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Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of Exemption for Van Hool N.V. and Coach USA

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Buses Topics:  Van Hool, Coach USA

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of Exemption for Van Hool N.V. and Coach USA

T.F. Scott Darling III
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
October 10, 2014


[Federal Register Volume 79, Number 197 (Friday, October 10, 2014)]
[Notices]
[Pages 61372-61374]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2014-24290]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2013-0314]


Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of 
Exemption for Van Hool N.V. and Coach USA

AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of final disposition.

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SUMMARY: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 
announces its decision to grant a limited 2-year exemption to Van Hool 
N.V. and Coach USA (Van Hool/Coach USA) that will allow Coach USA/
Megabus to operate double deck motorcoaches constructed with a sleeper 
berth than has an exit that does not meet the minimum dimensional 
requirements specified in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations 
(FMCSRs). Section 393.76(c)(1) of the FMCSRs requires sleeper berths 
installed after January 1, 1963 to have an exit that is at least 18 
inches high and 36 inches wide. The exemption will allow Coach USA/
Megabus to operate double deck motorcoaches with an exit area from the 
sleeper berth that, while not meeting the specified dimensions, is only 
slightly smaller in overall size from what is required in the FMCSRs. 
FMCSA believes that permitting the reduced exit area size will maintain 
a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater than, the level of 
safety achieved without the exemption.

DATES: This exemption is effective from October 10, 2014 until October 
10, 2016.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Luke W. Loy, Vehicle and Roadside 
Operations Division, Office of Carrier, Driver, and Vehicle Safety, MC-
PSV, (202) 366-0676; Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 1200 
New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Section 4007 of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century 
(TEA- 21) [Pub. L. 105-178, June 9, 1998, 112 Stat. 401] amended 49 
U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e) to provide authority to grant exemptions from 
the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). On August 20, 
2004, FMCSA published a final rule (69 FR 51589) implementing section 
4007. Under this rule, FMCSA must publish a notice of each exemption 
request in the Federal Register (49 CFR 381.315(a)). The Agency must 
provide

[[Page 61373]]

the public with an opportunity to inspect the information relevant to 
the application, including any safety analyses that have been 
conducted. The Agency must also provide an opportunity for public 
comment on the request.
    The Agency reviews the safety analyses and the public comments and 
determines whether granting the exemption would likely achieve a level 
of safety equivalent to or greater than the level that would be 
achieved by the current regulation (49 CFR 381.305).
    The decision of the Agency must be published in the Federal 
Register (49 CFR 381.315(b)). If the Agency denies the request, it must 
state the reason for doing so. If the decision is to grant the 
exemption, the notice must specify the person or class of persons 
receiving the exemption and the regulatory provision or provisions from 
which an exemption is granted. The notice must also specify the 
effective period of the exemption (up to 2 years) and explain the terms 
and conditions of the exemption. The exemption may be renewed (49 CFR 
381.315(c) and 49 CFR 381.300(b)).

Van Hool/Coach USA Application for Exemption

    Van Hool/Coach USA applied for an exemption from 49 CFR 
393.76(c)(1) to allow Coach USA/Megabus to operate double deck 
motorcoaches with a sleeper berth exit which meets the requirements of 
those sleeper berths installed before January 1, 1963. Section 
393.76(c)(1) of the FMCSRs requires that, for sleeper berths installed 
after January 1, 1963, the exit must be a doorway or opening at least 
18 inches high and 36 inches wide. In its application, Van Hool/Coach 
USA states:

    Van Hool and Coach USA are making this request because we 
jointly developed a double deck motorcoach with sleeper berths for 
passengers (hereafter referred to as sleeper coach) where in order 
to meet the driver hours of service requirements for the routes 
planned for this sleeper coach, a sleeper berth must be provided for 
a 2nd driver. The designed sleeper berth compartment in the sleeper 
motor coach meets and exceeds the minimum dimensional requirements 
for the actual sleeper berth, however due to the limited available 
locations to place the sleeper berth within the confines of the 
motorcoach, it is requested that the entry/exit to the sleeper berth 
be allowed to meet the dimensional requirements for those sleeper 
berths manufactured/installed before January 1, 1963. The entry/exit 
of the sleeper berth (as currently designed) has a maximum area of 
606 square inches, which is sufficient area to contain an ellipse 
having a major axis of 25 inches and a minor axis of 16 inches, 
which was the requirement for sleeper berths installed prior to 
January 1, 1963.

Van Hool/Coach USA states that whereas the pre-January 1, 1963, exit 
dimension requirements accommodated all types of commercial motor 
vehicles, the current language of Section 393.76(c)(1) ``is designed to 
fit sleeper berths in commercial trucks'' and does ``not take into 
account the limited space available on a motorcoach for utilization of 
a sleeper berth.''

Comments

    On August 6, 2013, FMCSA published notice of the Van Hool/Coach USA 
application and requested public comment (78 FR 47817). Advocates for 
Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) pointed out that the FMCSA had 
failed to include a copy of the Van Hool/Coach USA application in the 
docket for public inspection as required by statute and regulation. The 
Agency placed a copy of the Van Hool/Coach USA application in the 
docket, and published a notice in the Federal Register on February 14, 
2014 (78 FR 9035) announcing the reopening of the comment period for 15 
days. The Agency received four comments.
    1. Advocates stated ``The reduced size of the major axis of the 
sleeper berth entry/exit portal from 36 inches to 24 inches results is 
a significant reduction of a critical dimension for egress, even if it 
does not necessarily reduce the overall area of the portal 
dramatically. Reducing the major axis by one-third could impede the 
ability of a driver to respond in a safety emergency . . . Finally, it 
is likely that the pre-Jan. 1, 1963 entry/exit dimensions were 
considered so restrictive and tight for drivers who needed to squeeze 
into or out of the sleeper berth that the major axis of the portal was 
enlarged significantly, by 50 percent, from 24 to 36 inches. Advocates 
believes that even the current dimensions of the entry/exit portal (not 
to mention the sleeper berth itself) are exceedingly narrow and should 
be further enlarged, not reduced.''
    FMCSA response: FMCSA personnel inspected a Van Hool/Coach USA 
double deck motorcoach, and took physical measurements of a prototype 
of the proposed sleeper berth entry/exit area. The effective sleeper 
berth entry/exit area is a rectangle, 27 inches wide by 26 inches in 
height, with a smaller non-useable corner in the lower right side 
measuring 11 inches in height by 8 inches in width, resulting in a 
total sleeper berth entry/exit area of 614 square inches. While this is 
a nominal reduction in access area--approximately 5 percent--compared 
to the current requirements (a rectangular area 18 inches high and 36 
inches wide = 648 square inches), it is significantly larger--more than 
double--than the pre-January 1, 1963 requirements (an ellipse having a 
major axis of 24 inches and a minor axis of 16 inches = 301.6 square 
inches).
    Entry into and exit from the prototype sleeper berth was performed 
by both FMCSA and Coach USA personnel during the vehicle inspection. 
These representatives were both adult males, approximately the size/
weight of the Hybrid III 95th percentile male anthropometric test 
device that is used worldwide for the evaluation of automotive and 
military safety restraints, and particularly for seat belt integrity 
testing.\1\ Both representatives were easily able to enter and exit the 
prototype sleeper berth, and each found that the 26-inch height of the 
prototype sleeper berth entry/exit was much easier to access than a 
sleeper berth meeting the currently-permitted minimum allowable height 
of 18 inches despite the reduction in overall width of the prototype 
opening.
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    \1\ The Hybrid III 95th percentile male dummy is 6'2'' tall and 
weighs 223 pounds.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    During the inspection of the prototype, FMCSA also found that Van 
Hool/Coach USA has designed and included an additional emergency exit 
in the sleeper berth that provides direct access to the exterior of the 
motorcoach. This additional exit is 26 inches wide and 26.5 inches high 
(689 square inches), which, while although it does not meet the 
specific dimensional requirements of the current standard, is larger in 
area than the current minimally compliant opening.
    While FMCSA acknowledges that Van Hool/Coach USA did not present a 
specific safety study providing an analysis of the safety impacts of 
the requested exemption, the Agency believes that the 9-inch reduction 
in the minimum width of the entry/exit of the sleeper berth from the 
interior of the motorcoach does not degrade the level of safety for a 
driver exiting or entering the sleeper berth, especially given that the 
measured height of the prototype entry is 8 inches taller than the 
minimum allowable height of 18 inches. FMCSA also notes that Van Hool/
Coach USA has provided a secondary emergency exit to the exterior of 
the vehicle.
    2. Mr. Lawrence Hanley of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 
submitted comments opposing the use of sleeper berths generally, but 
did not provide any comments specifically relating to the reduced size 
of the exit from the sleeper berth that is the subject of this 
exemption application.

[[Page 61374]]

    FMCSA Response: The Van Hool/Coach USA application only requests an 
exemption from the requirements of section 393.76(c)(1) of the FMCSRs 
relating to the dimensions of the entry/exit into the sleeper berth. 
The Van Hool/Coach USA prototype sleeper berth fully conforms to all 
other requirements pertaining to sleeper berths in 49 CFR 393.76.
    3. Mr. John Oakman, Sr. Vice President of Coach USA/Megabus 
commented in support of the application, stating ``With this exemption 
we will be able to travel with two drivers, while one is driving the 
other will be able to be in a legal sleeping berth, thus giving us a 
longer safer distance of operation.''
    4. Mr. Tim Wayland, President and Chief Operating Officer of ABC 
Companies commented in support of the application, stating ``Approving 
this exemption would allow Coach USA to fulfill its obligations as an 
operator towards its drivers in meeting the hours of service 
requirements. Approval of this exemption will also increase the number 
of models available to the traveling public. Increasing the number of 
models available to the traveling public will result in increased 
ridership, less traffic congestion and road wear and tear plus positive 
effects on the environment such as lower emissions and consumption of 
natural resources.''

FMCSA Decision

    Based on its evaluation of the application for an exemption, FMCSA 
grants the Van Hool/Coach USA exemption application. The Agency 
believes that the safety performance of motor carriers operating the 
subject double deck motorcoaches during the 2-year exemption period 
will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, or greater 
than, the level of safety achieved without the exemption. While the 
proposed entry/exit does not meet the specific dimensional requirements 
of section 393.76(c)(1) of the FMCSRs, (1) the overall area of the 
proposed entry/exit is only slightly smaller than that which is 
required, and (2) FMCSA was able to confirm during a physical 
examination of the double deck motorcoach that operators are able to 
easily enter/exit the proposed sleeper berth. Additionally, Van Hool/
Coach USA has designed and installed a second emergency exit in the 
sleeper berth that is 26 inches wide and 26.5 inches high that provides 
direct access to the exterior of the vehicle. The Agency hereby grants 
the exemption for a two-year period, beginning October 10, 2014 until 
October 10, 2016.

Terms and Conditions for the Exemption

    During the temporary exemption period, Coach USA/Megabus 
motorcoaches can be legally operated using the reduced sleeper berth 
entry/exit dimensions. The motorcoaches must be constructed using the 
entry/exit configuration as depicted in the application. FMCSA 
encourages any party having information that Van Hool/Coach USA, in 
utilizing this exemption, is not achieving the requisite level of 
safety immediately to notify the Agency. If safety is being 
compromised, or if the continuation of the exemption is not consistent 
with 49 U.S.C. 31315(b) and 31136(e), FMCSA will take immediate steps 
to revoke the exemption.

Preemption

    In accordance with section 381.600 of the FMCSRs, during the period 
the exemption is in effect, no State shall enforce any law or 
regulation that conflicts with or is inconsistent with this exemption 
with respect to a person operating under the exemption.

    Issued on: October 1, 2014.
T.F. Scott Darling III,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 2014-24290 Filed 10-9-14; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P

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