Mr. Harold Miller
Cage Code 1TQM7
311 Whispering Pines Lane
Grants Pass, OR 97527
Dear Mr. Miller:
This is in reply to your letter to Richard Van Iderstine of this agency.You asked about the applicability of Federal regulations to a product which you have described.
The product appears to be a message bar that illuminates with the word "Turning" accompanied by arrows to the right or left, depending on the direction of the turn.It connects to the stop lamp and turn signal "wires" and would be mounted "on the rear of commercial trailers," above the bumper bar and its usual supports. It is activated with the turn signal system.
With respect to the applicability of regulations that this agency enforces, the product is "motor vehicle equipment," subject to notification and remedial action if it has developed a defect related to motor vehicle safety.In that event, you as the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying owners of the product, and for instituting remedial action in the form of repair, repurchase, or replacement of the product.
This product would not be acceptable as original motor vehicle equipment.Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 is our regulation that applies to vehicle lighting.It specifies requirements for certain specific items of lighting equipment. If an item of lighting equipment other than those specified is provided as original equipment, it is allowed under paragraph S5.1.3 of Standard No. 108 only if it does not impair the effectiveness of required lighting equipment.In our view, impairment of rear signals may occur if the following driver is confronted with messages and symbols that are unfamiliar in the motoring environment and have the potential to confuse.We believe that your product is prohibited by S5.1.3.
With respect to the aftermarket, 49 U.S.C. 30122 has the effect of requiring that the installation of any aftermarket vehicle accessory, by a manufacturer, distributor, dealer, or motor vehicle repair business, must not "make inoperative" any element of design or device installed on a vehicle in accordance with Standard No. 108. As with original equipment, we regard an accessory lamp mounted on the rear as "making inoperative" a vehicles original rear lighting equipment if it has the potential of creating confusion as to the meaning of the lighting equipment, or detracting a following drivers attention from rear signal lights.
The "make inoperative" prohibition does not apply to the vehicle owner. However, the accessory lamp remains subject to the laws of the individual States where it will be used. Further, since your product is intended for "commercial trailers," it is subject to the lighting regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for trailers in use in interstate commerce.The FMCSAs opinions are similar to ours and would not allow use of your product on trailers under its jurisdiction.
If you have any questions, you may refer them to Taylor Vinson of this Office (202-366-5263).