Mr. Tobin Tracy

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This document retrieved from the NHTSA legal interpretations database.

    Mr. Tobin Tracy
    Clr Alt Accessories Dist.
    2 Washington Circle, Unit #3
    Sandwich, MA 02563

    Dear Mr. Tobin:

    This is in reply to your letter of November 16, 2000, to the agency asking for a special exemption under 49 U.S.C. 30114 from 49 U.S.C. 30112(a).

    You wish "to import clear taillight assemblies deemed for show and competition use as similarly outlined in [Section 30114]." You state that "Our product will be labeled 'OFF ROAD AND COMPETITION USE ONLY.'"

    We appreciate your writing for an interpretation of this matter, but must inform you that we cannot grant you an exemption of this nature, for the reasons explained below.

    Section 30112(a) requires that motor vehicle equipment imported into the United States comply, and be certified as complying, with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, as an exception to Section 30112(a), noncomplying products may be imported pursuant to Section 30114 which allows the importation of noncomplying motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment on such terms as the agency decides are necessary "for research, investigations, demonstrations, training, show or display, or competitive racing events." You wish to import taillamp assemblies with clear lenses for use on motorcycles among other types of vehicles. These assemblies would not comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 that the light from taillamps be red. Although your letter does not address the subject, it is likely that at least some of the motorcycles could be driven on the public roads of the United States.

    Over the past few years we have received numerous complaints from motor vehicle law enforcement personnel around the country who have cited drivers of vehicles licensed for on-road use whose original taillamps have been replaced with taillamps with clear lenses. We have investigated a number of manufacturers and importers of these taillamps and find that most of them have advertised or labeled the lamps for off-road or competition use purposes. Notwithstanding such labels, this is not the purpose for which many of these lamps are being bought and used. The use of terms such as "off-road," "show use only," and "competition use only" have no exclusionary meaning under Federal law, and do not excuse a person using them from any responsibilities that may apply. Any item of motor vehicle lighting equipment manufactured to replace lighting equipment that is required on a new vehicle by Standard No. 108 must itself comply with Standard No. 108. To date, we know of no motorcycles being manufactured that are equipped with taillamps having clear lenses. I enclose a copy of a related interpretation that we furnished Mitch L. Williams of Hella, Inc., on July 17, 1998.

    In short, motor vehicle replacement lighting equipment must conform to the same requirements as original equipment, and be certified to those requirements, in order to be imported into the United States for sale in the aftermarket. We will not grant an exception to this requirement.


    John Womack
    Acting Chief Counsel



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