DOT/NHTSA: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The agency develops and enforces the Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS), which establish minimum safety performance requirements for motor vehicles and for certain items of motor vehicle equipment. To be lawfully manufactured for sale, offered for sale, sold, or introduced or delivered for introduction in interstate commerce, a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment manufactured after the date that an applicable FMVSS takes effect must comply with the standard and be covered by a manufacturer’s certificate of compliance.

See Importing a Vehicle for the HS-7 declaration form, guidelines, eligible vehicles lists, and applications for a variety of situations.

Motor vehicles that were not originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS may not be lawfully imported on a permanent basis unless 1) NHTSA decides that they are eligible for importation, based on their capability of being modified to conform to all applicable FMVSS and 2) they are imported by an importer specially registered with NHTSA or by a person who has a contract with such a registered importer (RI) to modify the vehicle so that it complies with all applicable FMVSS following importation.

Motor vehicle equipment items subject to the FMVSS (“regulated equipment items”) include tires, rims, brake hoses, brake fluid, seat belt assemblies, lighting equipment, glazing (i.e., automotive window and windshield glass), motorcycle helmets, child seats, compressed natural gas containers (used as part of a vehicle’s fuel system and not to transport compressed natural gas), platform lift systems for the mobility impaired, rear impact guards for trailers, and triangular reflective warning devices.

A regulated equipment item cannot be lawfully imported unless it is manufactured to the applicable standard, and is so certified by its original manufacturer. Certain replacement motor vehicle equipment items are subject to the Federal Motor Vehicle Theft Prevention Standard (FMVTPS) and also cannot be lawfully imported unless they conform to the requirements of that standard. To ensure that these requirements are being met, NHTSA requires the importer of a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment to file with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) a declaration setting forth the lawful basis for the item’s entry into the United States. This declaration is made on the DOT HS-7 Declaration form. The HS-7 Declaration form contains 14 boxes, each of which sets forth a lawful basis for the importation of a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment.

Since 1992, importers have been able to file the contents of the HS-7 Declaration form electronically, using a Customs House Broker, who files the information through the Automated Broker Interface (ABI). CBP transmits this information to NHTSA through the Automated Commercial System (ACS). When it receives the information from CBP, NHTSA uploads it to the agency’s own Motor Vehicle Importation Information (MVII) database, which houses information on motor vehicles and equipment imported into the United States.

CBP has been building the International Trade Data System (ITDS) as a single portal system to electronically collect and distribute import and export data required by government agencies that license or clear the import or export of goods. ITDS is being developed as part of the Automated Commercial Environment (ACE) program within CBP. In 2006, Congress enacted legislation (the Security and Accountability for Every Port Act or “SAFE Port Act”) that requires “all agencies that require documentation for clearing or licensing the importation and exportation of cargo” to participate in ITDS.

Information submitted by traders will be stored in the ACE Data Warehouse, and transmitted to the appropriate agency by CBP through a web-based interface called Interoperable Web Services or IWS, or be made available for the appropriate agency to obtain through the ACE Portal. The information to be transmitted to each agency will consist of data elements in the Partner Government Agencies or PGA Message Set that the agency has statutory authority and OMB approval to collect. Each agency has been tasked with developing PGA Message Set implementation guides to assist the trade in submitting the data elements the agency will need to regulate import and export activities. Transition to the ITDS/ACE single window portal will require the trade to program ABI interfaces and train users in the use of the PGA Message Set and DIS.

When ACE becomes mandatory, you may be required to provide the category code for your product, in order to help your customs broker determine the NHTSA program your product belongs to.