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NHTSA Interpretation File Search

Overview

NHTSA's Chief Counsel interprets the statutes that the agency administers and the standards and regulations that it issues. Members of the public may submit requests for interpretation, and the Chief Counsel will respond with a letter of interpretation. These interpretation letters look at the particular facts presented in the question and explain the agency’s opinion on how the law applies given those facts. These letters of interpretation are guidance documents. They do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. They are intended only to provide information to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. 

Understanding NHTSA’s Online Interpretation Files

NHTSA makes its letters of interpretation available to the public on this webpage. 

An interpretation letter represents the opinion of the Chief Counsel based on the facts of individual cases at the time the letter was written. While these letters may be helpful in determining how the agency might answer a question that another person has if that question is similar to a previously considered question, do not assume that a prior interpretation will necessarily apply to your situation.

  • Your facts may be sufficiently different from those presented in prior interpretations, such that the agency's answer to you might be different from the answer in the prior interpretation letter;
  • Your situation may be completely new to the agency and not addressed in an existing interpretation letter;
  • The agency's safety standards or regulations may have changed since the prior interpretation letter was written so that the agency's prior interpretation no longer applies; or
  • Some combination of the above, or other, factors.

Searching NHTSA’s Online Interpretation Files

Before beginning a search, it’s important to understand how this online search works. Below we provide some examples of searches you can run. In some cases, the search results may include words similar to what you searched because it utilizes a fuzzy search algorithm.

Single word search

 Example: car
 Result: Any document containing that word.

Multiple word search

 Example: car seat requirements
 Result: Any document containing any of these words.

Connector word search

 Example: car AND seat AND requirements
 Result: Any document containing all of these words.

 Note: Search operators such as AND or OR must be in all capital letters.

Phrase in double quotes

 Example: "headlamp function"
 Result: Any document with that phrase.

Conjunctive search

Example: functionally AND minima
Result: Any document with both of those words.

Wildcard

Example: headl*
Result: Any document with a word beginning with those letters (e.g., headlamp, headlight, headlamps).

Example: no*compl*
Result: Any document beginning with the letters “no” followed by the letters “compl” (e.g., noncompliance, non-complying).

Not

Example: headlamp NOT crash
Result: Any document containing the word “headlamp” and not the word “crash.”

Complex searches

You can combine search operators to write more targeted searches.

Note: The database does not currently support phrase searches with wildcards (e.g., “make* inoperative”). 

Example: Headl* AND (supplement* OR auxiliary OR impair*)
Result: Any document containing words that are variants of “headlamp” (headlamp, headlights, etc.) and also containing a variant of “supplement” (supplement, supplemental, etc.) or “impair” (impair, impairment, etc.) or the word “auxiliary.”

Search Tool

NHTSA's Interpretation Files Search



Displaying 21 - 30 of 16496
Interpretations Date
 

ID: 24739.drn

Open

    Ms. Rhonda Lordet
    4130 Commonwealth Avenue
    Culver City, CA 90232

    Dear Ms. Lordet:

    This responds to your letter seeking confirmation that "there are no standards or regulations concerning hubcaps or wheel covers." You are correct in your understanding that there is no longer a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) regulating hubcaps or wheel covers.

    In the past, FMVSS No. 211 (Standard No. 211), Wheel nuts, wheel discs, and hub caps, (49 CFR Section 571.211) precluded certain wheel nuts, wheel discs, and hub caps from having "winged projections." We were concerned that the winged projections could catch on clothing or strike legs or other body parts, posing a hazard to pedestrians and cyclists. Standard No. 211 was rescinded in a final rule published in the Federal Register on May 6, 1996, (61 FR 20172).The final rule took effect on June 5, 1996.

    However, a hubcap or wheel cover designed to be used on motor vehicles is an item of "motor vehicle equipment," and is subject the recall and remedy provisions of the Vehicle Safety Act.If a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer is responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.(This responsibility is borne by the vehicle manufacturer in cases in which a device is installed on or in a new vehicle by or with the express authorization of that vehicle manufacturer.)I have enclosed an information sheet that describes these and other responsibilities.

    I hope this information is helpful.If you need any further information, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    Enclosure
    ref:#211
    d.9/24/02

ID: 2498y

Open

Joseph R. Wheeler, Esq.
P.O. Box 2808
424 Church St., Suite 2900
Third National Financial Center
Nashville, TN 37219

Dear Mr. Wheeler:

This is in response to your letter to Kenneth Weinstein of my staff requesting information about actions by the Secretary of Transportation pursuant to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection (49 CFR 571.208). More specifically, you noted that S4.1.4.1 of Standard No. 208 states that, "Except as provided in S4.1.5 [and another section not relevant to your inquiry], each passenger car manufactured on or after September 1, 1989 shall comply with the [automatic restraint requirements]." S4.1.5 of Standard No. 208 provides that: "If the Secretary of Transportation determines, by not later than April 1, 1989, that state mandatory safety belt usage laws have been enacted that meet the criteria specified in S4.1.5.2 and that are applicable to not less than two-thirds of the total population . . ., [the automatic restraint requirements will not go into effect]." You asked whether the Secretary ever made a determination under S4.1.5 regarding State safety belt use laws. The answer is no.

Under S4.1.5, the Secretary was not required to make any determination about any State safety belt laws. In fact, the Secretary never did so. Because no determination was made under S4.1.5, the automatic restraint requirements are now in effect for all passenger cars.

This letter expresses no opinion about the implications under Tennessee law of the absence of a determination by the Secretary of Transportation regarding any State's safety belt law.

Sincerely,

Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel /ref:208 d:6/l4/90

ID: 24740GMF_width_of_latchbelt

Open

    Mr. Agus The
    Project Engineer
    AMSAFE Commercial Products
    240-C N. 48th Avenue
    Phoenix, AZ 85043

    Dear Mr. The:

    This responds to your August 8, 2002, letter concerning whether Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, permits the use of 1-inch webbing for use in "Lower Anchor and Upper Tether assemblies." [1] We understand you to ask whether you may use 1-inch webbing to permanently attach the components to a child restraint that enable the restraint to be securely fastened to the child restraint anchorage system specified in Standard No. 225. Our answer is yes, provided that the webbing meets the applicable performance requirements.

    Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213 requires at S5.9 that "Each add-on child restraint system manufactured on or after September 1, 2002, other than a car bed, harness and belt-positioning seat, shall have components permanently attached to the system that enable the restraint to be securely fastened to the lower anchorages of the child restraint anchorage system specified in Standard No. 225 (571.225)." S5.4 of the standard addresses belts, belt buckles and belt webbing of child restraint systems. S5.4.1 states:

    The webbing of belts provided with the child restraint system and used to attach the system to the vehicle or to restrain the child within the system shall

    1. After being subjected to abrasion as specified in S5.1(d) or S5.3(c) of FMVSS 209 (571.209), have a breaking strength of not less than 75 percent of the strength of the unabraded webbing when tested in accordance with S5.1(b) of FMVSS 209.
    2. Meet the requirements of S4.2 (e) and (f) of FMVSS No. 209 ( 571.209); and
    3. If contactable by the test dummy torso when the system is tested in accordance with S6.1, have a width of not less than 1 inches when measured in accordance with S5.4.1.1." (Emphasis added.)

    Based on your letter, it is our understanding that you are exploring the use of 1-inch wide webbing only for use in attaching the "LATCH" components to a child restraint. Therefore, we assume that the proposed webbing would not be "contactable by the test dummy torso." If it is so, the requirements of S5.4.1(c) are inapplicable to the webbing in question and do not prohibit you from using 1-inch-wide webbing.

    While Standard No. 213 does not expressly restrict the use of webbing for the LATCH components on the basis of width, each child restraint must meet Standard No. 213s performance requirements in a dynamic test. Therefore, in making your decision on whether to provide slimmer webbing to child restraint system manufacturers, you should ensure that the restraints can comply with the dynamic testing requirements in the standard.

    Finally, you ask whether 1-inch webbing would violate any future Federal motor vehicle safety standard. Please be advised that this interpretation letter pertains to current requirements and makes no representations about any future or proposed rule changes. Although we do not have any pending rulemakings pertaining to the width of webbing used to attach LATCH components, manufacturers bear the responsibility to keep abreast of all developments with the Federal standards.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    ref:213
    d.1/30/03





    [1] We believe that you are referring to the term "Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH)," which was developed by child restraint manufacturers and retailers to refer to the standardized child restraint anchorage system specified by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 225, Child Restraint Anchorage Systems (49 CFR 571.225).

ID: 24778rbm

Open

    Mr. Klaus Hillenbrand
    Siemens Restraint Systems GmbH
    Carl-Zeiss-Strasse 9
    63755 Alzenau

    Dear Mr. Hillenbrand:

    This responds to your letter asking about the seat positioning procedure in S8.1.2 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 208, Occupant crash protection, and S6.3 of FMVSS No. 214, Side impact protection.The text of the two different provisions is the same. You have requested clarification of the seating procedure because your interpretation of the language in these two sections differs from an explanation of the language that was provided in a 1995 legal interpretation provided to Patrick Raher of Hogan & Hartson, L.L.P. I am pleased to provide a response.

    The seat position specifications of FMVSS No. 208 (S8.1.2) and FMVSS No. 214 (S6.3) read as follows:

      Adjustable seats are in the adjustment position midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions, and if separately adjustable in a vertical direction, are at the lowest position. If an adjustment position does not exist midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions, the closest adjustment position to the rear of the midpoint is used.

    In your letter, you stated that you read this language to mean that the longitudinal midposition would be determined by moving the seat in the most forward and most rearward position without moving the height adjustment and then marking the midposition at the seat rails. Height adjustment would then be made to the lowest level without any readjustment of the seat rails. Your primary question is whether the reference for the longitudinal midposition must be measured at the seat rails (where determination of the most forward/rearward position would be independent of any height adjustment) or if it can be measured somewhere at the seat pan (where height adjustment could influence the most forward/rearward position).

    As discussed in the 1995 interpretation, there are two conditions concerning how an adjustable seat is positioned in a crash test. The first condition, for the longitudinal position of the seat, is for the seat to be in the adjustment position midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions, irrespective of seat height in those positions. The second condition is that the vertical position be in the lowest position obtainable with the seat in the longitudinal midposition. Depending on whether the vertical position is separately adjustable, this may or may not be the lowest achievable position for the seat in any of its longitudinal positions.

    The critical issue is whether the longitudinal midposition is referenced along a longitudinal plane at the point midway between the forwardmost and rearmost positions of the seat at any height.The midposition is not qualified by height, so absolute forwardmost and rearmost positions are used to determine the midposition irrespective if height at those positions. The vertical position of the seat is only determined after the longitudinal midposition has been established.

    The seat position specification does not require that the longitudinal midposition be referenced at the seat rail, or at any other specific location.Any place in the vehicle that allows for the accurate marking of the longitudinal midposition is acceptable.While many test laboratories may choose to mark the midposition at the seat rail, there is no requirement that they do so.

    I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Rebecca MacPherson of my staff at this address or by phone at (202)366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    ref:208
    d.10/15/02

ID: 24780.drn

Open

    Mr. Kenneth Reed
    Product Legislation and Compliance
    Jaguar Cars
    555 MacArthur Blvd.
    Mahwah, NJ 07430-2327

    Dear Mr. Reed:

    This responds to your request for an interpretation of "daylight opening" in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 104, Windshield wiping and washing systems. You ask whether the daylight opening should be measured to the edge of complete blackout area, the start of dot fade area, or to some point in between. As explained below, the daylight opening is measured to the edge of complete blackout area on the windshield.

    Daylight opening is defined at S3 of Standard No. 104 as: "the maximum unobstructed opening through the glazing surface, as defined in paragraph 2.3.12 of section E, Ground Vehicle Practice, SAE Aerospace-Automotive Drawing Standards, September 1963."

    Paragraph 2.3.12 of the SAE standard states:

    The term "Daylight Opening" (abbreviated DLO) refers to the maximum unobstructed opening through any glass aperture, including reveal or garnish moldings adjoining the glass, according to a given direction or projection. If not specified the dimension will be the vertical projection.

    I note that SAE Recommended Practice J1100, which you quote, is a later SAE document, and not the one referenced in Standard No. 104. One difference between the definition of "daylight opening" in the older document and the one in J1100 is that the newer one treats "opaque coatings" in the same manner as reveal or garnish moldings.

    Opaque coatings around the edge of the windshield are now used for the function once served by moldings, i.e., covering the glue around the edges of the windshield. Given this changed technology, we believe it is appropriate to treat opaque coatings around the edge of the windshield in the same manner as moldings, in interpreting the term "daylight opening" in Standard No. 104. However, this is only true for what you refer to as "complete blackout" or "truly opaque" areas. The dot fade area is not truly opaque, and is not analogous to moldings. Thus, daylight opening is measured to the edge of complete blackout area.

    I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Ms. Dorothy Nakama this address or at (202) 366-2992.

    Sincerely,

    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel

    ref:104
    d.5/6/03

ID: 2499y

Open

Mr. Douglas Mayes
President
Creative Products, Inc.
Number One Carissa
Littleton, CO 80127

Dear Mr. Mayes:

This responds to your letter asking questions in relation to your product called "gyroscopic wheel covers." We apologize for the delay in our response.

According to your letter and accompanying information, you claim that use of "gyroscopic wheel covers" can reduce stopping distance. You stated that Dr. Carl Clark of this agency suggested that you request this office to provide a letter specifically outlining the requirements of the agency's braking test, and a list of the various testing facilities used by the agency when testing a product for this purpose. You then asked for a letter stating the "stopping distance test guidelines" of Safety Standard No. l05, Hydraulic Brake Systems," and a list of laboratories acceptable to DOT that could be used to test your product. You also asked whether an SAE standard is a proper example of a stopping distance test. You stated that it is your intention to use these testing standards and one of the acceptable laboratories so as to properly document your product's test results in compliance with the DOT testing standards.

By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, it is the responsibility of the manufacturer to ensure that its products meet applicable standards.

Safety Standard No. l05, Hydraulic Brake Systems, applies to passenger cars and other motor vehicles. The standard specifies, among other things, a number of stopping distance tests that each motor vehicle must meet. I have enclosed a copy of the standard for your information.

I note that Standard No. l05 was not designed for the purpose of evaluating whether a product such as yours can improve stopping distance. We are unable to offer an opinion as to the appropriateness of using Standard No. l05's stopping distance tests for that purpose, or how such a test program would best be carried out.

This agency does not provide recommendations or endorsements for particular testing laboratories. I have, however, enclosed a list of the independent laboratories conducting compliance tests for NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance during the current fiscal year.

I have also enclosed a copy of an information sheet we have prepared which provides information for new manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment.

I hope this information is helpful.

Sincerely,

Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel ref:l05 d:6/l8/90

ID: 2500y

Open

Normand Laurendeau, Esq.
Guy & Gilbert
Place Mercantile
770 Sherbrooke Street West
Suite 2300
Montreal, Quebec
CANADA H3A 1G1

Dear Mr. Laurendeau:

Thank you for your letter on behalf of your client, who distributes auto glass parts in Canada. You had two questions regarding your client's status as an "intermediate" in the motor vehicle industry.

Before I address your specific questions, I believe some background information about this agency may be of assistance to you. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act) to issue safety standards applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA, however, does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. Instead, the Act establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet our safety standards. The agency periodically tests vehicles and equipment items for compliance with the standards, and also investigates other alleged safety-related defects. I have enclosed an information sheet which briefly describes each of a manufacturer's responsibilities under the Safety Act. The information sheet also explains how a company offering an item of motor vehicle equipment for importation into the United States must designate an agent within this country for service of process.

Your letter describes your client as "one of the major distributors of auto glass parts in all of Canada." Your letter states that your client's customers demand that your client "certifies all glasses shipped with D.O.T. number AS1 or AS2 for domestic and export purposes in all countries." I will now address the specific questions raised in your letter.

Your first question was whether your client, as a distributor of automotive safety glass, needs a D.O.T. number to operate in the United States. The answer to this question depends on what role your client has in the process that results in glazing being sold to the customer.

The agency has issued Standard No. 205, Glazing Materials (49 CFR 571.205) which specifies performance requirements for glazing for use in motor vehicles. S6 of Standard No. 205 establishes marking and certification requirements for manufacturers and distributors of glazing materials.

The marking and certification requirements differ, depending upon whether your client is a "prime glazing material manufacturer" or simply a manufacturer or distributor. A "prime glazing material manufacturer" is defined in S6.1 of Standard No. 205 as "one who fabricates, laminates, or tempers the glazing material." If your client performs any of these operations, it must comply with the marking and certification requirements set forth in S6.1 through S6.3 of Standard No. 205. S6.1 requires every prime glazing material manufacturer to mark all glazing materials it manufactures in accordance with American National Standard "Safety Code for Safety Glazing Materials for Glazing Motor Vehicles Operating on Land Highways" Z-26.1-1977, January 26, 1977, as supplemented by Z26.1a, July 3, 1980 (hereinafter referred to as "ANS Z26). S6.2 of Standard No. 205 requires each prime glazing material manufacturer to certify each piece of glazing designed as a component of any specific motor vehicle or camper by adding to the mark required by S6.1 the symbol "DOT" and a manufacturer's code mark that is assigned by this agency. S6.3 requires each prime glazing manufacturer to certify each piece of glazing designed to be cut into components for use in motor vehicles pursuant to the requirements of section 114 of the Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1403).

Assuming that your client would not be considered a "prime glazing material manufacturer," but is simply a distributor, it would not need to be assigned a DOT number pursuant to S6.2 of Standard No. 205. In your letter, however, you incorrectly identified the codes AS1 and AS2 as DOT numbers. Those codes are required on glazing materials by section 6 of ANS Z26. As explained below, your client may be required to add such markings to glazing materials, even if your client is only considered a distributor for the purposes of Standard No. 205.

Each manufacturer or distributor who cuts a section of glazing material to which Standard No. 205 applies, for use in a motor vehicle or camper, must comply with the requirements set forth in S6.4 and S6.5 of Standard No. 205. For sections of glazing that are cut by the manufacturer or distributor, the manufacturer or distributor must mark it in accordance with section 6 of ANS Z26 (S6.4) and certify it in accordance with section 114 of the Safety Act (S6.5).

Your second question asked about the potential liability of a distributor for the certification of automotive safety glazing for importation into the United States.

If your client is required to certify glazing it distributes pursuant to the provisions in either S6.2, S6.3, or S6.5 of Standard No. 205, the failure to so certify would be a violation of the standard. Section 108(a)(1)(A) of the Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1397(a)(1)(A)) provides that:

No person shall manufacture for sale, sell, offer for sale, or introduce or deliver for introduction in interstate commerce, or import into the United States, any motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment manufactured on or after the date any applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standard takes effect under this title unless it is in conformity with such standard ...

Thus, if your client is required by Standard No. 205 to certify some glazing it distributes, the failure to make such a certification would be a violation of section 108(a)(1)(A) of the Safety Act. Even if your client is not required to certify the glazing it distributes pursuant to Standard No. 205, section 114 of the Safety Act requires every distributor of motor vehicle equipment (such as glazing) to furnish a certification. Section 114 provides:

Every manufacturer or distributor of ... motor vehicle equipment shall furnish to the distributor or dealer at the time of delivery of such ... equipment by such ... distributor the certification that each such ... item of motor vehicle equipment conforms to all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. In the case of an item of motor vehicle equipment such certification may be in the form of a label or tag on such item or on the outside of a container in which such item is delivered.

Section 108(a)(1)(C) of the Safety Act provides that no person shall fail to issue a certificate required by section 114, or issue a certificate to the effect that a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment conforms to all applicable safety standards, if such person in the exercise of due care has reason to know that such certificate is false or misleading in a material respect. Section 109 of the Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1398) provides that any violations of section 108 subject the violator to a civil penalty of not to exceed $1,000 for each such violation, up to a maximum penalty of $800,000.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions or need any additional information, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.

Sincerely,

Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel

Enclosure /ref:205#VSA d:6/l4/90

ID: 2501y

Open

Mr. Michael F. Pickholz
President, Panda Technik
35656 Ashford
Sterling Heights, MI 48077

Dear Mr. Pickholz:

This is in reply to your letter of April l9, l990, enclosing a sample of a motor vehicle reflector, expressing your concern that "no laws or regulations are violated in the use" of it.

It is contemplated that the reflector will be distributed in the United States to enhance nighttime and adverse weather visibility of slow moving/stationery vehicles. The reflective efficiency is represented to be up to ten times that of conventional reflectors, such as those "required by law" on motor vehicles. The photograph you enclosed shows the reflectors mounted on a large, wide truck or trailer. The reflector "can be installed with simple hand tools", on either the front or rear of the vehicle.

It is apparent from your letter that Panda intends the reflector to be an aftermarket device, and one that is capable of installation by the vehicle owner. There are no Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to the reflector as an aftermarket device, and there is no Federal prohibition applicable to installation of the reflector by a vehicle owner.

There is a general prohibition of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act under which modifications may not be performed to vehicles in use, by manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and motor vehicle repair businesses, if they result in rendering inoperable, in whole or in part, any device or element of design installed in accordance with a Federal motor vehicle safety standard. Should the reflective efficiency and mounting location of your reflector result in a reduced ability of drivers of other vehicles to perceive the turn and stop signals of the vehicle on which the reflector is mounted, we would regard the turn and stop signals to have been rendered inoperable in part within the meaning of the prohibition. Thus, you should ensure that the device would not have this effect.

Supplementary lighting devices are also subject to the laws of the States in which they are sold and used. We are unable to advise you on State laws and suggest that you write the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, 4600 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va. 22203, for an opinion.

We are returning your sample.

Sincerely,

Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel ref:l08 d:6/l3/90

ID: 2502y

Open

Mr. Karl-Heinz Faber
Senior Vice President
Mercedes-Benz of North America, Inc.
One Mercedes Drive
P.O. Box 350
Montvale, NJ 07645-0350

Dear Mr. Faber:

This is in response to your letter of April 19, 1990 to Barry Felrice, our Associate Administrator for Rulemaking, in which you sought an interpretation of Standard No. 201, Occupant Protection in Interior Impact (49 CFR 571.201). More specifically, you stated in your letter that future Mercedes-Benz vehicles will come equipped with new armrests between the two front and, where applicable, two rear seating position. The new design will have a built-in compartment that can accommodate car phone storage. It will be covered by a lift-up lid that will afford easy access to the phone.

Your letter indicated that your company believes the lift-up lid on this armrest would not be subject to the provisions of S3.3 and S3.3.1 of Standard No. 201 for "interior compartment doors," since those provisions do not apply to doors incorporated in center armrests. However, your letter indicated your company's belief that the new armrests would be subject to the requirements of S3.5.2 of Standard No. 201, which applies to folding armrests. As explained more fully below, these beliefs appear to be correct applications of the standard.

At the outset, I would like to note that section 114 of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1966 (15 U.S.C. 1403) makes a vehicle's manufacturer responsible for certifying that the vehicle complies with all applicable provisions of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. For this reason, NHTSA has no authority to approve, endorse, or offer assurances of compliance for any vehicle designs or features. NHTSA will, however, tentatively state our opinion of how the safety standards would apply to a vehicle design or feature. It is important that the manufacturer be aware that these tentative statements of agency opinion are based entirely on the information presented to the agency by the manufacturer, and that the agency opinions may change after NHTSA has had an opportunity to examine the vehicle itself or otherwise acquire additional information. With those caveats, I agree with you that sections S3.3 and S3.3.1 of Standard No. 201 do not appear to apply to the lift-up lid on your armrest design. Section S3.3 of Standard No. 201 requires that interior compartment doors "located in an instrument panel, console assembly, seat back, or side panel adjacent to a designated seating position" remain closed when tested in accordance with the demonstration procedures in section S3.3.1 of the Standard. It is not clear if the lift-up lid on your armrest design would qualify as an "interior compartment door" within the meaning of the definition of that term in 49 CFR 571.3 ("any door in the interior of the vehicle installed by the manufacturer as a cover for storage space normally used for personal effects"). If the armrest is designed for storage of personal effects, the lift-up lid on the armrest would be considered an "interior compartment door." If the armrest is not designed for storage of personal effects, the lift-up lid would not be an "interior compartment door" and S3.3 and S3.3.1 would not apply to it. Even if the lift-up lid were considered an interior compartment door, it would not appear to be subject to sections S3.3 and S3.3.1 of the Standard. This is because those sections apply only to interior compartment doors "located in an instrument panel, console assembly, seat back, or side panel adjacent to a designated seating position . . . ." Only interior compartment doors located in the listed components must comply with S3.3 and S3.3.1. Since an armrest is not among the listed components, interior compartment doors located in an armrest are not subject to S3.3 and S3.3.1.

You also discussed the applicability of section S3.5.2 of Standard No. 201 to your armrest design. Section S3.5.2 applies to armrests that folds into the seat back or between two seat backs. Based on the information supplied in your letter, we agree that your armrest design would be subject to section S3.5.2 of Standard No. 201, because it is a folding armrest between two seat backs. We also agree with your suggestion that Mercedes-Benz may comply with section S3.5.2 by ensuring that this armrest design is "constructed of or covered with energy-absorbing material."

I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions or need some additional information on this subject.

Sincerely,

Paul Jackson Rice Chief Counsel

/ref:201 d:6/l4/90

ID: 2503y

Open

Mr. Theo Bose
Webasto Heater, Inc.
1458 E. Lincoln
Madison Hts., MI 48071

Dear Mr. Bose:

You wrote to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) asking about requirements for "diesel fuel burning coolant heaters and air heaters" that you import for installation in trucks, buses and school buses. According to the installation instructions for the heaters, they are connected either to the fuel tank of the vehicle or to a separate fuel tank. The FHWA forwarded us your letter with regard to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 301, Fuel System Integrity, since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for this standard. I regret the delay in responding.

By way of background, NHTSA is authorized to issue FMVSS's applying to the manufacture of new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA is not authorized to certify or approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment for compliance with our FMVSS's. Instead, under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (copy enclosed), each manufacturer of a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. This process requires each manufacturer to determine in the exercise of due care that its products meet all applicable requirements. (A general information sheet describing manufacturers' responsibilities under the Safety Act is enclosed.)

The Safety Act defines the term "manufacturer" as "any person engaged in the manufacturing or assembling of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, including any person importing motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment for resale." (102(5); emphasis added.) As a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are responsible for compliance with the Safety Act and applicable regulations.

There is currently no FMVSS that directly applies to the heating unit you describe. Standard No. 301 (copy enclosed) applies only to completed new motor vehicles, and not to components of fuel systems. (The standard applies to trucks and buses with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less, and to school buses.) However, Federal law may affect the installation of your product, depending on who installs the heating unit and when the work is performed.

If the heating unit were installed as original equipment on a new vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer is required by our certification regulations to certify that the entire vehicle (with your product installed) satisfies the requirements of all applicable FMVSS's. If the heater were added to a new, previously-certified vehicle (e.g., a new completed school bus), the person who adds the system would be required to certify that, as altered, the vehicle continues to comply with all of the safety standards affected by the alteration. These certification requirements apply to the vehicle manufacturer and alterer regardless of whether the heater is connected to the vehicle's fuel system. Of course, if the heater is connected to the vehicle's fuel system, the vehicle's compliance with Standard No. 301 should be carefully scrutinized. (I have enclosed a copy of our certification regulation (49 CFR Part 567) for your information.)

If the heater were installed on a used vehicle by a vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business, the installer would not be subject to the certification requirements outlined above. Instead, the installer would have to ensure that it did not knowingly render inoperative the compliance of the vehicle with any applicable safety standard, including Standard No. 301. This is required by 108(a)(2)(A) of the Safety Act. If the modification of the vehicle entailed connecting the heater to the vehicle's fuel system, compliance with Standard No. 301 would of course be especially germane to whether the modification had rendered inoperative the vehicle's compliance.

The prohibition of 108(a)(2)(A) does not apply to individual vehicle owners who alter their own vehicles. Thus, under our requirements, individual owners may install any item of motor vehicle equipment regardless of its effect on compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, NHTSA encourages vehicle owners not to tamper with vehicle safety equipment if the modification would degrade the safety of the vehicle.

In addition to the foregoing, you should be aware that manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment are subject to the requirements in sections 151-159 of the Safety Act concerning the recall and remedy of products with defects relating to motor vehicle safety. If you or NHTSA determines that a safety-related defect exists, you must notify purchasers of your product and remedy the problem free of charge. (Note that this responsibility is borne by the vehicle manufacturer in cases in which the heater is installed on a new vehicle by or with the express authorization of that vehicle manufacturer.) Any manufacturer which fails to provide notification of or remedy for a defect may be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact my office if you have further questions.

Sincerely,

Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel

Enclosures /ref:301 d:5/3l/90

Request an Interpretation

You may email your request to Interpretations.NHTSA@dot.gov or send your request in hard copy to:

The Chief Counsel
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, W41-326
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, DC 20590

If you want to talk to someone at NHTSA about what a request for interpretation should include, call the Office of the Chief Counsel at 202-366-2992.

Please note that NHTSA’s response will be made available in this online database, and that the incoming interpretation request may also be made publicly available.