2019 Tennessee Code
Title 55 - Motor and Other Vehicles
Chapter 9 - Equipment — Lighting Regulations
Part 2 - Required Equipment on Vehicles
§ 55-9-215. Operation of motor vehicle without adequate energy absorption system prohibited -- Alteration of altitude from ground level of passenger car prohibited -- Modification of front end by lift blocks prohibited -- Modification of steering mechanism prohibited -- Exceptions -- Enforcement -- Penalties.

Universal Citation: TN Code § 55-9-215 (2019)
  • (a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle on any road, street or highway unless the vehicle is equipped with a bumper or other energy absorption system with an analogous function.

  • (b)

    • (1) No person shall operate a passenger vehicle, except a four-wheel drive recreational vehicle, of a type required to be registered under the laws of this state upon a public highway or street modified by reason of alteration of its altitude from the ground if its bumpers, measured to any point on a load-bearing member on the horizontal bumper bar, are more than twenty-two inches (22″) above the ground, except that no vehicle shall be modified to cause the vehicle body or chassis to come in contact with the ground or expose the fuel tank to damage from collision or cause the wheels to come in contact with the body under normal operation, and that no part of the original suspension system be disconnected to defeat the safe operation of the suspension system; provided, that nothing contained in this section shall prevent the installation of heavy duty equipment to include shock absorbers and overload springs; and provided further, that nothing contained in this section shall prevent a person from operating a motor vehicle on a public highway with normal wear of the suspension system if normal wear does not affect the control of the vehicle.

    • (2) No person shall operate a four-wheel drive recreational vehicle of a type required to be registered under the laws of this state upon a public highway or street modified by reason of alteration of its altitude from the ground if its bumpers, measured to any point on a load-bearing member on the horizontal bumper bar, are not within the range of fourteen to thirty-one inches (14″-31″) above the ground, except that no vehicle shall be modified to cause the vehicle body or chassis to come in contact with the ground or expose the fuel tank to damage from collision or cause the wheels to come in contact with the body under normal operation, and that no part of the original suspension system be disconnected to defeat the safe operation of the suspension system; provided, that nothing contained in this section shall prevent the installation of heavy duty equipment to include shock absorbers and overload springs; and provided further, that nothing contained in this section shall prevent a person from operating a motor vehicle on a public highway with normal wear of the suspension system if normal wear does not affect the control of the vehicle. In the case of a four-wheel drive vehicle where the thirty-one-inch limitation is exceeded, the vehicle will comply with this section if the vehicle is equipped with a drop bumper. The drop bumper must be bolted and welded to the frame of the vehicle and be made of a strength equal to a stock bumper.

    • (3) No person shall modify or cause to be modified by the use of lift blocks the front end suspension of a motor vehicle.

    • (4)

      • (A) Maximum frame heights for motor vehicles shall be as follows:

        • (i) Passenger cars22 inches

        • (ii) Trucks and recreational vehicles:

          • (a) 4,500 lbs. and under24 inches

          • (b) 4,501-7,500 lbs.26 inches

          • (c) 7,501-10,000 lbs.28 inches

      • (B) Frame height measurements shall be taken from the bottom of the frame by measuring the vertical distance between the ground and the lowest point of the frame directly below the point in line with the center of the steering wheel.

    • (5) No person shall operate a motor vehicle having a distance greater than four inches (4″) between the body floor and the top of the frame.

    • (6) No person shall modify or cause to be modified the original manufacturer installed steering mechanism, including welding, nor the front spindle where the brake pads mount, on a passenger vehicle or a truck or recreational vehicle with a weight up to ten thousand pounds (10,000 lbs.).

  • (c) This section does not apply to freight motor vehicles and/or other vehicles that have designs which would intrinsically preclude conformity with this provision. This section also shall not apply to any vehicle that has an unaltered and undamaged stock bumper or energy absorption system as supplied by the manufacturer of the vehicle.

  • (d) Any law enforcement officer charged with the enforcement of traffic laws and regulations may stop and inspect motor vehicles that appear to be operated in violation of this section. If, upon inspection, the vehicle is found to be in violation of this section, the operator shall be issued a citation stating the particulars of the violation and, in general, the repairs necessary to bring the vehicle into compliance with this section. The citation shall also state a time and place for appearance in a court of competent traffic jurisdiction, not less than fourteen (14) days from the date of the issuance of the citation.

  • (e) If the vehicle is found not to be in compliance with this section, the operator shall be fined not less than two hundred fifty dollars ($250). Upon conviction of a second or subsequent offense involving the same vehicle for substantially the same defect, the registration of the vehicle and the driver licenses of the operator and the owner of the vehicle, if those persons are different, shall be suspended for one (1) year. The vehicle may, however, be operated for the purpose of traveling to and from an establishment or location where repairs are to be performed.

  • (f) Nothing in this section shall be construed to establish standards higher than those formulated by the United States department of transportation for bumpers on passenger motor vehicles sold within the United States.

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