NHTSA has issued proposed amendments to the regulations for certifying multi-stage produced vehicles—the result of years of work by the NTEA, beginning with its successful 1990 lawsuit against NHTSA and ending with the negotiated rulemaking with NHTSA that began in December 1999.
According to an NTEA report, NHTSA now recognizes that final-stage manufacturers and alterers, such as many NTEA members, do not have the technical or financial resources to conduct dynamic testing on all of the vehicle configurations they produce. These regulations, if approved, would more fairly distribute legal responsibilities for safety standard certification among all involved manufacturers.
First, NHTSA proposes to streamline the temporary exemption process by allowing a group of manufacturers to combine their exemption petitions for a specific vehicle design, permitting a single explanation of the potential safety impact and attempts to comply. Each manufacturer seeking an exemption would be required to demonstrate financial conditions and certify that it is unable to manufacture a compliant vehicle. NHTSA also proposes to eliminate the distinction between chassis cabs and other incomplete vehicles. The NTEA believes this is significant because final-stage manufacturers today bear more legal liability when certifying an incomplete chassis than a chassis cab.
The NTEA also says the proposal suggests that final-stage manufacturers and alterers be given an automatic additional year of compliance-effective dates when the NHTSA creates or amends a regulation. This additional lead time would apply unless NHTSA determines that such lead time is inappropriate as part of a rulemaking amending or establishing a safety standard. In some instances, NHTSA may determine that an additional year is insufficient and provide an even longer lead time.
Finally, the Defect and Non-compliance Responsibility and Reports regulations would be amended to assign recall responsibility to the manufacturer at fault. Currently, a final-stage manufacturer is required to conduct the recall regardless of fault. However, the final stage manufacturer can subsequently seek compensation from the at-fault entity.