Jacqueline Glassman

King & Spalding

1700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Suite 200

Washington, DC  20006-4707

 

Dear Ms. Glassman:

 

This responds to your April 1, 2015 letter on behalf of the Fire Apparatus Manufacturer’s Association (“FAMA”) requesting guidance as to whether work equipment installed on a fire truck that is inoperative during travel, and only operative once the fire truck reaches a work site, is “motor vehicle equipment” under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (the “Safety Act”) and therefore subject to the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions.  As part of this request, you specifically ask NHTSA to confirm your view that, provided work equipment meets certain conditions and does not pose certain risks, it is not subject to the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions.

 

Your position is not supported by the law and NHTSA does not confirm that position.  As your letter states, a fire truck is a “motor vehicle.”  As explained below, the term “motor vehicle equipment” unambiguously includes equipment installed in or on a motor vehicle regardless of whether it is related to the vehicle’s operation during travel or only used when the vehicle is stationary.  All motor vehicle equipment is subject to the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions.

 

“Motor Vehicle Equipment” under the Safety Act

 

The term “motor vehicle equipment” is defined in the Safety Act 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 an accessory or addition to a motor vehicle; or

(C) any device or an article or apparel, including a motorcycle helmet and excluding medicine or eyeglasses prescribed by a licensed practitioner that--

(i)    is not a system, part, or component of a motor vehicle; and

(ii)  is manufactured, sold, delivered, or offered to be sold for use on public streets, roads, and highways with the apparent purpose of safeguarding users of motor vehicles against risk of accident, injury, or death.

 

49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(8).[1]

 

There is no requirement that “motor vehicle equipment” be an “inherent” or “fundamental” part of a motor vehicle’s structure.  Nor does the definition of “motor vehicle equipment” exclude equipment that does not relate to the vehicle’s operation during travel or that does not function while the vehicle is in motion.  See 49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(8).  Moreover, such an exclusion would be inconsistent with the statutory definition of “motor vehicle safety,” which expressly includes “nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.”  49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(8). 

 

It is not uncommon for NHTSA to investigate and for manufacturers to recall vehicles or equipment for nonoperational safety defects.  See, e.g., PE15-007 (investigating recreational vehicle entry steps that may unexpectedly fail in a manner that causes a loss of balance and increases the risk of personal injury); AQ15-002 (investigating timeliness and scope of reporting a defect in aerial boom arms and manufacturer’s compliance with other reporting requirements under the Safety Act and related regulations).[2]

 

Work Equipment for Which You Request Guidance

 

Your letter provides various examples of work equipment installed on a fire truck and seeks guidance on whether such work equipment that is inoperative during travel, and only operative once the fire truck reaches a work site, is subject to the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions.  It is.  Under the plain language of the Safety Act, such equipment is “motor vehicle equipment.”  

 

Work equipment installed on a fire truck at the time it was delivered to the first retail purchaser is a “system, part or component of a motor vehicle as originally manufactured.”  See 49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(8)(A); accord 49 U.S.C.

§ 30102(b)(1)(C) (providing that under the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions, “original equipment” is “motor vehicle equipment . . . installed in or on a motor vehicle at the time of delivery to the first purchaser”).  Work equipment installed on a fire truck after it is delivered to the first retail purchaser is a “similar part or component manufactured or sold for replacement or improvement of a system, part, or component, or as an accessory or addition to a motor vehicle.”  See 49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(8)(A); accord 49 U.S.C. § 30102(b)(1)(D) (providing that under the Safety Act’s recall notification and remedy provisions, “replacement equipment” is “motor vehicle equipment . . . that is not original equipment”).

 

All motor vehicle equipment is subject to the requirements of the Safety Act and associated regulations, including the recall obligations of notification and remedy.  See 49 U.S.C. §§ 30118–30120.  That includes the obligation to conduct recalls for defects related to nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle.  See 49 U.S.C. §§ 30102(a)(8) (defining “motor vehicle safety” to include “nonoperational safety of a motor vehicle”); 30118–30120 (recall notification and remedy requirements).      


I hope this information is helpful.  If you have any further questions, please contact Stephen Hench of my staff at (202) 366-2262.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Paul A. Hemmersbaugh

Chief Counsel

 

Dated: 1/4/17

Ref: 49 U.S.C. 30102



[1] Formerly 49 U.S.C. § 30102(a)(7).  In December 2015, The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (“FAST”) Act redesignated this paragraph to (a)(8).  Pub. L. No. 114–94, § 24109(b) (2015).

[2] These NHTSA investigation files are available at www.safercar.gov.