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DATE: 06/20/79

FROM: AUTHOR UNAVAILABLE; F. Berndt; NHTSA

TO: J. H. Latshaw, Jr., Esq.

TITLE: FMVSS INTERPRETATION

TEXT: This is in reply to your letter of March 13, 1979, to John Womack of this office on behalf of your client Ennova, Inc. Ennova wishes to market a "back rack carrier", and you have asked several questions with respect to its legality under Federal requirements. The photographs which you enclosed show that the carrier structure is attached to both the front and rear bumpers, and that loads may be carried on the top of the vehicle as well as on a shelf directly behind the vehicle's rear bumper.

Your questions and our answers are:

"1. Are equipment carriers which fasten to a privately owned motor vehicle regulated by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Act (hereinafter, the NHTSA) so that state law in this area is pre-empted?

2. Does the NHTSA contain any standards or regulations pertaining to roof racks or equipment carriers? Does the motor vehicle safety act contain any such regulations?"

An equipment carrier that attaches to a motor vehicle is an item of "motor vehicle equipment" as defined by 15 U.S.C. 1391(4), and your client is a "manufacturer" as defined by 15 U.S.C. 1391(5). There are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards that cover this type of motor vehicle equipment, and, therefore, a State is not preempted by 15 U.S.C. 1392(d)) from prescribing its own safety standards for it. If a safety related defect were discovered in the "Back Rack", Ennova would be responsible for notification and remedy of it, as required by 15 U.S.C. 1411 et seq.

"3. Does the NHTSA establish any guidelines for motor vehicle bumpers or fenders which the Back Rack T.M. Carrier appears to violate? Does the fact that the rear platform extends out behind the vehicle place the Rack in contravention of any Federal standards?

The Back Rack is intended to become affixed to the rear bumper in a semi-permanent manner and protrude therefrom. Does this bring the carrier into a regulated area? Is so, what is the citation of the regulations and what must be done to conform the platform to same?

4. Does the height, width or depth of any aspect of the Back Rack T.M. Carrier present a problem?

5. The structural supports of the Back Rack T.M. Carrier obscure the vehicle's lighting in some aspects both front and rear. Does the obstruction violate any provisions of the NHTSA or the Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

8. If the Back Rack T.M. Carrier as it appears in the photographs were installed by a dealer, would it be in contravention of any federal law, standard or regulation exclusive of laws relating to products liability and defective equipment."

Your questions concern our jurisdiction over a vehicle before and after its sale to its first purchaser for purposes other than resale. A dealer has the responsibility to deliver to its owner a new vehicle in full compliance with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Paragraph S4.1.3 of Standard No. 108 prohibits the installation of any "additional lamp, reflective device, or other motor vehicle equipment . . . that impairs the effectiveness of lighting equipment required by this standard." Paragraph S4.3.1 requires that "no part of the vehicle shall prevent a parking lamp, taillamp, stop lamp, turn signal lamp, or backup lamp from meeting its photometric output at any applicable group of test points specified in Figures 1 and 3 [Standard No. 108], or prevent any other lamp from meeting the photometric output at any test point specified in any applicable "SAE Standard on Recommended Practice". Therefore, a dealer could not deliver a new car with the Back Rack installed if it impairs the effectiveness of the car's lamps or reflectors or impairs photometric output. After sale, a dealer (or distributor or manufacturer, but not the vehicle owner) has a responsibility under 15 U.S.C. 1397(a)(2)(A) of not "knowingly rendering inoperative in whole or in part, any device or element of design installed on . . . a motor vehicle . . . in compliance with an applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard . . ." In the context of Standard No. 108 we have equated a rendering inoperative with impaired effectiveness or impaired photometrics so that the same consideration would apply; a dealer could not install the Back Rack on a used vehicle if it affects compliance with Standard No. 108.

The installation of the Back Rack appears to present some compliance problems. Based upon an informal review and the photographs you submitted, the front part of the carrier may reduce headlamp candlepower output below the required minimum at several test points, as for example, at test points HV, H-3R and 3L and H 9R and 9L on the upper beam, and at test points 1 1/2 D-2R, 1/2 D-1 1/2 R on the low beam.

Looking at the turn signals which are required to have an 8.0 square inch minimum projected luminous area, the carrier support design may mask them to the extent that the direction of the turn signal might not be clearly understood. The carrier support location may not allow these lamps to provide an unobstructed effective projected illuminated area of outer lens surface, excluding reflex, of at least 2 square inches, measured at 45 degrees to the longitudinal axis of the vehicle. This requirement must also be met by the taillamps. Further with respect to the taillamps, with the carrier in place, they may not be visible through a horizontal angle from 45 degrees to the left and/or right, as Standard No. 108 requires.

The design location of the carrier supports may reduce the minimum effective projected luminous area of the stop lamps below the 8 square inch minimum of Standard No. 108.

As for backup lamps, the visibility requirements are complex, those of SAE Standard J593c as modified by S4.1.1.22 of Standard No. 108, but in essence the lamps must be "readily visible" to use your phrase.

These interpretations are based upon the photographs you supplied, and are meant to be illustrative as there are many different lighting configurations on vehicles, and we do not know that the Back Rack would affect compliance in all instances.

"7. What are the dimensional requirements of headlight, parking, directional and tail lights? What percentage of these lenses must be totally visible?"

Dimensional requirements of headlights conform to SAE J571d, Dimensional Specifications of Sealed Beam Headlamp Units, June 1966, parking lights, SAE J 222, Parking Lamps (Position Lamps) December 1970, directional lights (turn signals) SAE J588e, Turn Signal Lamps (Rear Position Light), August 1970. Copies of the foregoing SAE Standards are attached. In addition, the minimum and maxima of lens visibility requirements for parking lamps, turn signal lamps and taillamps are set forth in these SAE Standards. The minimum and maximum photometric requirements of headlights are set forth in SAE J 579a, August 1965 and J 579c, December 1974, as well as the design parameters of rectangular headlamps units SAE J 1132, Sealed Beam Headlamp Units for Motor Vehicles (copies also attached).

I hope this answers your questions.

SINCERELY,

March 13, 1979

John Womack, Esquire Office of General Counsel Department of Transportation

Re: The Back Rack T.M. Carrier by Ennova, Inc.

Dear John:

I have taken the liberty of forwarding this letter and the enclosure herewith to you so that you may channel same to the proper individual for inspection. Your involvement in this matter will produce better results than if I sent the material to the Department generally.

Our client, Ennova, Inc., seeks to market and arrange for the distribution of the Back Rack T.M. Carrier to dealers for installation on privately owned motor vehicles. Prior to the production of the carrier, I would like to determine if the Department of Transportation can detect potential regulatory obstacles or other problems with the product. In addition, I would be pleased to entertain any suggestions which the Department may have.

I have enclosed six (6) photographs (two with detailed measurements) plus a letter explaining the Carrier written by the designer. Those materials are for the sole use of the Department of Transportation in its consultations with the above-referenced lawfirm. The information and specifications contained within the enclosures will be divulged to the public only upon the Department's receipt of a carefully constructed, detailed and specific request for same. This request must meet the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act before the Department is obligated to release the requested information.

My questions in reference to the Back Rack T.M. Carrier are as follows: 1. Are equipment carriers which fasten to a privately owned motor vehicle regulated by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Act (hereinafter, the NHTSA) so that state law in this area is pre-empted?

2. Does the NHTSA contain any standards or regulations pertaining to roof racks or equipment carriers? Does the motor vehicle safety act contain any such regulations?

3. Does the NHTSA establish any guidelines for motor vehicle bumpers or fenders which the Back Rack T.M. Carrier appears to violate? Does the fact that the rear platform extends out behind the vehicle place the Rack in contravention of any federal standards?

The Back Rack is intended to become affixed to the rear bumper in a semi-permanent manner and protrude therefrom. Does this bring the carrier into a regulated area? If so, what is the citation of the regulations and what must be done to conform the platform to same?

4. Does the height, width or depth of any aspect of the Back Rack T.M. Carrier present a problem?

5. The structural supports of the Back Rack T.M. Carrier obscure the vehicle's lighting in some aspects both front and rear. Does the obstruction violate any provisions of the NHTSA or the Motor Vehicle Safety Act? In particular, does the Carrier violate in any manner the provisions of Section 103 of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act?

6. What is the minimum amount of ascertainable candle power required to be visible from each vehicular light subsequent to sunset? Must back-up lights be readily visible?

7. What are the dimensional requirements of headlight, parking, directional and tail lights? What percentage of these lenses must be totally visible?

8. If the Back Rack T.M. Carrier as it appears in the photographs were installed by a dealer, would it be in contravention of any federal law, standard or regulation exclusive of laws relating to products liability and defective equipment.

Please arrange for your Department to have someone consider the Carrier and these questions carefully. I would appreciate it if the Department would contact me personally or in writing with a concrete response to this inquiry within one (1) month.

If there are any procedures which I can follow to obtain a letter of approval indicating that the Carrier does not structurally violate any federal standard, please apprise me of same.

In addition, please forward me the name of the DOT representation assigned to respond to this inquiry.

Thank you for your kind cooperation in this matter.

John H. Latshaw, Jr.

ENCLS.

cc: RICHARD R. CHUTTER -- PRES., ENNOVA, INC.

PRODUCTION MODEL WILL BE 50 DEGREES

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COPYRIGHT (C) Ennova. Inc. 1978

BACK RACK TM Carrier by Ennova

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