CVSA asks jurisdictions to stop issuing certain conspicuity citations

Jan. 9, 2002
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is asking jurisdictions that issue citations to motor carriers to refrain from citing certain conspicuity

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is asking jurisdictions that issue citations to motor carriers to refrain from citing certain conspicuity violations and refrain from issuing citations on cargo tank trailers that fall into the category. CVSA’s opinion is shared by the National Tank Truck Carriers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, according to CVSA information.

Since June 1, 2001 (effective date of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s conspicuity rules, 49 CFR §393.13), CVSA has learned that some inspectors are citing violations and issuing citations to motor carriers for not having properly equipped the sides of cargo tank trailers with retroreflective tape.

CVSA points to the regulatory provision in question that states that "retroreflective sheeting shall be applied to each side of the trailer or semi-trailer. Each strip of retroreflective sheeting shall be positioned as horizontally as practicable…The centerline for each strip of retroreflective sheeting shall be between 375 mm (15 inches) and 1,525 mm (60 inches) above the road surface when measured with the trailer empty or unladen, or as close as practicable to this area.”

According to CVSA, a substantial number of cargo tank trailers have side centerlines that are considerably higher than 1,525 mm (60 inches), in some cases as much as 90 inches. Some inspectors are taking the literal reading in the regulation of 60 inches in height from the road surface and are issuing citations if the reflective tape exceeds this distance.

The regulation specifies horizontally as practicable AND 15 to 60 inches from the road surface for practical and safety considerations. Within these two parameters other drivers are most likely to see the conspicuity markings when operating on the road. Cargo tank trailers need to be treated differently because their geometries are different, according to CVSA.

Typical van trailers and semi-trailers have flat surfaces and, as such, offer more flexibility in placing the conspicuity markings within the parameters the regulation requires. In contrast, cargo tank trailers have concaved surfaces and, as such, have limitations on where conspicuity tape can be installed in optimal locations so it can be seen by other drivers.

CVSA’s opinion is that the practicable terminology in this regulatory provision offers flexibility in those circumstances where trailers and semi-trailers are not able to meet both of these requirements. The provision of “horizontally practicable” is especially important on cargo tank trailers for four reasons: (1) Optimal location for visibility due to the tank shape and geometry; (2) Optimal location to maintain cleanliness and thus, increase visibility; (3) Optimal location for installation; and (4) Manufacturers of conspicuity material certify its performance in a vertical plane. Therefore, anything less than at the centerline of the tank trailer can degrade performance.

For more information on the issue, visit the CVSA Web site at