Ultimate Systems Inc.
131 Russell Street
Malden, MA 02148
Dear Mr. Smith:
This responds to your questions about whether Federal regulations apply to your product, which you describe as a modular cabinet installed in the cab of heavy trucks. According to your letter and discussions with Ms. Patricia Breslin of this agency, this product is kept in place by pressure systems and safety straps rated at 8000 pounds of force. You further stated that your product would not impede any safety devices or emergency exits, provided that it was installed properly. The following represents our opinion based on the facts provided in your letter.
By way of background information, this agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), regulates the manufacture of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. Under our governing statute, the manufacturer must certify that its vehicle or equipment complies with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS).
NHTSA does not have any specific Federal motor vehicle safety standard or other regulations directly covering modular compartments in truck tractors. However, if your product were manufactured for a new vehicle, the vehicle would have to be certified as complying with all applicable safety standards, including the rearward visibility requirements in Standard No. 111, Rearview Mirrors and the flammability resistance requirements in Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials. Please note that these two Standards apply only to new vehicles, and not to items of aftermarket motor vehicle equipment. Thus, they do not apply to your product, if it were sold in the aftermarket.
There are other Federal requirements that indirectly affect the manufacture and sale of your product. Your product is considered to be an item of motor vehicle equipment. As a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. I have enclosed an information sheet that briefly describes those responsibilities. 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.
Manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses are subject to a statutory provision, which states: "A manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business
may not knowingly make inoperative any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment in compliance with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard ...." Your modular component could conceivably make inoperative the rearward visibility requirements set forth in Standard No. 111, or the flammability resistance requirements set forth in Standard No. 302. Any person in the aforementioned categories that installed your product would have to make sure they did not compromise the rearward visibility or flammability resistance provided by the motor vehicle.
The "make inoperative" provision does not apply to the actions of vehicle owners in adding to or otherwise modifying their vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. Thus, if your products were placed in vehicles by the vehicle owners, they would not need to meet any Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Nevertheless, NHTSA urges vehicle owners not to tamper with or degrade the safety of their vehicles.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Marvin Shaw of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992. You may wish to contact the Federal Highway Administration=s Office of Chief Counsel at (202) 366-0834 about whether any Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulation apply to your product.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel
Enclosure ref:111# 302 d:4/26/96