NHTSA Updates List of Approved Alcohol Breath Testing Devices

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has updated its list of approved devices used to calibrate Evidential Breath Testing Devices (EBTs). Under U.S. Department of Transportation alcohol testing procedures, Section 40.233 requires that the user of an EBT perform external calibration checks as specified by the EBT manufacturer. Only calibration devices appearing on the NHTSA list may be used.

Since its last publication in 1997, the updated list includes 22 new units--8 wet bath units and 14 dry gas units. Along with the new list, the NHTSA amended its "Model Specifications" for such units by adopting an alternate test procedure for evaluating the accuracy of both wet bath and dry gas calibrating units using infrared spectroscopy.

The amendments to the Model Specifications and the issuance of the list of approved calibration units became effective on June 25, 2007, the date of publication in the Federal Register (page 34742). The list includes devices from 17 approved manufacturers, 15 of which are based in the United States, the others based in Canada and the UK.

EBT manufacturers must submit, for NHTSA approval, a quality assurance plan (QAP) for their device before NHTSA places it on the CPL. The QAP must specify the methods used to perform external calibration checks on the EBT, the tolerances within which the EBT is regarded as being in proper calibration, and the intervals at which these checks must be performed. In designating these intervals, the QAP must take into account factors like frequency of use, environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity, altitude), and type of operation (e.g., stationary or mobile). The QAP must also specify the inspection, maintenance, and calibration requirements and intervals for the EBT. Manufacturers must also include, with each EBT, instructions for its use and care consistent with the QAP.

DOT stipulations for employers, service agents, and other users of the EBTs include the following:

  • You must follow the manufacturer's instructions, including performance of external calibration checks at the intervals the instructions specify.
  • In conducting external calibration checks, you must use only calibration devices appearing on NHTSA's CPL for "Calibrating Units for Breath Alcohol Tests."
  • If an EBT fails an external check of calibration, you must take the EBT out of service. You may not use the EBT again for DOT alcohol testing until it is repaired and passes an external calibration check.
  • You must maintain records of the inspection, maintenance, and calibration of EBTs as provided in Section 40.333(a)(2).
  • You must ensure that inspection, maintenance, and calibration of the EBT are performed by its manufacturer or a maintenance representative certified either by the manufacturer or by a state health agency or other appropriate state agency.
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