Mr. Dick Grimsley
United States Marine Corps
Assistant Chief of Staff, Logistics
Motor Transport Department
Camp Pendleton, CA 92055-5014
Dear Mr. Grimsley:
This responds to your letter asking whether recertification is required for compressed natural gas (CNG) containers used as a vehicle fuel tank. You state that you have several CNG containers that are marked "3 year recertification" that soon must be recertified.
As explained below, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has no authority to require the reinspection of motor vehicles or items of motor vehicle equipment. Congress has authorized NHTSA to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment.
NHTSA has used this authority to issue FMVSS No. 304, Compressed natural gas fuel container integrity, (49 CFR 571.304) which specifies requirements for the integrity of new CNG containers used to fuel motor vehicles. Each new CNG container manufactured on and after March 27, 1995 (the date the standard took effect) must comply with FMVSS No. 304 and be certified as complying with that standard when it is sold. However, after the first consumer purchase of a motor vehicle or an item of motor vehicle equipment, NHTSA's authority is much more limited and does not extend to the reinspection of motor vehicles or such equipment. Since NHTSA has no authority to regulate the reinspection of CNG containers, we cannot answer the other questions in your letter.
Please note that NHTSA recently issued a notice modifying the labeling requirements for CNG containers. (61 FR 47086, September 6, 1996). Containers manufactured on and after December 2, 1996 will be required to be labeled with the following statement: "This container should be visually inspected after a motor vehicle accident or fire and at least every 36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first, for damage and deterioration."
I wish to note that another agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA), is authorized by Congress to issue standards for containers, including CNG containers, used to transport hazardous materials. RSPA, however, does not have the statutory authority to regulate CNG containers that are used to fuel a motor vehicle. In other words, there are no Federal requirements applicable to the reinspection of CNG containers designed to fuel a motor vehicle.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Marvin Shaw at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel