Satellite Screens, Inc.
221 East 2nd Street
DeWitt, IA 52742
Dear Mr. Schnittjer:
This responds to your inquiry about whether your product, a piece of equipment that screens materials, is a motor vehicle. You state that your product can either be trailer mounted or skid mounted. In a telephone conversation with Mr. Marvin Shaw of my staff, you stated that your trailer typically stays at an off-road job site the majority of the time and is infrequently transported on the public roads between job sites.
As way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) interprets and enforces the laws under which the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) are promulgated. The statute defines the term "motor vehicle" as follows:
"Any vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power manufactured primarily for use on the public streets, roads, and highways, except any vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails."
Whether the agency considers your trailer mounted equipment to be a motor vehicle depends on its use. It is the agency's position that this statutory definition does not encompass mobile construction equipment, such as cranes and scrapers, which use the highway only to move between job sites and which typically spend extended periods of time at a single job site. In such cases, the on-highway use of the vehicle is merely incidental and is not the primary purpose for which the vehicle was manufactured. In contrast are instances where vehicles, such as dump trucks, frequently use the highway going to and from job sites, and stay at a job site for only a limited time. Such vehicles are considered motor vehicles for purposes of the Safety Act, since the on-highway use is more than "incidental."
Based on the available information, it appears that your equipment is not a "motor vehicle" within the meaning of the statutory definition. This conclusion is based on your statements in the above mentioned telephone conversation that this equipment typically spends extended periods of time at a single construction site and only uses the public roads infrequently to move between job sites. Thus, the agency would consider the use of your device on the public roads to be incidental and not its primary purpose. Since your equipment is not a motor vehicle, it would not be subject to our Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards.
If NHTSA were to receive additional information indicating that your equipment used the roads more than on an incidental basis, then the agency would reassess this interpretation. If the agency were to determine that your equipment is a motor vehicle, then it would have to comply with the applicable Standards, including Standard No. 108 Lamps, Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, which addresses conspicuity, Standard No. 119, New Pneumatic Tires for Vehicles Other Than Passenger Cars, and Standard No. 120, Tire Selection and Rims for Motor Vehicles Other Than Passenger Cars. The content requirements for the vehicle identification number are found at 49 CFR Part 565. In addition, while your vehicle is not required to be equipped with brakes, if it is equipped with hydraulic brakes, then you would need to use brake hoses and brake fluids that comply with Standard No. 106, Brake Hoses and Standard No. 116, Motor Vehicle Brake Fluids. Please note that trailers equipped with air brakes are required to comply with Standard No. 121, Air Brake Systems.
In addition, as a manufacturer of motor vehicles, you would be required to submit identification information to this agency in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification. You would also be required to certify that each trailer complies with all applicable Federal safety standards. This certification procedure is set out in 49 CFR Part 567.
Please note that since a State may require an off-road vehicle to be registered, you may wish to contact the States about the status of your equipment in their State.
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.
Samuel J. Dubbin