Questions and answers
Q: How did DOL discover this issue?
A: This issue was brought to our attention by law enforcement officers. They informed the agency they had made traffic stops on public roadways involving off-road motorcycles with license plates (licensed for street use). They reported encountering motorcycles licensed for street use but without required equipment and with an “off-road use only” designation stamped on the frame. These officers questioned why these motorcycles had been licensed incorrectly.
To be eligible for Washington state registration as a street-legal vehicle, a motorcycle must meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and federal emission standards.
DOL was notified by law enforcement officers who report increasing contact with operators of off-road motorcycles licensed for street use. After researching this issue, DOL learned a lack of documentation from manufacturers has existed for several years. This resulted in many motorcycles manufactured for off-road use being inappropriately licensed for street use.
Because off-road motorcycles are not certified by the manufacturer for highway use, they fall into the category of off-road vehicles. Other examples of off-road vehicles include all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dune buggies and go-karts. None of these vehicles are eligible to be licensed for street use.
What is DOL doing about this issue?
The owners of off-road motorcycles licensed for street use are currently being notified by mail that their motorcycles are being correctly reclassified as off-road vehicles. The registrations and license plates for these motorcycles are being cancelled and new titles are being issued that will reflect these changes. Off-road vehicle permits will be issued at no charge to owners who hold a current street registration.
How can I tell if a motorcycle is certified for street use and can be licensed as a motorcycle?
Motorcycles certified for highway use are required by federal law to have a permanent label attached by the manufacturer indicating that the motorcycle is compliant with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions standards for highway use. In addition, off-road motorcycles often have the words “off-road use only” or a similar message stamped into the frame of the motorcycle. This type of message also is generally found in the owner’s manual for these types of motorcycles, on stickers applied to the rear fenders.
Under Washington Administrative Code (308-56A-110), Manufacturer’s Statements/Certificates of Origin are required to state that a vehicle is not manufactured for road use, if applicable. We have learned some manufacturers are out of compliance with this requirement. DOL continues to work with these manufacturers to bring them into compliance.
What are the federal standards a motorcycle has to meet to be licensed for street use?
To qualify for registration for street use, all types of vehicles have to be manufactured to meet the
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). In addition to meeting these federal safety standards, a motorcycle licensed for street use also has to be certified by the manufacturer as meeting the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions regulations for motorcycles licensed for street use.
Will individuals who have been issued plates for their off-road motorcycles get to continue using them, or can they be “grandfathered”?
No, we will be reclassifying off-road motorcycles incorrectly licensed for street use as off-road vehicles. It is important to keep in mind that a license plate doesn’t make an off-road vehicle street legal. If a motorcycle without the required certifications for safety and emissions is licensed for street use, it is an illegally licensed off-road motorcycle.
Is this action the result of a change in the law?
No, DOL has not changed any laws, rules or policies related to the registration of off-road motorcycles. The agency is taking steps to better ensure compliance with existing laws.
Can I register my cycle as street legal if I add the required lights and mirrors?
No. Washington state will not reclassify an off-road motorcycle for street use, even if required lights and other safety equipment is added. To be street legal, the manufacturer of a motorcycle must certify that it meets Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards and federal emission standards. These safety standards go far beyond the lights, mirrors, and horns contained in aftermarket kits. They regulate frame and fuel tank construction, brakes, and other components. These kits also don’t address the required certification that the engine complies with federal emission standards.
What do the MSOs and MCOs of the motorcycles you are reclassifying as off-road vehicles say?
In most cases, the MSOs related to the motorcycles we are reclassifying as off-road vehicles did not have any message about the intended use of the motorcycle, which is out of compliance with state code. In other cases, we found other messages like “competition use only.”
How come some motorcycles that had MSOs and MCOs without the required certification message were licensed for street use?
After becoming aware of this issue, we learned that staff members in vehicle licensing offices had long been accustomed to seeing the proper “off-road use only” messages on MSOs and MCOs indicating motorcycles like these are for off-road use only. When these documents didn’t have this message, the employees of these offices assumed they could be registered for street use.
What are you doing to correct this issue with reading MSOs and MCOs?
Now that we are aware of these discrepancies in the messages printed on MSOs and MCOs, vehicle licensing office employees will be looking for both off-road related messages and the appropriate manufacturer certification for highway use before a motorcycle will be registered for street use. We also are working with manufacturers who don’t currently add an “off-road use only” message to MSOs to add it when appropriate so that they are compliant with Washington Administrative Code.
Why do other states allow off road cycles to be converted to street cycles by adding kits to them?
Laws and rules can vary from state to state. Some states do allow the conversion of an off-road cycle for street use, but many others do not. Washington is among the states that do not permit the conversion of off-road vehicles for street use. In our state, a manufacturer must certify on the MSO that a motorcycle was not designed and manufactured for street use.
The dealer who sold me the motorcycle told me it could be titled for street use. What should I do?
Will DOL reimburse me for any potential value change of my motorcycle?
No, DOL is not liable for inappropriately registering a vehicle (RCW 46.16.012).
Is there going to be a refund on the registration for the cycle use class?
No, owners will receive a full-year ORV license at the time your new registration is issued. If the motorcycle was registered as both ORV and street use, then an application for refund can be submitted. A portion of the fees may be refundable.
Why are KTM brand motorcycles being targeted?
This is not an issue that only affects one brand of off-road motorcycles.DOL is working with the manufacturers of these types of vehicles to determine which of their off-road models may have been improperly licensed for street use.
Who do I contact if I have questions about the ORV registration or do not receive it?
Please contact DOL’s Refunds and Title Services unit at 360-902-3803.
You will need to contact the selling dealer to resolve the issue, the state Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline (800-551-4636) or DOL’s Dealer Services Program (360-664-6475).