Mr. George J. Aumond
Intec Industries, Inc.
1025 S. Linwood Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Dear Mr. Aumond:
This responds to your request for an interpretation whether your company must assign new vehicle identification numbers (VINs) to used trailer chassis, under the facts described in your letter. If the trailers are modified in accordance with NHTSA's regulations on combining new and used components in trailer manufacture, the trailers would be considered used and the VIN assigned to each trailer may be retained.
Your letter states that Intec Industries is in the process of redesigning 40-foot shipping container chassis to "accommodate new laws pertaining to distribution of weight on bridges." You describe the changes as follows:
The modification is accomplished by modifying an existing 40' straight frame chassis, to accommodate one 20' container, with a 48,000 pound load, or, two empty 20' containers, or one 40' or 45' container with 48,000 pound loads. When completed, only the rear 10' of the 40' frame is not used. The compressed length of finished unit is 30'-0". All braking systems, wheels, tires, accumulation tanks, and fifth wheel components, are essentially left intact, and are incorporated into the new design.
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that if possible, your company would like to retain the assigned VIN on the modified trailers. You further stated that after the changes are made, the gross vehicle weight rating and the gross axle weight ratings of each trailer chassis will remain the same. The distance between the wheels (on the same side of the vehicle) will be adjusted, so that the trailer chassis' load distribution will be in line with new bridge weight requirements.
NHTSA's regulations at 49 CFR 571.7(f) Combining new and used components in trailer manufacture apply to your company's trailer modifications. That regulation provides:
When new materials are used in the assembly of a trailer, the trailer will be considered newly manufactured for purposes of [the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards] unless, at the minimum, the trailer running gear assembly (axle(s), wheels, braking and suspension) is not new, and was taken from an existing trailer -
(1) Whose identity is continued in the reassembled vehicle with respect to the Vehicle Identification Number; and
(2) That is owned or leased by the user of the reassembled vehicle.
Thus, if the trailers are modified under the conditions described in Section 571.7(f), the trailers would be considered used, and Intec Industries may continue to use the assigned VINs on the modified trailers.
Please note that in the modification process, your company must ensure that the certification labels (assigned pursuant to 49 CFR Part 567 Certification) remain on the trailers. Additionally, in order to avoid a violation of 49 U.S.C. 30112(b), when modifying the trailers, your company must not "knowingly make inoperative any part of a device or element of design installed on or in [those vehicles] in compliance with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard..."
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel