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Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; TowMate, LLC Application for an Exemption

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  TowMate

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; TowMate, LLC Application for an Exemption

T.F. Scott Darling, III
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
9 February 2016


[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 26 (Tuesday, February 9, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 6927-6928]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-02511]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2015-0238]


Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; TowMate, LLC 
Application for an Exemption

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of final disposition.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 
announces its decision to grant TowMate, LLC's (TowMate) application 
for a limited two-year exemption to allow motor carriers to operate 
rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail lighting systems 
during temporary towing operations. Under the Federal Motor Carrier 
Safety Regulations (FMCSRs), all required lamps, with the exception of 
battery-powered lamps used on projecting loads, must be powered by the 
electrical system of the motor vehicle. The Agency has determined that 
use of rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail lighting 
systems during temporary towing operations would not have an adverse 
impact on safety, and use of these systems under the terms and 
conditions of the exemption would achieve a level of safety equivalent 
to or greater than the level of safety provided by the regulation. This 
decision is consistent with an August 2005 amendment to the FMCSRs to 
allow battery powered lamps on the rear of projecting loads.

DATES: This exemption is effective February 9, 2016 and ending February 
9, 2018.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Luke Loy, Vehicle and Roadside 
Operations Division, Office of Carrier, Driver, and Vehicle Safety, MC-
PSV, (202) 366-0676, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments submitted to notice requesting public comments on the 
exemption application, go to www.regulations.gov at any time or visit 
Room W12-140 on the ground level of the West Building, 1200 New Jersey 
Avenue SE., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., ET, Monday 
through Friday, except Federal holidays. The on-line Federal document 
management system is available 24 hours each day, 365 days each year. 
The docket number is listed at the beginning of this notice.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    FMCSA has authority under 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315 to grant 
exemptions from certain parts of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Regulations. FMCSA must publish a notice of each exemption request in 
the Federal Register (49 CFR 381.315(a)). The Agency must provide the 
public an opportunity to inspect the information relevant to the 
application, including any safety analyses that have been conducted. 
The Agency must also provide an opportunity for public comment on the 
request.
    The Agency reviews safety analyses and public comments submitted, 
and determines whether granting the exemption would likely achieve a 
level of safety equivalent to, or greater than, the level that would be 
achieved by the current regulation (49 CFR 381.305). The decision of 
the Agency must be published in the Federal Register (49 CFR 
381.315(b)) with the reasons for denying or granting the application 
and, if granted, the name of the person or class of persons receiving 
the exemption, and the regulatory provision from which the exemption is 
granted. The notice must also specify the effective period and explain 
the terms and conditions of the exemption. The exemption may be renewed 
(49 CFR 381.300(b)).

TowMate's Application for Exemption

    TowMate applied for an exemption from 49 CFR 393.23 to allow motor 
carriers to operate rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and 
tail lighting systems during temporary towing operations. A copy of the 
application is included in the docket referenced at the beginning of 
this notice.
    Section 393.23, ``Power Supply for Lamps,'' provides that ``All 
required lamps must be powered by the electrical system of the motor 
vehicle with the exception of battery powered lamps used on projecting 
loads.''
    The application stated:

    TowMate is making this request because the use of conventional 
hard wired temporary stop, turn, and tail lights has many drawbacks 
that wireless tow lights solve. These include broken connections, 
frayed wires, burnt out incandescent bulbs, and the potential to be 
snagged or pulled from the tow light receptacle due to improper 
running of wires, and road hazards, along with the safety hazard of 
increasing the amount of time spent on the roadside or the scene of 
an accident by stringing wired lighting systems between vehicles and 
securing the wires. With the advent of LED technology coupled with 
advancements in battery technologies, wireless tow lights are more 
reliable and better equipped for the rigors of daily temporary use.
    Temporary wireless stop, turn, tail lighting systems can operate 
for 10+ hours of continuous use on a full charge, and in-cab wire-
less monitoring systems give the driver constant information on the 
functioning of the system, displaying state of charge of the battery 
inside the unit, displaying the functioning of the system during 
operation, and warning the driver if the unit is no longer 
functioning. In this sense, wireless tow lights provide a level of 
safety and redundancy that is not currently required on wired 
temporary lighting systems. In an emergency situation with a drained 
battery, power can be directly connected to the temporary wireless 
stop, turn, and tail lighting system from a standard 4 pin or 7 pin 
electrical connection.
    Without the proposed temporary exemption, tow and haul away 
operators will be forced to continue to use cumbersome wired 
temporary towing light systems, placing an unnecessary burden on 
their daily operations. The current temporary lighting requirements 
for stop, tail, and turn lamps require that the lamps receive their 
power from a direct wired connection to the towing vehicle with no 
ascertainable benefit from doing such. Wireless tow lights afford 
benefits that wired systems are unable to, such as redundancies like 
monitoring the status of the unit in real time, thus assuring their 
proper operation at all times.

Comments

    On August 6, 2015, FMCSA published notice of the TowMate 
application and requested public comment (80 FR 47031). The Agency 
received thirteen comments, all in support of TowMate's application.
    The Towing and Recovery Association of America, Inc., and the 
Wisconsin Towing Association commented that hard-wired temporary stop, 
tail and turn signal lighting systems take additional time to install 
on the side of the road or highway as compared to wireless systems, 
leaving tow operators vulnerable and at greater risk of being struck 
and injured by passing motorists These commenters stated that use of 
rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail lighting

[[Page 6928]]

systems would help eliminate this hazard, and provide a safer working 
environment.
    Seven commenters identified themselves as owners of small towing 
companies that use rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail 
lighting systems when conducting temporary emergency tows. These 
commenters echoed the comments above, noting that use of the wireless 
systems allows operators to clear accident scenes from roadways faster 
and thereby increases tow operator safety.
    Four additional commenters supported TowMate's application, noting 
the same benefits as the other commenters.

Discussion

    Prior to August 2005, section 393.23 of the FMCSRs was titled 
``Lighting devices to be electric,'' and stated ``Lighting devices 
shall be electric, except that red liquid-burning lanterns may be used 
on the end of loads in the nature of poles, pipes, and ladders 
projecting to the rear of the motor vehicle.'' In a final rule 
published on August 15, 2005, FMCSA amended section 393.23 of the 
FMCSRs to incorporate terminology which is more consistent with current 
industry standards and practices (70 FR 48008). Specifically, the title 
of section 393.23 was revised to read ``Power supply for lamps,'' the 
reference to red liquid-burning lanterns was removed as obsolete, and--
as it relates to the subject exemption application--the rule was 
amended to permit the use of battery powered lamps on projecting loads. 
With respect to the use of battery powered lamps, the August 2005 rule 
states ``With the exception of temporary lamps used on projecting 
loads, lamps are required to be powered through the electrical system 
of the commercial motor vehicle.'' [Emphasis added].
    Motor vehicles transporting loads which extend more than 4 feet 
beyond the rear of the motor vehicle, or which have tailboards or 
tailgates extending more than 4 feet beyond the body, are required to 
mark those projections when the vehicle is operated during the hours 
when headlamps are required. Specifically, each side of the projecting 
load is required to be marked with one red side marker lamp, visible 
from the side, located to indicate the maximum overhang, and the rear 
of the projecting load is required to be marked with two red lamps, 
visible from the rear, one at each side, and two red reflectors visible 
from the rear, one at each side, located so as to indicate the maximum 
width of the projection. By expressly permitting battery powered lamps 
on projecting loads via the August 2005 final rule, the Agency has 
directly acknowledged the viability of lighting systems powered by 
sources other than the vehicle's electrical system in limited 
applications where the lamps required by the regulations are temporary 
in nature due to the specific vehicle operation.
    Section 393.17 of the FMCSRs prescribes the lighting requirements 
for vehicles engaged in driveaway-towaway operations. A vehicle 
combination consisting of a tow vehicle pulling a wrecked or disabled 
vehicle is considered a driveaway-towaway operation, and the 
combination needs to be equipped with the lighting devices specified in 
section 393.17. Specifically with respect to the rear of the rearmost 
towed vehicle in such a combination, section 393.17(b)(2) requires at 
least two tail lamps, two stop lamps, two turn signals, two clearance 
lamps, and two reflectors, one of each type at each side. In addition, 
if any vehicle in the combination is 80 inches or more in overall 
width, there must be three identification lamps on the rear. Similar to 
the temporary lamps required on the rear of projecting loads, the 
required lamps on the rear of a wrecked or disabled vehicle being 
transported to a motor carrier's terminal or facility for repairs are 
temporary in nature.

FMCSA Decision

    FMCSA has evaluated the comments received in support of TowMate's 
application. The Agency agrees that permitting the use of rechargeable 
wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail lighting systems during 
temporary towing operations will reduce the time tow operators spend at 
the side of the road connecting wired lighting systems between 
vehicles, thereby reducing their risk of injury and increasing safety. 
The Agency believes that use of the rechargeable wireless lighting 
systems will maintain a level of safety that is equivalent to, or 
greater than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption. This 
decision is consistent with the amendment made in the August 2005 final 
rule to allow battery powered lamps on the rear of projecting loads.

Terms and Conditions for the Exemption

    The Agency hereby grants the exemption for a two-year period, 
beginning February 9, 2016 and ending February 9, 2018. During the 
temporary exemption period, motor carriers will be allowed to use 
rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, and tail lighting systems 
that do not meet the lighting power supply requirements of 49 CFR 
393.23 during temporary towing operations, provided the requirements of 
49 CFR 393.17(b)(2) are met. The exemption will be valid for two years 
unless rescinded earlier by FMCSA. The exemption will be rescinded if: 
(1) Motor carriers and/or commercial motor vehicles fail to comply with 
the terms and conditions of the exemption; (2) the exemption has 
resulted in a lower level of safety than was maintained before it was 
granted; or (3) continuation of the exemption would not be consistent 
with the goals and objectives of 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315(b).
    Interested parties possessing information that would demonstrate 
that motor carriers using rechargeable wireless temporary stop, turn, 
and tail lighting systems during temporary towing operations are not 
achieving the requisite statutory level of safety should immediately 
notify FMCSA. The Agency will evaluate any such information and, if 
safety is being compromised or if the continuation of the exemption is 
not consistent with 49 U.S.C. 31136(e) and 31315(b), will take 
immediate steps to revoke the exemption.

Preemption

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31313(d), as implemented by 49 CFR 
381.600, during the period this exemption is in effect, no State shall 
enforce any law or regulation applicable to interstate commerce that 
conflicts with or is inconsistent with this exemption with respect to a 
firm or person operating under the exemption. States may, but are not 
required to, adopt the same exemption with respect to operations in 
intrastate commerce.

    Issued on: January 29, 2016.
T.F. Scott Darling, III,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2016-02511 Filed 2-8-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P

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