Vice President, MJF Corporation
5001 North Odell
Harwood Heights, IL 60656
Dear Mr. Fuoco:
This responds to your May 25, 1996, letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in which you request NHTSA's endorsement of your product. You have developed an aftermarket reflector which is designed to be installed in the tread grooves of most automobile and truck tires.
NHTSA cannot endorse your product as you request. This agency is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. Chapter 301 of Title 49, U.S. Code establishes a self-certification system in which manufacturers certify that their products comply with all applicable standards. Therefore, NHTSA does not certify, endorse, approve, or give assurances of compliance of any vehicle or item of vehicle equipment.
You indicate that your reflector is an aftermarket item, but did not say whether it can be installed by the vehicle owner or whether it must be professionally installed. Section 30122 of Title 49, U.S. Code provides that 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 vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment in accordance with a safety standard. This provision does not apply to equipment attached to or installed on a vehicle or item of equipment by the vehicle owner.
This agency has issued three standards that establish requirements for tires and lighting equipment for motor vehicles. If your reflector covered the treadwear indicators required by Standard Nos. 109, New pneumatic tires, and 119, New pneumatic tires for vehicles other than passenger cars, so that the indicators could not be seen when the tread depth became worn to the level of the indicators, a commercial facility installing your reflector could be subject to sanctions for violation of §30122.
Standard No. 108, Lamps, reflective devices and associated equipment, requires motor vehicles to be equipped with certain specified lamps and reflectors. No additional lamp, reflective device or other motor vehicle equipment may be installed that impairs the effectiveness of the required lighting equipment. The principal inquiry with aftermarket lighting and reflecting equipment is whether it is likely to confuse or distract other motorists from the message sent by the original equipment required by Standard No. 108, such as stop lamps and back up lamps, and in that sense, make the required lighting and reflecting equipment inoperative. Your letter doesn't indicate the color of the reflectors, but we note that they may impair the effectiveness of required lighting equipment if they were other than red (for the tires on the rear) or amber (for the front tires). These are the equipment colors which, with few exceptions, are specified by Standard No. 108 for rear and front lighting and reflecting equipment.
If your product does not "make inoperative" any device or element of design on the tire or if it is installed by the vehicle owner, the product may be subject to the laws of the states in which it is sold and used. We are unable to advise you on state laws and recommend that you consult the Department of Motor Vehicles in any state in which you intend to market your reflector.
I hope this information is helpful to you. If you have any further questions with respect to this matter, please feel free to contact Walter Myers (202-366-2992) for tire questions or Taylor Vinson for questions pertaining to reflective surfaces (202-366-5263).
Samuel J. Dubbin