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Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of Exemption For HELP Inc.

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of Exemption For HELP Inc.

T.F. Scott Darling, III
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
June 22, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 119 (Monday, June 22, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 35697-35699]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-15159]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

[Docket No. FMCSA-2013-0313]


Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Grant of 
Exemption For HELP Inc.

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 an exemption to HELP, Inc. that will 
allow the placement of its transponder systems at the bottom of 
windshields on commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The Federal Motor 
Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) currently require antennas, 
transponders, and similar devices to be located not more than 6 inches 
below the upper edge of the windshield, outside the area swept by the 
windshield wipers, and outside the

[[Page 35698]]

driver's sight lines to the road and highway signs and signals. The 
exemption will enable motor carriers to mount the HELP, Inc. 
transponder systems lower in the windshield than is currently permitted 
by the Agency's regulations in order to utilize a mounting location 
that maximizes the device's ability to send and receive roadside data. 
FMCSA believes that permitting the transponder systems to be mounted 
lower than currently allowed, but still outside the driver's sight 
lines to the road and highway signs and signals, 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 June 22, 2015 until June 22, 
2017.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Mr. Mike Huntley, Vehicle and 
Roadside Operations Division, Office of Carrier, Driver, and Vehicle 
Safety, MC-PSV, (202) 366-4325; 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 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)).

HELP, Inc. Application for Exemption

    Help, Inc. applied for an exemption from 49 CFR 393.60(e)(1) to 
allow the installation of transponders on its customers' CMVs in a 
location that is lower than currently allowed under the regulation. 
Section 393.60(e)(1) of the FMCSRs prohibits the obstruction of the 
driver's field of view by devices mounted on the windshield. Antennas, 
transponders and similar devices must not be mounted more than 152 mm 
(6 inches) below the upper edge of the windshield. These devices must 
be located outside the area swept by the windshield wipers and outside 
the driver's sight lines to the road, highway signs and signals.
    In its application, Help, Inc. states:

Help, Inc. is making this request because we are coordinating device 
development and installation of PrePass transponder in up to 430,000 
commercial motor vehicles. The 5.9 and toll transponder equipment 
installed is located at the bottom of the windshield, but within the 
swept area of windshield because the safety equipment must have a 
clear forward facing view of the road, and low enough to accurately 
be read by roadside infrastructure . . . The restrictions on the 
location of devices mounted in the windshield area significantly 
degrade the ability to capture the proper viewing area in commercial 
motor vehicles. A 5.9 and toll transponder which lacks an effective 
view of the roadside infrastructure through the front windshield 
will negatively impact the ability to send and receive roadside 
data.

    Help, Inc.'s preferred mounting location for the transponders is 2 
inches right of the center of the windshield, and 2-3 inches above the 
dashboard. Help, Inc. states that using this mounting location that is 
lower in the windshield than currently permitted by the FMCSRs ``will 
offer the best opportunity to optimize the data transmission and 
evaluate the benefits of such a system'' while maximizing ``the 
external view of the roadway.''

Comments

    On July 31, 2013, FMCSA published notice of the application and 
asked for public comment (78 FR 46406). The Agency received two 
comments.
    1. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (``Advocates'') provided 
general comments stating that it ``supports the development and use of 
technology and devices to improve safety and vehicle operation,'' but 
noted that it ``is aware of several similar new and emerging 
technologies, with applications for commercial motor vehicles, that 
will likely come into conflict'' with the regulations in 49 CFR 
393.60(e)(1) and (2) that limit the location of devices and decals in 
the windshield of CMVs. As a result, Advocates concluded that 
``Advances in technology may be such that the agency should reconsider 
the limitations specified in section 393.60(e) and consider 
establishing updated guidelines which will both permit the optimal 
installation of beneficial safety devices while at the same time 
limiting the proliferation and installation of multiple devices that 
could interfere with a driver's view of the road, side and rearview 
mirrors or, in some cases, interfere or distract the driver from the 
driving task.''
    Specifically with respect to Help, Inc.'s application, Advocates 
recommended ``that the agency consider the positioning/size of the 
device and its impact on the field of view afforded the driver in 
making the determination to grant or deny this application exemption.''
    FMCSA response: Enforcement personnel, motor carriers, regulators, 
and manufacturers alike are increasingly faced with accommodating the 
use of various technologies, designed to improve commercial motor 
vehicle safety, which may impact the driver's field of view of the 
roadway through the windshield wiper swept area. Examples include a 
variety of electronic devices, window tint products, decorations, 
decals and stickers, sun visors and window shades, and other devices 
and products--all of which serve different purposes but can, in some 
cases, diminish or block part of the driver's view.
    The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), in cooperation with 
FMCSA and other industry trade associations hosted a dialogue among 
enforcement experts, industry representatives, and Federal regulators 
to help improve the common understanding of the balance between the 
benefits and the possible risks of using these technologies and 
devices. The ``Technology Impacts on CMV Driver Direct Field of Vision 
Symposium'' was held on April 22, 2013 in conjunction with the CVSA 
Workshop in Louisville, KY. FMCSA may consider amendments to 49 CFR 
393.60(e) in the future, and will certainly use the information 
gathered at that symposium--in conjunction with all other available 
information, research, and data--in the development of such possible 
amendments.
    While FMCSA acknowledges that Help, Inc. did not present specific 
studies or data showing that safety will

[[Page 35699]]

not be degraded, the Agency believes that placement of the transponders 
lower in the windshield than currently permitted will be outside the 
drivers' sight lines, and therefore, will not have an adverse impact on 
safety.
    2. Mr. Paul Baute supported the application, but noted that ``the 
exemption should not be necessary. FMCSA 393.60(e)(1) is in conflict 
with FMCSA 393.60(e)(2) with locations of items such as transponders 
and decals . . . FMCSR 393.60(e)(1) should be changed to allow the 
transponders to be mounted on the bottom of the windshield.''
    FMCSA response: The regulations at section 393.60(e)(1) and section 
393.60(e)(2) do not conflict. Section 393.60(e)(1) defines the 
dimensional limits at the top of the windshield in which ``antennas, 
transponders, and similar devices'' can be mounted, whereas section 
393.60(e)(2) defines the dimensional limits at the bottom of the 
windshield for applying ``Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) 
inspection decals, and stickers and/or decals required under Federal or 
State laws.'' Section 393.60(e)(2) does not currently allow other 
devices, such as transponders, to be mounted in the area at the bottom 
of the windshield, and any amendment to the regulation to allow such 
devices to be mounted in this location would have to be made through a 
notice-and-comment rulemaking.

Terms and Conditions for the Exemption

    Based on its evaluation of the application for an exemption, FMCSA 
grants Help, Inc.'s exemption application. The Agency believes that the 
safety performance of motor carriers 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 because (1) 
based on the technical information available, there is no indication 
that the transponders would obstruct drivers' views of the roadway, 
highway signs and surrounding traffic; (2) generally, trucks and buses 
have an elevated seating position which greatly improves the forward 
visual field of the driver, and any impairment of available sight lines 
would be minimal; and (3) the location at the bottom of the windshield 
but within the windshield wiper sweep, and out of the driver's 
sightline is reasonable and enforceable at roadside. Without the 
exemption, Help, Inc. would be unable to utilize a mounting location 
that maximizes the device's ability to send and receive roadside data.
    The Agency hereby grants the exemption for a two-year period, 
beginning June 22, 2015 until June 22, 2017.
    During the temporary exemption period, motor carriers using Help, 
Inc. transponders must ensure that the devices are mounted 2 inches 
right of the center of the windshield, and 2-3 inches above the 
dashboard. If however, because of the design and mounting of the 
windshield wipers on a particular CMV, use of the mounting location 
identified above does not result in the transponder being located 
within the swept area of the wipers, the transponder may be positioned 
such that it is located (1) to the right of the center of the 
windshield, and (2) as low as possible in the swept area of the wipers.
    The FMCSA encourages any party having information that motor 
carriers utilizing this exemption are 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: June 3, 2015.
T.F. Scott Darling III,
Chief Counsel.
[FR Doc. 2015-15159 Filed 6-19-15; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-EX-P

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