Mr. Mark J. Bernten
59 Westover St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132-1317

Dear Mr. Bernten:

This is in reply to your letter of April 15, 1996, asking how "special purpose vehicles are classified", such as military four-wheel drive ambulances. You have also asked whether such vehicles may "be imported to be used as search and rescue vehicles in remote areas" of the United States."

Vehicles "manufactured for and sold to the Armed Forces of the United States, in conformity with contractual specifications" are exempt from compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (49 CFR 571.7(b)). However, this exclusion does not extend to military vehicles of countries other than the United States. Such vehicles are imported in the same manner as other vehicles not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards, that is to say, through the procedures established by 49 CFR Parts 591- 94, which you tell us you have read. In brief, the manufacturer of the vehicle or a registered importer acting on your behalf, must file a petition for an eligibility determination pursuant to 49 CFR Part 593. If the petition is granted, the registered importer may import the vehicle under bond in order to bring it into conformance with the standards and provide this agency with compliance data. If the submission is satisfactory, we release the bond and the car.

If the military ambulance is a vehicle which is "designed to carry 10 persons or less which is constructed either on a truck chassis or with special features for occasional off-road operation," it is a "multipurpose passenger vehicle" as defined by 49 CFR 571.3(b). We deem it probable that a military ambulance is a vehicle that is manufactured on a truck chassis. Four-wheel drive is considered a "special feature" allowing use for off-road operations such as search and rescue. However, in the absence of more information about the vehicle, we cannot conclusively advise you that it is a "multipurpose passenger vehicle."

If you have any questions, you may refer them to Taylor Vinson of this Office (202) 366-5263.


Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel

ref:591 d:5/10/96