Mr. Paul G. Schoen
Chariot Marine Fabricators & Industrial Corp.
P.O. Box 635
West Frankfort, IL 62896

Dear Mr. Schoen:

This responds to your letter of July 15, 1996, for an interpretation of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108 as it applies to the location of front side marker lamps and reflectors on a wide boat trailer that you manufacture. You inform us that "questions have been raised by Transport Canada" as to the location of these lamps and reflectors, and that Transport Canada has encouraged "that trailers manufactured by our company for sale in the United States be built to the same lighting specifications as the trailers our company builds for export to Canada."

Table II of FMVSS No. 108 specifies that front side marker lamps and reflectors are to be located "as far to the front as practicable." This is qualified by paragraph S5.3.1.3 which states that, on a trailer, they may be located as far to the front as practicable exclusive of the trailer tongue. You tell us that in Canada, sec. 108(7)(c) of CMVSS No. 108 states that they "may be located as far forward as practicable, exclusive of the trailer tongue." The Canadian requirement in this respect appears to be identical to the requirement of the United States.

According to a letter that Canada sent you:

"the preferred location of the front side marker lamps and reflex reflectors is where the vertical load-bearing frame members meet at the furthest point forward at the center line of the trailer, at a location not less than one meter (39 in,.) and not more than 1.5 meters (60 in.) behind the coupler with the surface of the reflective device parallel to the longitudinal axis of the trailer."

At present. your company locates this equipment at points A and B, as shown in the diagrams you enclosed. In these locations, it appears that the equipment is located at points closer to the front end of the trailer than they would be under Canada's interpretation of its regulation. However, because the trailer tongue is very short, when the marker lamps are located at points A and B they will be obscured at the 45-degree visibility angle by the side of the towing vehicle, thus reducing some of their effectiveness. This problem is solved when the side marker lamp is placed in the location preferred by Canada

There are a number of areas where FMVSS No. 108 prescribes location requirements in terms of practicability, i.e.,: "as far to the front as practicable," " as far to the rear as practicable," " as far apart as practicable", and "as high as practicable." This is to afford a manufacturer maximum design freedom while indicating preferred locations for lighting equipment. It has been our practice to leave the determination of practicability to the manufacturer who, in his certification of compliance with all applicable FMVSS, certifies that it has located the equipment in accordancewith a practicability specification. It has not been the practice of the United States Government to substitute its judgment of practicability for that of the manufacturer, unless the manufacturer's determination is clearly erroneous.

Your company has previously determined that the front side marker lamps and reflectors on the trailer are "as far to the front as practicable" at Points A and B. Yet in this location the front side marker lamp cannot fully perform its function because it will be obscured at the forward 45 degree angle by the mass of the towing vehicle. Even though relocation rearward would result in the marker lamps no longer being located "as far to the front as practicable" under a literal interpretation of these words, we believe that it is a proper exercise of the manufacturer's discretion in determining practicability to locate lighting equipment where it can best fulfill its intended function. Thus, we concur with Canada's recommendation in this instance for location of the front side marker lamps 1 to 1.5 meter behind their present location at Points A and B..

However, our interpretation does not extend to the front reflex reflectors which, in our view, should remain in their present location at Points A and B. The reflectors serve the important purpose of marking the forward end of the trailer when the side marker lamps are not operating, such as when the trailer is at rest, whether or not it is attached to the towing vehicle. We assume that you are currently using a combination lamp and reflector. If this is so, you may use the same equipment in the new location, but you must provide separate reflectors at Points A and B..

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


John Womack

Acting Chief Counsel