NATM debuts 2019 Guidelines for trailer manufacturing

Dec. 18, 2019
'Massive' document takes guess work out of meeting federal requirements for manufacturers of trailers less than 26,000 lbs

The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers (NATM), a vital resource for safety and compliance in the light- and medium-duty trailer industry, recently published its 2019 Guidelines.

This massive document takes the guess work out of meeting federal requirements governing the manufacture of trailers weighing less than 26,000 pounds GVWR, and is a free benefit of NATM membership.

Building trailers to meet the standards outlined in the NATM Guidelines is not optional; it is required by law and enforced by law enforcement every day on the nation’s roadways. But it can be very time intensive for trailer manufacturers to research the numerous federal rules, regulations, standards and accepted industry practices that govern trailer construction.

NATM addresses this by compiling the Guidelines for Recommended Manufacturing Practices for Light- and Medium-Duty Trailers. The document consists of more than 400 pages of laws, regulations, rules, standards, and industry best practices gathered from resources such as the US Department of Transportation, the Society of Automotive Engineers, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, the Traffic Safety Administration, the Maintenance Council and the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Guidelines is updated annually by industry experts who stay abreast of changing regulations and vet the addition of recommendations and best practices.

This year, through the annual revision process, the 2019 version of the NATM Guidelines received several updates. As part of the effort to help members achieve success, the NATM compliance team heavily updated the Compliance Quick Guide, which features a succinct synopsis of compliance requirements. Members report substantial time savings by utilizing the Guidelines, particularly on the topics of lighting and reflectors; VIN and data plates; figuring gross vehicle weight ratings, and state-to-state brake requirements. While the Guidelines focus on US regulations, many may have an interest in Canadian compliance. For more information, visit Transport Canada’s website at

In recent years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has increased its enforcement activity concerning compliance of motor vehicle manufacturers—which has included trailer manufacturers, particularly regarding defect investigations and record retention requirements. 49 CFR 579.5, which requires manufacturers to submit to NHTSA copies of communications such as notices and technical service bulletins to dealers, owners or purchasers of their vehicles, is only one of the many requirements outlined in NATM’s Guidelines.

NATM assists its trailer manufacturing members in avoiding costly fines and decreasing liability related to trailer compliance through the NATM Compliance Verification Program (CVP). The NATM CVP is an unbiased, third-party audit of the trailer manufacturing process and uses the Guidelines as the backbone of the program. The CVP provides biennial on-site consultations to trailer manufacturers, and technical assistance throughout the entire process to ensure companies are manufacturing trailers consistent with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and other industry best practices.

Once a trailer manufacturer has successfully passed the Compliance Verification Program, the company is able to purchase NATM decals and market their company’s dedication to fulfilling their safety requirements by participating in an unbiased, third-party audit of their trailers. While participation in the NATM Compliance Verification Program is an additional, voluntary cost for manufacturers, there are economic benefits of participation.

“The first-year sales saw a 20% boost and blew past the forecast over three years for the sales improvements for revenue targets for the existing trailer product. We will continue to use up the (NATM) labels we have in stock, and then order more,” said Pete Dixon, an engineer at Kaercher North America, regarding the benefit of being a member of the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers.

For more information about how the National Association of Trailer Manufacturers assists trailer manufacturing companies, visit, email [email protected], or call (785) 272-4433.