4101 Jerome Avenue
Chattanooga, TN 37407
Dear Mr. Carroll:
This responds to your inquiry to Mr. David Coleman of this agency's Safety Assurance Office asking whether construction equipment you manufacture, asphalt plants and soil incineration systems, are motor vehicles that would have to comply with the applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Your letter was referred to my office for reply.
Before addressing your question, I would like to note that our answer is limited to the "asphalt plants" and "soil incineration systems" whose attributes you describe in your letter, and to other of your vehicles with similar attributes. We cannot ascertain whether our answer applies to all of your "other miscellaneous construction equipment" without knowing more about the equipment, such as their intended use of the highways. The 10 sketches you provided of several types of your equipment are incomplete in this respect. If you are interested in an opinion on a product other than asphalt plants or soil incineration systems, please provide a full description of the equipment.
You state that the equipment is intended for off road use and has axles and king pins attached to enable the equipment to be transported between job sites. You further state that the equipment stays at one job site from a few months to several years and is thus infrequently transported over public roads. As explained below, we believe that the types of equipment you describe would not be "motor vehicles" under Federal law.
As way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) interprets and enforces the laws under which the Federal motor vehicle safety standards are promulgated. NHTSA's statute defines the term "motor vehicle" as follows:
"Any vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power manufactured primarily for use on the public streets, roads, and highways, except any vehicle operated exclusively on a rail or rails."
In the past, we have concluded that this statutory definition does not encompass mobile construction equipment, such as cranes and scrapers, which use the highway only to move between job sites and which typically spend extended periods of time at a single job site. In such cases, the on-highway use of the vehicle is merely incidental and is not the primary purpose for which the vehicle was manufactured. Other construction vehicles, such as dump trucks, frequently use the highway going to and from job sites, and stay at a job site for only a limited time. Such vehicles are considered motor vehicles, since the on-highway use is more than "incidental."
Based on the available information, it appears that the two types of construction equipment you describe are not "motor vehicles" within the meaning of the statutory definition. This conclusion is based on statements in your letter that the equipment typically spends extended periods of time at a single site and only uses the public roads infrequently to move between job sites. Thus, the agency would consider the use of the construction equipment on the public roads to be merely incidental. Since these types of construction equipment are not motor vehicles, they would not be subject to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards.
If NHTSA were to receive additional information indicating that your construction equipment used the roads more than on an incidental basis, then the agency would reassess this interpretation. If your equipment were found to be a motor vehicle, you would be a motor vehicle manufacturer, and would be required to submit identification information to this agency in accordance with 49 CFR Part 566, Manufacturer Identification. You would also be required to certify that each vehicle complies with all applicable Federal safety standards. This certification procedure is set out in 49 CFR Part 567.
Please note that since a State may require an off-road vehicle to be registered, you may wish to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in any state in which your products will be sold or used about requirements for the use of the vehicles.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel