Metric system laws
This page covers U.S. laws and recent bills related to the metric system of measurement, plus an overview for those interested in how laws are written and numbered and for definitions of terms.
Overview of laws, regulations, etc.
Overview: An overview of public law numbering, US Code, CFR, etc. (2002-08-18)
The metric system in general
Metric Act of 1866, as amended in 2007: The law that authorized use of the metric system in the US. (2007-12-13)
Metric Convention: The 1875 treaty founding the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. (2005-12-26)
Mendenhall Order: The 1893 order declaring the international meter and kilogram prototypes to be the fundamental standards of length and mass for the US. (2005-12-18)
International Nautical Mile: The 1954 decision adopting the International Nautical Mile, replacing the former U.S. Nautical Mile. (2009-06-13)
Refinement of Values for the Yard and Pound: The 1959 decision adopting the International Yard and International Pound, which also affected (among other things) the inch and foot. (2009-06-14)
Metric Study Act of 1968: The law that commissioned an extensive study of the impact of the metric system on the US, leading to the Metric Conversion Act of 1975. (2005-01-27)
Metric Conversion Act of 1975: The law that directed the government to convert to the metric system. (added photo 2009-12-28)
Metric Conversion Policy for Federal Agencies: The Department of Commerce regulations that direct federal agencies to use the metric system. (2005-07-18)
Executive Order 12770: The executive order, issued by the President, that directs executive-branch agencies to use the metric system. (2005-12-06)
Interpretation of the International System of Units for the United States: NIST's Federal Register notice. (2008-05-19)
Package labeling and weights and measures laws
Fair Packaging and Labeling Act: FPLA, the law that requires, among other things, net contents labeling on most consumer products to include metric measurements. The existing law requires dual units in most cases, but a NIST proposal would amend the law to make inch/pound units optional, thus allowing metric-only labels as well as dual units. (2010-06-25)
FDA and FTC regulations implementing the FPLA. (2002-08-16)
TTB regulations on alcoholic beverages that specify standard package sizes and labeling requirements for wine and distilled spirits. (2005-10-11)
NCWM Uniform Laws and Regulations in the Areas of Legal Metrology and Engine Fuel Quality: The National Conference on Weights and Measures' model for state laws and regulations, consisting of several items, three of which we cover:
Uniform Weights and Measures Law
Uniform Packaging and Labeling Regulation (UPLR)
Uniform Unit Pricing Regulation (UPR) (2009-02-26)
European Union directive on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to units of measurement, roughly speaking the European equivalent of the American FPLA. (2009-02-16)
Cars and highways
FMVSS No. 101, Controls and Displays: Speedometers and odometers are subject to this Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard.(2005-08-23)
National Highway System Designation Act of 1995: Regulates metric road signs and metric road construction. (2002-08-17)
Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1978: see history section of the above law.
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991: see history section of the above law.
Transportation Equity Act of 1998: see history section of the above law.
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD): The law regulating traffic signs, signals, and road markings in the US. (2009-12-16)
Education Amendments of 1974, Metric Education Act of 1978, and Omnibus Education Reconciliation Act of 1981: A law, no longer in effect, that encouraged schools to prepare students to use the metric system. (2005-01-20)
Goals 2000: Educate America Act: A 1994 law that, among other things, designates a list of National Education Goals and mentions education in the metric system. (2003-02-21)
Improving America's Schools Act of 1994: Among other things, appropriated funding for the Fund for the Improvement of Education, to be used for a number of purposes including education in the metric system, although the funding has since expired. (2003-02-22)
History and historical documents
1866 House Report on Coinage, Weights, and Measures: The House report that accompanied the bill that became the Metric Act. The report covers the history of the metric system in the US and the reasons for the bill, as well as an attempt to develop a currency standard. (2005-02-15)
H.R. 596 of the 39th Congress, An act to authorize the use of the metric system of weights and measures: Scanned copy of the bill, which ultimately became the Metric Act, as introduced in the Senate on May 18, 1866 after having passed the House the previous day. (2005-02-06)
1866 Journals of the House and Senate and Statutes at Large regarding the Metric Act: Scans of pages from the Journals of the House and Sentate in 1866 reporting the progress of H.R. 596 through the 39th Congress on its way to becoming the Metric Act, and the Statutes at Large pages containing the new law. (2005-02-06)
J. K. Upton's 1878 report to Congress: A March 6, 1878 report to Congress by J. K. Upton, chief clerk of the Treasury Department, on the then present standards of measurement, the proposed standard — the metric system — and the status of various countries' measurement systems at that time. (2005-12-18)
Our Heterogeneous System of Weights and Measures by Alexander Graham Bell: An article in the March, 1906 issue of The National Geographic Magazine in support of a bill to switch to the metric system. (2005-12-13)
History of the United States Metric Board (USMB): The history of the U.S. Metric Board, which was created by the Metric Conversion Act of 1975 and operated from 1978 to 1982. (updated photo 2009-12-28)
History of the American National Metric Council (ANMC): The history of the American National Metric Council, which was created by ANSI in 1973 and operated through the 1990s. (2007-10-23)
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