Freightliner Corp. v. Myrick, 514 U.S. 280, 5 (1995)

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284

FREIGHTLINER CORP. v. MYRICK

Opinion of the Court

motor vehicle performance, or motor vehicle equipment performance, which is practicable, which meets the need for motor vehicle safety and which provides objective criteria." 1391(2).

The Safety Act's express pre-emption clause provides:

"Whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety standard established under this subchapter is in effect, no State or political subdivision of a State shall have any authority either to establish, or to continue in effect, with respect to any motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment any safety standard applicable to the same aspect of performance of such vehicle or item of equipment which is not identical to the Federal standard. Nothing in this section shall be construed as preventing any State from enforcing any safety standard which is identical to a Federal safety standard." 1392(d).

The Act also contains a saving clause, which states: "Compliance with any Federal motor vehicle safety standard issued under this subchapter does not exempt any person from any liability under common law." 1397(k).

The Secretary has delegated the authority to promulgate safety standards to the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). 49 CFR 1.50(a) (1994). In 1970, the predecessor to NHTSA issued regulations concerning vehicles equipped with air brakes, which are used in trucks and tractor-trailers. Known as Standard 121, this regulation imposed stopping distances and vehicle stability requirements for trucks. See 36 Fed. Reg. 3817 (1971).2 Because these stopping distances were

2 Standard 121 required air-brake equipped vehicles to stop within certain distances at various speeds without deviating from a 12-foot-wide lane, and without any wheel lock-up. 49 CFR 571.121 S5.3.1 (1972). The initial stopping distance requirement from 60 miles per hour was 217 feet on a dry surface. The regulation also established brake actuation and release times, as well as other aspects of brake performance. Ibid.

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