WASHINGTON (Dec. 7, 2004) — The Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to withdraw its final interpretation of the federal lighting rule that effectively bans previously legal headlamp replacement systems.
NHTSA proposed the controversial interpretation last year and completed action this past October. Under the agency's new policy, replacement headlamps must comply with all applicable photometry requirements using the same light source as the original equipment. For example, the rule would now prohibit replacing a halogen-based system with high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that otherwise meet all requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, according to SEMA.
The association filed a Petition for Reconsideration challenging NHTSA's authority to issue a rule that failed to comply with long-standing policy of basing federal safety standards on performance rather than design criteria.
NHTSA did not supply any objective facts demonstrating a need for a design-based application of FMVSS No. 108—a prerequisite for issuance of a safety standard, SEMA said, noting that the agency did not, for example, produce any evidence that a restrictive rule would reduce traffic accidents, deaths or injuries.
The action even contradicts NHTSA's previous decision to withdraw its rulemakings on issues concerning glare, SEMA said, since the agency admits there is not currently enough information on which to make any lighting rule changes. SEMA also contends that NHTSA engaged in an illegal rulemaking procedure that will nevertheless be subject to court review.
“The agency's interpretation effectively establishes an original equipment standard for headlamp light sources and holds that the original equipment light source type cannot be modified or otherwise altered by aftermarket manufacturers seeking to improve the lighting of a given vehicle,” SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting said in a prepared statement. “There is absolutely no industry support for a design-restrictive application of FMVSS No. 108.”
Public comments against the new interpretation represented all aspects of the industry including automobile makers, trailer manufacturers, motorcycle manufacturers, lighting manufacturers (both original equipment, replacement and specialty equipment), makers of other motor vehicle equipment, the trucking industry, and an association of vehicle owners, SEMA said.
“Through this petition, SEMA stands prepared to fight for a consumer's right to responsibly accessorize, modify and improve the safety of their vehicle with enhanced aftermarket lighting that meets federal standards,” Mr. Kersting added. “There is no legitimate justification for preventing vehicle lighting manufacturers from offering this federally-compliant and improved lighting equipment to the benefit of the motoring public.”
Diamond Bar, Calif.-based SEMA requested NHTSA suspend enforcement of the amended rule pending final consideration of the petition.