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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has completed a two-year process of reorganizing and simplifying the lighting standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, without making any changes of substance. The regulation has been amended many times since it was first adopted in 1967 in order to address technological advances and enhance safety. As a consequence, the old regulation was unnecessarily complex and difficult to understand.

SEMA submitted comprehensive comments to NHTSA when it issued its draft revision in December 2005. SEMA was generally pleased with the proposal and commended NHTSA on its continued treatment of FMVSS No. 108 as a performance standard. SEMA is still reviewing the final revision to confirm that the completed product achieves the results desired by both the NHTSA and the industry—a streamlined rule with no changes of substance.

As SEMA recommended, the revised standard incorporates previous clarifications to FMVSS No. 108 issued via “letters of interpretation” over the past several decades. These 2,000 letters of interpretation continue to have the force of law and remain accessible to those who seek clarification on specific agency policy. Among the letters are confirmations issued by NHTSA in November 2005 and August 2006 in response to SEMA inquiries that confirm that aftermarket products may have different designs than original equipment, so long as it complies with FMVSS No. 108's performance requirements.

NHTSA also incorporated performance and test requirements previously referenced in about 35 standards adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). SEMA supported this approach in order to create a self-contained standard. As SEMA also recommended, NHTSA removed a reference to “auxiliary lamps” since such lamps are not regulated by the federal government (but are subject to state regulation).

SEMA worked with SEMA’s Lighting Task Force, the Transportation Safety Equipment Institute (TSEI), the Motor Vehicle Lighting Council (MVLC) and other industry associations and businesses to prepare its comments on the draft rule.

For a copy of NHTSA’s final rule:

Questions or comments may be directed to Steve McDonald at