Auxiliary lights targeted by new FMCSA enforcement policy

| 8/11/2006

Truckers who have auxiliary lights on either side of the three-lamp cluster on their trucks or trailers could face violations, thanks to a new enforcement policy issued by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials.

The enforcement policy stems from a conflict between a relatively new FMCSA-issued regulation and guidance issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.

FMCSA's reg on parts and accessories necessary for safe operation opened a big can of worms in late 2005. The regulation limited the number of lights on the horizontal line containing the identification lamps for trucks and trailers to a maximum of five lights – the three-lamp identification cluster in the center and clearance lights on the outer edges of the truck or trailer.

The “logic” behind the regulation is that the identification lamps are readily known to indicate a large vehicle, and having auxiliary lights next to the identification lamps would be confusing to other drivers on the road.

To further complicate the situation, NHTSA has enforcement guidance on a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that allowed additional lights on either side of the cluster – as long as the auxiliary lights are at least two times the distance that separates two adjacent lamps in the cluster.

Many truckers have additional lights within that horizontal line, and the new FMCSA regulation and the conflict with the NHTSA guidance caused almost immediate enforcement issues.

OOIDA officials met with former FMCSA Administrator Annette Sandberg in February and asked for an enforcement moratorium until the regulation could be sorted out. The Association requested that enforcement be suspended until consistent final rules could be published.

Shortly after the meeting, OOIDA officials were notified a moratorium of sorts had been granted.

“FMCSA will request that state enforcement officials conducting roadside inspections refrain from citing motor carriers for violations of section 393.11 (d). This will help to ensure that motor carriers operating commercial motor vehicles with lighting devices that meet the requirements of FMVSS No. 108 are not penalized because of section 393.11 (d),” a March 28 letter to the Truck Manufacturers Association stated.

However, in the recent enforcement policy released by FMCSA, rather than roll back enforcement to the days before the conflict, FMCSA officials issued a policy on auxiliary lights that adopts the NHTSA guidance.

“In consideration of an upcoming technical amendment to rescind 49 CFR 393.11(d), auxiliary lamps which supplement identification lamps are permitted under the conditions specified … The interpretation permits these auxiliary lights provided they are positioned at a distance that is at least twice the distance that separates each lamp in the three-lamp cluster,” the FMCSA enforcement policy states.

The policy was issued June 27.

– By Jami Jones, senior editor