Mr. Garry Bowhall
VP Sales and Engineering
Red River Mfg., Inc.
202 8th St. W.
P.O. Box 732
West Fargo, ND 58078

Dear Mr. Bowhall:

This responds to your letter asking whether your belted-bottom trailers are "special purpose vehicles" under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 224, Rear Impact Protection. I apologize for the delay in responding. The answer to your question is no.

After January 1998, Standard 224 will require most trailers and semitrailers weighing over 10,000 pounds to be fitted at the rear with an underride guard. Excluded from Standard 224 are "special purpose vehicles." A special purpose vehicle is defined in S4 of the standard as "a trailer or semitrailer having work-performing equipment . . . that, while the vehicle is in transit, resides in or moves through the area that could be occupied by the horizontal member of the rear underride guard . . . ." (Emphasis added.)

Your letter and its enclosed brochures and video explain that you manufacture trailers that discharge their contents by means of a moving belt on the trailer floor that pushes the contents to the rear of the trailer. Your underride guards are currently located 24 inches forward of the vehicle's rear extremity, and you believe that having to locate the guard 12 inches closer to the rear extremity, as will be required by Standard 224, would render your vehicles unusable.

Your vehicle does not meet the definition of a special purpose vehicle. The "special purpose vehicle" exclusion does not apply merely because the vehicle has a "special purpose." The exclusion involves the relationship of work-performing equipment to the guard. The conveyor belt on your vehicles at no time passes through the area where the horizontal member of the underride guard would be located. Moreover, even if it did pass through, it would have to do so while the vehicle is in transit. Because your vehicles do not meet the definition of "special purpose vehicles," they are not excluded from Standard 224.

Under one of our regulations (49 CFR Part 555), vehicle manufacturers may apply for a temporary exemption from the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Under Sec. 555.6(a), a manufacturer whose yearly production is not more than 10,000 units may ask for an exemption of up to three years on the basis that compliance would cause it substantial economic hardship and that it has attempted in good faith to comply with the standard from which it has asked to be excused. I have enclosed a copy of Part 555 for your information. Please note that it takes three to four months from the date of submittal before a decision can be made on such an application because it has to be submitted for public comment.

If you need further assistance, you may contact Mr. Atelsek of my staff at (202) 366-2992.

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel