Europa International, Inc.
1570A Pacheco Street
Santa Fe, NM 87605
Dear Mr. Holland:
This responds to your letter addressed to Walter Myers of my staff and your telephone conversations with Mr. Myers. You asked whether tires for vehicles other than passenger cars that are not labeled with the DOT symbol must be branded "FOR OFF ROAD USE ONLY" before you can sell them, or whether you can test such tires and if they pass the test, brand the DOT symbol on them.
You explained to Mr. Myers that your company imports Mercedes sport utility vehicles whose tires are not labeled with the DOT symbol. You stated that you remove the noncertified tires from the vehicles and substitute certified tires therefor so the vehicles can be sold in the United States. However, since neither Bridgestone, the manufacturer of the tires, nor Mercedes will accept return of the tires, you are seeking ways in which these tires can legally be sold in the United States. Based on the information you provided to Mr. Myers, the tires in question must meet the performance and labeling requirements of Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) No. 119, New pneumatic tires for vehicles other than passenger cars, and the labeling and recordkeeping requirements of 49 CFR Part 574, Tire Identification and Recordkeeping. Paragraph S6.5 of FMVSS No. 119 requires that each tire be marked with:
(a) The symbol DOT, which shall constitute a certification that the tire conforms to applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. This symbol may be marked on only one sidewall.
The DOT symbol is normally molded into or onto the sidewalls of tires during the manufacturing process to indicate the manufacturer's certification that the tire complies with applicable FMVSSs. In addition, the original manufacturer of the tires must mold a tire identification number into or onto the sidewall of each tire it produces in accordance with Part 574.5. Thus, whether or not tires comply with FMVSS No. 119 and are marked with the DOT symbol, if they do not contain the required tire identification number, they cannot be sold in the United States.
Although tires for vehicles other than passenger cars that do not contain the DOT symbol may not be sold for use on the streets, roads, or highways of this country, they may be sold for off-road use only. There is no requirement that tires be branded or otherwise marked "FOR OFF ROAD USE ONLY" before selling them in this way. However, it is advisable that the seller of such tires make a statement to that effect on the sales voucher or other written document as proof that the seller sold the tires with the understanding that they would only be used off-road.
The FMVSSs are not applicable to tires intended solely for export, provided the tires and their shipping containers are labeled for export only. Thus, you are free to export the tires in question, whether or not they comply with FMVSSs. In that respect, see attached letter to Oxytire, Inc., dated May 24, 1995.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact this office at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
Enclosures ref:119 d:4/23/96