Ms. Carol Zeitlow, Engineering Quality Manager
Oshkosh Truck Corporation
2307 Oregon St.
Oshkosh, WI 54904

Dear Ms. Zeitlow:

This responds to your request for an interpretation whether your company must retain the vehicle identification numbers (VINs) that were assigned to Medium Tactical Vehicles (MTVRs), that your company will refurbish for the U. S. Marine Corps (USMC) and the U.S. Army. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not require the VINs to be retained because they were not required for military vehicles. However, Federal criminal legislation enacted in 1992, administered by the Justice Department, proscribes persons from knowingly removing an identification number from a motor vehicle.

Your letter describes your company's work on the MTVRs as replacing the engine, axles, transmission, and frame with updated parts. Oshkosh will also be retaining and reworking the cargo body and the cab along with other components. The vehicles you are working on were built for the U.S. Armed Forces for military purposes, and will be used for military purposes after refurbishment. In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that because Oshkosh did not originally manufacture the vehicles, you do not know why the vehicles were assigned VINs.

A required VIN generally must be retained on a vehicle throughout the life of the vehicle. However, military vehicles are not required by NHTSA to have VINs. NHTSA's regulations at 49 CFR 571.7(c), Military vehicles, states:

No standard applies to a vehicle or item of equipment manufactured for, and sold directly to, the Armed Forces of the United States in conformity with contractual specifications.

While the VIN requirements are now in 49 CFR Part 565, Vehicle Identification Number Requirements, rather than in a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS), we interpret Part 565 not to apply to military vehicles.

The requirement that vehicles have VINs was in a FMVSS, Standard No. 115 Vehicle Identification Number - Basic Requirements, until recently. In 1996, Standard No. 115 was consolidated with Part 565, as part of an effort to simplify the VIN requirements. 61 FR 29031;

June 7, 1996. NHTSA indicated in consolidating the requirements that it did not intend to make any substantive changes to the VIN requirements. Thus, this consolidation did not have the effect of requiring that military vehicles have VINs. The consolidation took effect on July 8, 1996.

Accordingly, nothing in Part 565 or in any other NHTSA regulation would require Oshkosh to retain the old VIN or (in the event Oshkosh is manufacturing a new vehicle) to assign new VINs. When originally manufactured, since the MTVRs were manufactured for, and sold to, the U.S. Armed Forces in conformity with military specifications, the MTVRs were not required by NHTSA to have VINs. In Oshkosh's "remanufacture" of the MTVRs, since the MTVRs will be built for, and sold to the U.S. Armed Forces "in conformity with contractual specifications," NHTSA would not require the newly manufactured vehicles to have VINs.

Nevertheless, since VINs have already been assigned to the MTVRs, the following provision under Federal criminal statutes may apply. Section 511, Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers, was added to Title 18 of the United States Code by the "Anti Car Theft Act of 1992." That section states that whoever knowingly removes, obliterates, tampers with, or alters an identification number for a motor vehicle or motor vehicle part, for purposes other than repair, shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. Since the U.S. Department of Justice administers Section 511, you should contact that agency for further information about the provision.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel