Mr. Dan Lessnau
DriverCheck International, Inc.
2100 Powers Ferry Road, Ste. 201
Atlanta, GA 30339

Dear Mr. Lessnau:

This is in reply to your letter of August 4 to the Administrator, asking for an interpretation regarding the legality of obscuring a portion of retroreflective sheeting.

Your company manufactures decals (3" x 18") which state "How's my driving" in white letters on red, and "Call 1-800-2 Advise" in red letters on white, with a 5 character identification code in black letters on white. Some of your customers have asked as to "the legality of placing our decals over the striping on the back of flatbeds."

Manufacturers must apply retroreflective sheeting to large trailers, and truck tractors, pursuant to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108. The standard requires treatment "across the full width of the trailer, as close to the extreme edges as practicable." An exception is made for discontinuous surfaces such as hinges, which are not generally found on the rear of a flatbed. In our opinion, a decal applied over a portion of the conspicuity treatment on the rear of flat bed trailers would interrupt its extension "across the full width" and prevent the treatment from completely fulfilling its safety purpose. In short, a vehicle which had the decal applied over a portion of the conspicuity treatment would not comply with Standard No. 108.

Our laws prohibit a manufacturer, distributor, or dealer from applying the decal before the sale of the flatbed to its first owner, since the vehicle would not be in compliance with Standard No. 108. Our laws also prohibit these persons, and motor vehicle repair businesses as well, from applying the decal after the flatbed has been sold.

You have also asked, in effect, whether there would still be a violation if the decal were retroreflective. The answer is yes, for reasons in addition to the ones discussed above. Although a retroreflective decal identical to the one you sent us would continue to use the required colors of red and white, the standard sets forth a pattern of alternating single color segments, and your dual color two-level message would not comply with this specification.

It seems likely to us that the decal is intended for aftermarket sale to the commercial vehicle industry, and application by trucking companies. Under these circumstances, the use of the decal would be a violation of 49 CFR 393.11, a safety regulation of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Section 393.11 requires that commercial motor vehicles manufactured on or after March 7, 1989, and operated in interstate commerce, be equipped with all the lamps and reflective devices required by Standard No. 108 on the date on which the vehicle was manufactured. Therefore, the use of a decal that obscures a portion of the retroreflectrive sheeting is prohibited by the FHWA. Motor carriers must maintain the trailer conspicuity treatments on all trailers manufactured on or after December 1, 1993, in order to comply with 49 CFR 393.11.

Please note that on April 14, 1997, the FHWA proposed revising Section 393.11 to include explicit language concerning trailer conspicuity requirements (62 FR 18170). I am enclosing a copy of this proposal. Pages 18172-74 discuss the rationale for the proposed changes, and pages 18188-92 provide the regulatory language that is being considered. If you have any question concerning the FHWA's requirements, you may phone Larry Minor in the FHWA's Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards (202/366-4009).

If you have any questions about Standard No. 108, you may phone Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).

John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel