Mr. Donald W. Vierimaa
Vice President - Engineering
Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association
1020 Princess Street
Alexandria, VA 22314-2247

Dear Mr. Vierimaa:

This responds to your association's request that this office review the most recent revisions of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association's (TTMA) Recommended Practice Number 56, "Trailer Vehicle Identification Number" and Recommended Practice Number 53, "U. S. Trailer Certification Label." We have reviewed both draft documents as time and resources would allow and offer the following comments. Please note, however, that these comments do not constitute any sort of NHTSA approval or endorsement of the TTMA's Recommended Practices. TTMA is responsible for the accuracy and completeness of the documents.

In general, the TTMA Recommended Practice No. 56 appears to be correct about NHTSA's vehicle identification number requirements as set forth in 49 CFR Part 565 Vehicle Identification Number Requirements. In general, Recommended Practice No. 53 appears to be correct about NHTSA's labeling requirements in 49 CFR Part 567 Certification and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 120 Tire selection and rims for motor vehicles other than passenger cars. (49 CFR 571.120).

However, in several instances, the Recommended Practices go beyond what is required by NHTSA's regulations to recommend one particular means be used to meet the Federal requirement, when NHTSA's regulations leave that matter to the discretion of the vehicle manufacturer. Examples of the TTMA recommendations going beyond the NHTSA regulations may be found in the directions provided in Recommended Practice No. 56's Part 13.0 on the Vehicle Descriptor (Second) Section Code, and Part 15.0 Vehicle Indicator (Fourth) Section Code. For Recommended Practice No. 53, an example is found in the combined certification and tire-rim information provided in Section 6.0 "Certification Label Requirements."

While TTMA is free to make these recommendations, it may be helpful for your members to recognize the distinction between information or labeling required by NHTSA, and which therefore must follow an exact format according to Federal law, as opposed to matters that are within the discretion of the manufacturer and for which the TTMA provides one suggested means by which the requirement(s) may be fulfilled.

I also note that in Section 12.5 (pages 12-13) in No. 56, TTMA provides recommendations for handling certification and VIN assignment responsibilities for trailers sold in a bankruptcy sale. You correctly note that NHTSA has not yet issued an interpretation on this issue, and in the absence of a specific fact situation to be addressed, we will not comment. However, your members should be advised that if they decide to follow TTMA's advice on the bankruptcy issue, they will be doing so at their own risk, as NHTSA may not agree with TTMA's recommendation. The safest course if this situation should arise, is to write to the Chief Counsel and ask for an interpretation.

We offer the following comments on particular sections of each recommended practice:

COMMENTS ON RECOMMENDED PRACTICE NUMBER 56 "TRAILER VEHICLE IDENTIFICATION NUMBER"

2.0 Purpose:

An extra sentence should be added to Section 2.1 as follows: "This Recommended Practice references relevant provisions of NHTSA's VIN regulation in parentheses; e.g. (565.3(h)) for the definition of `manufacturer'".

4.4 Trailer Kits:

The citation should be changed from "49 CFR 571.115, S2 and S3" to " 49 CFR 565.2".

9.5 Format

Section 9.5 addresses situations where there are spaces in a VIN, and comments: "The space can, however, be filled with any approved letter or number listed in Section 9.3." This sentence is not necessarily true. In the twelfth through seventeenth positions of the VIN (production sequence), other than characters designated for use by the SAE in the twelfth through fourteenth positions (because the manufacturer makes fewer than 500 vehicles per year), numbers must be used. Section 565.6(d)(3) states that the twelfth through seventeenth positions "shall represent the number sequentially assigned by the manufacturer in the production process if the manufacturer produces 500 or more vehicles of its type annually." (Emphasis added.)

17.0 Interpretations and Questions:

If there are any questions about VINs, the first person TTMA members should contact is the VIN Coordinator at (202) 366-6018.

Requests for legal interpretations may be obtained by writing to:

Chief Counsel
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20590

Information on legal interpretations may be obtained from:

DOROTHY NAKAMA (202) 366-2992.

Please note that NHTSA attorneys do not provide oral interpretations or other "informal answers to questions."

Excerpts from Legal Interpretations Issued by NHTSA Pertaining to VINs

I suggest the following cautionary language precede the section with excerpts from interpretations:

The following excerpts from NHTSA's Chief Counsel's interpretation letters are provided for the reader's convenience only. NHTSA strongly advises that before deciding to rely on an excerpt, the reader review the entire letter from which the excerpt was taken.

Further, in attempting to use these interpretations to resolve a question, please be aware that they represent the views of the Chief Counsel based on the facts of individual cases. If you are aware of a previous interpretation that appears to address your question, please cite that interpretation and present your question to the Chief Counsel. Do not act on the assumption that the interpretation is necessarily applicable to your situation. There may be critical factual differences between your situation and those addressed in previous interpretations. Further, the agency's standards and regulations change from year to year, and past interpretations may no longer be applicable.

Interpretation letters are available from: NHTSA Technical Reference, Room 5108, 400 Seventh St., S. W., Washington, D.C. 20590. Phone number (202) 366-4941. Please be sure to reference 49 CFR part or NHTSA regulation being interpreted.

NHTSA's interpretation letters are available for viewing on the Internet at: "http:\\www.nhtsa.dot.gov". On the home page, click on "Table of Contents", then on "Regulations and Standards" under "NHTSA's Interpretation Files Search". Letters may be searched by "key words" such as date, name of addressee, or subject matter.

Finally, I note that in a June 29, 1993 letter to TTMA, I advised you that the "Anti Car Theft Act of 1992" resulted in adding Section 511, Altering or removing motor vehicle identification numbers, to Title 18 of the United States Code. Section 511 provides 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. It may be helpful to your members if Section 511 was mentioned somewhere in the recommended practice, perhaps in the section containing excerpts from NHTSA's legal interpretations.

COMMENTS ON RECOMMENDED PRACTICE NUMBER 53 "U. S. TRAILER CERTIFICATION LABEL"

3.1 References:

The correct title for Standard No. 120 is Tire selection and rims for motor vehicles other than passenger cars and the correct title for Part 568 is Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages.

4.2 Certification Label ... Specifications:

4.2 should read as follows:

"The label must be affixed to a location on the forward half of the left side of the trailer such that it is easily readable from outside the trailer without moving any part of the trailer."

6.0 Certification Label Examples:

6.2 The example shown in S6.2 (certification label not combined with Std. 120 labeling requirements) provides the correct information in the correct order specified in Part 567. However, in the S6.2 example, the "Date of Manufacture" should read "Month and Year of Manufacturer", as specified at 49 CFR 567.4(g)(2). The information "All Axles 19,000 with 10.00-20(F) Tires" should be preceded by "Gross Axle Weight Rating [GAWR]".

6.8 In the example shown in S6.8, "Date of Manufacture" should read "Month and Year of Manufacture."

Excerpts from Rulemaking and Interpretations

On excerpts from interpretation letters, my earlier comments provided for Recommended Practice Number 56 also apply to this discussion.

I hope this information is helpful. If there are any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely,
John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel

ref:565#567#120

d.9/11/97