President & CEO
P.O. Box 13053
Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Dear Mr. Hymer:
This is in reply to your letter of March 12, 1997, which, inexplicably, did not reach our office until April 21. I apologize for the delay.
You wish to market your "Safety Hi-Lites" lamp system as an aftermarket accessory, and, eventually, as original equipment. You wish to know if there are any Federal laws or restrictions against marketing the lamps, which you say "currently meet SAE #J1395 and SAE #J1398."
From the illustrations you provided, it appears that the "Safety Hi-Lites" lamp system comprises two red lamps that operate as stop lamps, plus a third amber lamp in the shape of an arrow that serves as a turn signal. The illustrations show the system mounted at the upper corners of large trucks, truck tractors, and trailers which have a rectangular configuration when viewed from the rear. The system will also flash automatically if a truck tractor separates from a trailer, and if the vehicle rolls over, jackknifes, or is impacted from the rear.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 requires large commercial vehicles of the types shown in your illustrations (i.e., those with an overall width of 80 inches or more) to be equipped with clearance lamps, to indicate the overall width of the vehicle and to be located as near the top as practicable. Your illustrations do not show clearance lamps (or identification lamps for that matter) on the configurations depicted. In order to conform with Standard No. 108, a truck's clearance lamps will occupy the space where the illustrations have located the Safety Hi-Lites. Thus, for sale as an aftermarket accessory, the lamp system will have to be located adjacent to the clearance lamps, that is to say, either inboard of them or under them, and far enough away as not to prevent photometric compliance of the clearance lamps.
Your letter is unclear whether you wish to sell "Safety Hi-Lites" as an original equipment accessory, or as equipment fulfilling the requirements of Standard No. 108 for original equipment stop lamps and turn signal systems. We are pleased to see that the stop and turn signal functions have been designed to conform to SAE standards, however, of the two, only SAE J1395 APR85 is incorporated by reference in Standard No. 108. The other, SAE J1398 MAY95 is a newer version than the standard that is incorporated by reference. The correct version is SAE J1398 MAY 85. However, Table II of Standard No. 108, which applies to the vehicles you foresee using "Safety Hi-Lites," prescribes a maximum mountingheight of 72 inches from the road for stop lamps, and 83 inches for turn signal lamps. In all likelihood, the "Safety Hi-Lites" system will be mounted above 83 inches, which means that the vehicle manufacturer could use the system only as an original equipment supplement to the stop and turn signal lamps required to conform with the mounting height requirements of Standard No. 108.
Because "Safety Hi-Lites" are supplementary stop and turn signal lamps, Standard No. 108 prescribes no requirements for them. Original lighting equipment that supplements lighting equipment required by Standard No. 108 is not permissible if it impairs the effectiveness of the required lighting equipment, and there is a prohibition of similar effect covering installation of aftermarket lighting equipment. From the information available, it does not appear that "Safety Hi-Lites" would have an impairing effect on original lighting equipment if properly located.
Since it appears that some of the vehicles on which your system is placed may be subject to regulation by the Federal Highway Administration, we have asked the Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards for its opinion, and it has advised that the system is acceptable under its laws.
You have also asked the requirements involved to receive DOT approval. We have no authority to approve or disapprove items of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment; we simply provide interpretations as to the relationship of supplementary lighting systems to the statutes and regulations that we administer.
If you have any questions, you may call Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).
Acting Chief Counsel