The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration last week announced that it was delaying the effective date of a long-awaited rewrite of the federal government's safety standards on lighting and reflective devices.

The final rewrite of FMVSS No. 108 was published last December and was supposed to go into effect Sept. 1. The agency has moved that effective date to Dec. 1, 2009, in order to have time to analyze the petitions it received for reconsideration of the final rule.

NHTSA says it received 15 such petitions, including two that requested a delay in the effective date, and others that raised concerns that the rewrite imposed new requirements.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108, Lamps Reflective Devices, and Associated Equipment, specifies requirements for original and replacement lamps, reflective devices, and associated equipment. The purpose of FMVSS No. 108 is to reduce traffic accidents and deaths and injuries resulting from traffic accidents, by providing adequate illumination of the roadway, and by enhancing the conspicuity of motor vehicles on the public roads so that their presence is perceived and their signals understood, both in daylight and in darkness or other conditions of reduced visibility.

The lighting industry has been pushing for clarification of the rules. One of the first safety standards issued by NHTSA more than 30 years ago, FMVSS 108 has been amended numerous times in a piecemeal fashion, making it difficult to understand. The rule has been one of the agency's most frequently interpreted standards, causing great confusion for the agency and industry alike.

On December 4, 2007, NHTSA published a final rule amending FMVSS No. 108 to reorganize the standard and provide a more straightforward and logical presentation of the applicable regulatory requirements. Related amendments were made to 49 CFR Part 564, Replacement Light Source Information. While the final rule greatly reduced the number of third-party standards incorporated by reference, it did not impose any new substantive requirements on manufacturers, says NHTSA.

Leigh Merino, director of regulatory affairs for the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association, explained that "while the groups were very pleased with the overall rewrite, there were some technical sticking points they wanted to have either clarified or rectified."

In addition to MEMA, petitions for reconsideration were submitted by Grote Industries, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, Nissan North America, Valeo Sylvania, Calcoast Industrial Testing Laboratory, Harley-Davidson, Koito Manufacturing, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor North America, GE Consumer & Industrial Automotive Lighting, SABIC Innovative Plastics, Valeo Lighting Systems, Vehicle Services Consulting, and American Association for Justice.