The Gradall Company
406 Mill Avenue S.W.
New Philadelphia, OH 44663
Dear Mr. Gano:
This responds to your inquiry about whether hydraulic excavators are motor vehicles that would have to comply with the applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. According to your letter, the excavators are "mobile, multi-purpose construction machines capable of incidental travel on and off highway as a means of getting to and from the location of their primary function" of hydraulic excavation. You state that the machines are not equipped with drive train ratios, engine power or suspension systems that are typical of on-highway vehicles. You further state that a typical excavator "is anticipated to accumulate approximately 3000 miles annually with 20% spent on secondary roads and highways and 80% spent off-highway."
By 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."
It is the agency's position 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. In contrast are instances where 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 information you provided, it appears that the various hydraulic excavators you describe are not "motor vehicles" within the meaning of the statutory definition.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Edward Glancy of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel