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From Products Liability Law Daily, June 22, 2016

NHTSA exercise MAP-21 authority to regulate lighting/marking for agricultural equipment

By Pamela C. Maloney, J.D.

Under the authority of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has established a new standard setting forth requirements for lighting and marking on agricultural equipment in order to improve daytime and nighttime visibility. The new standard incorporates by reference the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) Standard 279.14, a voluntary industry consensus standard applicable to all originally manufactured agricultural equipment. By adopting this rule, NHTSA has standardized the lighting and marking requirements for agricultural equipment across the United States. The new standard takes effect on June 22, 2016 (NHTSA Final Rule, 81 FR 40528, June 22, 2016).

In the past, NHTSA has not regulated the manufacture of most agricultural equipment because it was not authorized to do so. Instead, the states have been the primary sources of regulations for agricultural equipment lighting and marking, resulting in a varied landscape of regulations. NHTSA noted that many states use various versions of the ASABE standard and the states have not always incorporated the latest version of the standard, nor have they updated their standards to reflect the latest version of ASABE 279. Thus, a national requirement for lighting and marking on agricultural equipment could reduce costs and increase efficiency for manufacturers selling this type of equipment in multiple states.

Under the MAP-21 mandate, NHTSA is required to establish, within two years of MAP-21’s enactment, a rule for lighting and marking on agricultural equipment that was equivalent to the ASABE standard. The ASABE definition of "agricultural field equipment" matches that of MAP-21 and, thus, its adoption by NHTSA satisfies the MAP-21 mandate.

In addition to its mandate to adopt an equivalent standard, NHTSA was prohibited from amending the rule to address any comments it might receive during a comment period. Thus, the agency adopted the rule without issuing a note of proposed rulemaking and receiving public comments. For that same reason, the rule takes immediate effect.

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