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Interpretation ID: 2525y


Mr. Brad G. Magor 6282 Young Street Halifax, Nova Scotia B3L-1ZB Canada

Dear Mr. Magor:

This is in reply to your letter of May 1, l990, to the Department of Transportation with respect to your intended purchase of a Canadian truck or van which you will eventually import into the United States. You asked for information on the features required to meet the U.S. safety standards, and whether Canadian vehicles generally have these items.

There is a great similarity, but not identicality, between the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (CMVSS), and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Manufacturers in both countries are required to affix a label to their vehicles certifying compliance with all applicable safety standards. We understand that some Canadian manufacturers may have certified compliance of their vehicles with both the CMVSS and the FMVSS. If dual certification has occurred, it will be evident from reading the certification label on the vehicle (usually located in the driver door post area). If the vehicle bears a certification of compliance that includes the FMVSS, you should encounter no problems in importing, registering, and selling it in the United States.

However, if the vehicle is certified only to the CMVSS, you will encounter some difficulty in importing it, notwithstanding the substantial similarity of the CMVSS and FMVSS. By direction of Congress, a vehicle not originally manufactured to conform to the FMVSS may not be admitted into the U.S. unless two things have occurred. The vehicle must be on a list of vehicles that the Department has approved for conversion to the FMVSS. If this has occurred, then the vehicle can only be imported by a "registered importer" (i.e. converter), or one who has a contract with a registered importer to perform the conversion work. A bond equal to l50% of the entered value of the vehicle must be given to secure performance of the conversion work, which is cancelled upon satisfactory evidence that the work has been performed.

The new directives of Congress were only effective on January 31, l990, and we are still working to implement them. We have tentatively proposed an approved general list of vehicles that would include all Canadian trucks and vans manufactured since January 1, l968, that were certified as meeting the CMVSS, and which are of the same make, model, and model year of any truck or van originally manufactured for importation into and sale in the United States, or originally manufactured in the United States, and that were certified as meeting the FMVSS. For example, a l990 Chevrolet truck manufactured in Canada to the CMVSS with a U.S. manufactured and certified counterpart would be covered by this general list. We have received no objections to treating Canadian vehicles in this fashion. A final determination should be published in the near future. We have also accorded registered importer status to a number of applicants. If you choose to buy a vehicle certified to the CMVSS for importation into the United States, we will be pleased to provide the latest list of registered importers as the time draws near for your departure.

The minor differences in the standards that may effect you are principally those regarding speedometer/odometers and lighting. The former must indicate miles and miles per hour (and may indicate kilometers and kilometers per hour). Vehicles must be equipped with headlamps that meet the FMVSS and not those of the ECE. Thus, once a CMVSS-certified vehicle is imported, we do not anticipate that the conversion work should be lengthy or costly. Once the work has been satisfactorily performed and the converter's label attached, you should encounter no difficulties in registering the vehicle or in selling it.

I hope that this answers your questions.


Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel ref:59l d:6/28/90