Mr. E. Hunter Stone, II
P. O. Box 61419
Denver, CO 80206-8419
Dear Mr. Stone:
This responds to your request for a "written corporate endorsement" of your invention the "Signal Square," which you describe as a "location marker for safety and emergency purposes" that can be temporarily attached to a motor vehicle. The invention is a bright orange rectangular piece of plastic approximately 41" by 40" plus two 6" long flat white magnets. As explained below, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cannot endorse or otherwise "approve" your product. Since the product is "motor vehicle equipment," the manufacturer of your product may be subject to NHTSA's laws as described below.
By way of background information, NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Unlike the practice in many countries, NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards.
Your product is "motor vehicle equipment" for the following reasons. Our statute (at 49 USC 30102(a)(7)) defines the term "motor vehicle equipment" as:
(A) any system, part, or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured;
(B) any similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as any accessory or addition to a motor vehicle; or
(C) any device or an article or apparel ... that is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle and is manufactured, sold, delivered, offered, or intended to be used only to safeguard motor vehicles and highway users against risk of accident, injury, or death. (Emphasis added.)
The agency uses two criteria in determining whether a device is an "accessory." The first criterion is whether a substantial portion of the expected use of the item is related to the operation or maintenance of motor vehicles. We determine a product's expected use by considering product advertising, product labeling, and the type of store that retails the product, as well as available information about the actual use of the product. The second criterion is whether the product is purchased or otherwise acquired, and principally used, by ordinary users of motor vehicles. If a product satisfies both criteria, then the product would be an "accessory."
Applying these criteria to the "Signal Square," we conclude that it is an accessory to a motor vehicle. The product labeling describes the "Signal Square" as an "air and ground vehicle location marker." The label also describes how to place the "Signal Square" on the "steel, hood, top, flatbed and/or side of vehicle," and provides specific instructions on how to place the product on smaller vehicles.
Although we have no information about how the product will be advertised, from the product's labeling, we conclude that its expected use is related to the operation of a motor vehicle. Because of the detailed instructions provided in the label, we conclude that the product is intended to be purchased and principally used by ordinary users of motor vehicles.
Please note that NHTSA has issued Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 125, Warning devices. Standard No. 125 establishes requirements for devices, without self-contained energy sources, that are designed to be carried in motor vehicles and used to warn approaching traffic of the presence of a stopped vehicle, except for devices designed to be permanently affixed to the vehicle. The application section (S3) states that: "the standard applies to devices, without self-contained energy sources, that are designed to be carried in buses and trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds."
If sold for use with buses and trucks with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds, the "Signal Square" must meet Standard No. 125's detailed specifications for a warning device. However, if the "Signal Square" is sold for use with vehicles with a GVWR under 10,000 pounds, Standard No. 125 would not apply.
Even if sold for use with vehicles with a GVWR under 10,000 pounds, and no safety standard applies, other NHTSA laws may apply to your product. As an accessory to a motor vehicle, the "Signal Square" is an item of "motor vehicle equipment." You (or whoever is the manufacturer of the "Signal Square") would be subject to Title 49 of the U.S. Code, sections 30118-30122, concerning the recall and remedy of products with defects related to motor vehicle safety. If the manufacturer or NHTSA determined that the product contains a safety related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel