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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Interpretation Response #22-0038

Below is the interpretation response detail and a list of regulations sections applicable to this response.

Interpretation Response Details

Response Publish Date:

Company Name: Daniels Training Services, Inc.

Individual Name: Daniel Stoehr

Location State: IL Country: US

View the Interpretation Document

Response text:

May 14, 2024

Mr. Daniel Stoehr
Daniels Training Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 1232
Freeport, IL  61032

Reference No. 22-0038

Dear Mr. Stoehr:

This letter is in response to your May 2, 2022, email requesting clarification of the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR; 49 CFR Parts 171-180) pertaining to the definition of a motor vehicle and applicability of the HMR to a bicycles.

We have paraphrased and answered your questions as follows:

Q1. You ask whether a bicycle or other vehicle (e.g., skateboard, scooter)—moved entirely by human power—is considered a "motor vehicle" as defined by the HMR.

A1. The answer is no. The HMR govern the movement of a hazardous material by rail car, aircraft, motor vehicle, and vessel (see § 171.1(c)(1)). As defined in § 171.8, a "motor vehicle" is "a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer, or any combination thereof, propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used upon the highways in the transportation of passengers or property." The term "motor vehicle," as defined in § 171.8, does not include non-motorized bicycles (i.e., non-motorized two-wheeled vehicles). Please note that a "transport vehicle" as defined in § 171.8 is "a cargo-carrying vehicle such as an automobile, van, tractor, truck, semitrailer, tank car or rail car used for the transportation of cargo by any mode. Each cargo-carrying body (trailer, rail car, etc.) is a separate transport vehicle." Because the HMR regulate the transportation of hazardous materials in commerce, hazardous materials transported in a transport vehicle may be subject to the requirements of the HMR, as applicable.

Q2. You ask whether a bicycle or other vehicle—primarily moved by human power but equipped with an electric motor to provide additional power when needed—is considered a "motor vehicle" as defined in the HMR.

A2. The answer is yes.  As noted above, a "motor vehicle" is defined as "a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer, or any combination thereof, propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used upon the highways in the transportation of passengers or property." Thus, a two-wheeled vehicle such as an electric bicycle—as described in your scenario—equipped with an electric motor and thus "propelled or drawn by mechanical power" would be considered a "motor vehicle" as defined in the HMR when used to transport passengers or property. However, for purposes of the HMR, it is predicated on use of the vehicle for transport of hazardous material. Also bear in mind that as further stated in § 171.1(d)(5), a hazardous material transported by an individual for non-commercial purposes in a private motor vehicle, including a leased or rented motor vehicle is not subject to the HMR.

Q3. You ask whether a bicycle or other vehicle—powered entirely by an electric motor—is considered a "motor vehicle" as defined in the HMR.

A3. The answer is yes. See answer A2.

Q4. You ask whether a vehicle, which is not considered a "motor vehicle" as defined in the HMR but is used to transport hazardous materials in commerce on the highway, is subject to the HMR.

A4. The answer is no. As stated in A1, the HMR defines a "motor vehicle" in § 171.8 as "a vehicle, machine, tractor, trailer, or semitrailer, or any combination thereof, propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used upon the highways in the transportation of passengers or property." Therefore, a human powered bicycle using entirely human power as stated as described in A1, would not be subject to the HMR.

I hope this information is helpful. Please contact us if we can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

Steven Andrews
Acting Chief, Regulatory Review and Reinvention Branch
Standards and Rulemaking Division

171.1(c)(1), 171.1(d)(5), 171.8

Regulation Sections

Section Subject
171.1 Applicability of Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to persons and functions
171.8 Definitions and abbreviations