion as to whether it is appropriate to simply add the two separate gross vehicle weight ratings in ascertaining the gross vehicle weight rating of a modified truck.
In addition, if the addition of your trailer caused the altered truck to have a defect that relates to motor vehicle safety, the alterer would be required to notify all owners of the defect and to provide a remedy without charge.
You have additional questions regarding the applicability of commercial driver license (CDL) requirements to a modified vehicle. Since CDLs are administered by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), we are referring your CDL questions to that agency. A copy of your letter and our response is being sent to Mr. James E. Scapellato, Director of the Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards, FHWA.
I hope this information is helpful. If you need any further information, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
cc: Mr. James E. Scapellato, Director Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards Federal Highway Administration