Ms. Vivian P. Anderson
10575 Bell Fountain Road
Dawson, IL 62520
Dear Ms. Anderson:
Thank you for your letter dated March 9, 2020, following up our February 26, 2020, Compliance Assistance Program (CAP) response about a type of warning device you are interested in producing.
You ask whether there are any Federal regulations regarding the size or reflective coloring for distress signals that may be used in the case of a vehicle emergency. In our original CAP response, we noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 125, “Warning devices,” which covers warning devices “that are designed to be carried in buses and trucks that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds” (49 CFR §571.125). We noted that distress signals like the one described in your CAP question may be considered warning devices for the purposes of FMVSS No.125 if they are intended to be carried in buses or trucks with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds.
In your follow-up letter, you provide greater detail on your product, which you call the Distress Bandana. You describe your product as a reflective flag that can be hung from a disabled vehicle’s window to signal distress. You further state that your product is intended for use only on vehicles with a GVWR less than 10,000 pounds, and on motorcycles.
By way of background information, the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (Safety Act) authorizes NHTSA to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve or certify vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, the Safety Act establishes a self-certification process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable FMVSS. The agency tests vehicles and items of equipment for compliance with the standards. NHTSA also investigates safety- related defects.
At this time, there are no FMVSS pertaining to your product.1 FMVSS No. 125 applies to devices designed to be carried in buses and trucks with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds. As long as the Distress Bandana is designed for use only in vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less, FMVSS No. 125 would not apply to your product.2 In determining whether a warning device is designed for use in a bus or truck with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds, we may look to product advertising, labels, and instructions (e.g., specifying intended use), as well as how the product is actually used by motorists.
Please be aware that even if your product is not covered by FMVSS No. 125, products like the Distress Bandana are items of “motor vehicle equipment” and subject to Safety Act requirements. Manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment must ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects. If a manufacturer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety-related defect, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the product and remedying the problem free of charge. More information can be found in the NHTSA New Manufacturers Handbook, which can be downloaded on NHTSA’s website https://vpic.nhtsa.dot.gov/.
Please note that our answer above is based on our understanding of the specific information you provided. This interpretation letter does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the public in any way. This letter is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law, and represents the opinion of the agency on the questions addressed in your letter at the time of signature.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Paul Connet of my office at (202) 366-5547.
JONATHAN CHARLES MORRISON
Digitally signed by JONATHAN CHARLES MORRISON
Date: 2020.10.02 09:15:13
Jonathan C. Morrison Chief Counsel
Ref: FMVSS No. 125
1 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has requirements that commercial vehicles be equipped with warning devices and requirements related to their use. For information about FMCSA requirements,
please contact www.fmcsa.dot.gov.
2 FMVSS No. 125 was issued on August 2, 1974. 39 FR 28636. The standard then applied to “devices, without self- contained energy sources, that are designed to be carried in motor vehicles and used to warn approaching traffic of
the presence of a stopped vehicle, except for devices designed to be permanently affixed to the vehicle.” On September 29, 1994, NHTSA further amended the standard to be applicable only to those devices designed to be carried in buses or trucks that have a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds.