The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a final rule, correcting several technical errors and partially responding to petitions for reconsideration of a final rule published in December 2007, addressing vehicle safety standards for lamps, reflective devices and associated equipment. The final rule takes effect December 1, 2012, and voluntary early compliance may begin August 8. The agency will publish a separate notice addressing remaining items in the petitions for reconsideration before the effective date.

According to NHTSA, several petitions for reconsideration contended that some aspects of the December 2007 rule “failed to adhere to the agency’s stated goal of not substantively modifying the standard’s existing requirements.” Other petitions apparently identified formatting and grammatical errors, and another submission questioned “the discussion of the preemptive effect of [Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard] FMVSS No. 108 included in the preamble of the final rule.” In response, NHTSA “is amending FMVSS No. 108 in order to correct technical errors within the final rule.”

NHTSA also notes, in response to the petition about preemption in the preamble, “NHTSA does not intend that this rule preempt state tort law that would effectively impose a higher standard on motor vehicle manufacturers than FMVSS No. 108. Establishment of a higher standard by means of State tort law would not conflict with the minimum standard announced in FMVSS No. 108. Without any conflict, there could not be any implied preemption of a State common law tort cause of action.” Still, the agency refused to remove the general preemption discussion in the preamble, because a conflict could exist, if the standard at issue is both a minimum and a maximum standard. See Federal Register, August 8, 2011.