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General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra

General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Frank S. Borris
Federal Highway Administration
October 19, 2015


[Federal Register Volume 80, Number 201 (Monday, October 19, 2015)]
[Notices]
[Pages 63275-63276]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2015-26400]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2013-0135; Notice 2]


General Motors, LLC, Denial of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Denial of Petition.

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SUMMARY: General Motors, LLC (GM) has determined that certain model 
year (MY) 2013-2014 Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Chevrolet Silverado 
HD and GMC Sierra HD compressed natural gas (CNG) multipurpose 
passenger vehicles (MPVs) and trucks manufactured between May 20, 2012, 
and September 25, 2013, do not comply with the lettering height 
requirement in paragraph S5.3 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 
(FMVSS) FMVSS No. 303, Fuel System Integrity of Compressed Natural Gas 
Vehicles. GM has filed an appropriate report dated November 25, 2013, 
pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility 
and Reports.

ADDRESSES: For further information on this decision, contact Mr. Ed 
Chan, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, at the National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by telephone at (202) 493-0335.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:
    I. GM's Petition: Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) (see 
implementing rule at 49 CFR part 556), GM submitted a petition for an 
exemption from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C. 
Chapter 301 on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential to 
motor vehicle safety.
    The agency published a notice of receipt of the petition, with a 
30-day public comment period, on March 11, 2014 in the Federal Register 
(79 FR 13735). No comments were received. To view the petition, and all 
supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management System 
(FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online 
search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2013-0135.''
    II. Vehicles Involved: Affected are approximately 2,247 MY 2013-
2014 Chevrolet Express, GMC Savana, Chevrolet Silverado HD and GMC 
Sierra HD compressed natural gas (CNG) MPVs and trucks manufactured 
between May 20, 2012, and September 25, 2013.
    III. Noncompliance: GM explains that the noncompliance is an error 
on the vehicle CNG labels. Specifically, the lettering height on the 
labels is 2.5 mm, instead of the minimum 4.76 mm, as required by 
paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 303.
    IV. Rule Text: Paragraph S5.3 of FMVSS No. 303 requires:
    S5.3 Each CNG vehicle shall be permanently labeled, near the 
vehicle refueling connection, with the information specified in S5.3.1 
and S5.3.2 of this section. The information shall be visible to a 
person standing next to the vehicle during refueling, in English, and 
in letters and numbers that are not less than 4.76 mm (\3/16\ inch) 
high.
    S5.3.1 The statement: ``Service pressure __kPa (__psig).''
    S5.3.2 The statement ``See instructions on fuel container for 
inspection and service life.''
    V. Summary of GM's Analyses: GM stated its belief that the subject 
noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety for the 
following reasons:
    A. The information on the subject CNG labels is correct and 
entirely legible.
    Paragraph S5.4 of FMVSS No. 303 requires that the information 
required for the label also be included in the owner's manual using ``. 
. . not less than 10 point type.'' The 2.5 mm lettering height on the 
subject labels is 10 point type, i.e., the same lettering size as what 
is specified for the owner's manual content. The 10 point type that is 
legible for purposes of the owner's manual is also legible on the 
labels installed at the CNG filler port.
    B. The subject CNG label is an ``information'' label, not a 
``warning'' label.
    The subject label is not a ``warning'' label and does not warn the 
user of a safety related risk or consequence. Even if the user does not 
read the label information due to the font size, the user will not miss 
information about a safety risk.
    C. The label font size does not create a risk of misfueling.
    Even if the user fails to read the information label due to the 
reduced font size, there would be no adverse safety consequence. The 
service pressure of the subject CNG tanks is 3,600 psi. There is no 
risk of over-pressuring these tanks since CNG filling stations are 
required to shutoff at 3,600 psi, per ANSI/IAS NGV 4.2-1999 CSA 12.52-
M99(R09). Accordingly, there is no risk of a fuel leak.
    Even if the shutoff function on a filling station were to 
malfunction, all CNG tanks on the affected vehicles are equipped with 
pressure-relief devices designed to deploy at 5,400 psi, which is below 
the burst pressure of the tank itself.
    With regard to under-pressure (under-fill) potential, all affected 
vehicles are equipped with a CNG fuel gauge in the instrument cluster 
to inform the driver of the fuel level. While some drivers may estimate 
the driving range associated with a full fill, most drivers typically 
rely on fuel gauges, not anticipated range, to determine when to 
refuel. Some CNG filling stations, primarily in Canada, are designed to 
shutoff at 3,000 psi, which is below the 3,600 psi service pressure of 
the affected CNG tanks. However, regardless of whether the CNG tanks on 
the affected vehicles start out full (3,600 psi) or 83% full (3,000 
psi), the driver has ample opportunity to monitor the fuel gauge and 
refuel prior to the CNG being depleted. Additionally, the owner manual 
instructs that ``the fuel gauge has been calibrated to display full at 
approximately 24,800 kPa (3,600 psi) . . .''
    Finally, there is no risk that a customer would attempt to fuel the 
CNG tanks from a conventional gasoline pump. The fueling nozzle and 
filling port for CNG are completely distinct from the corresponding 
nozzle and port used for gasoline, and the distinctions are obvious. In 
the extraordinary event that a user attempted to connect a conventional 
gasoline nozzle to the CNG fueling valve, it would be immediately 
apparent that the mismatched gasoline nozzle does not attach to or work 
with the CNG valve. GM also asserts that owners and operators of CNG 
vehicles (the large majority being fleet purchasers) are well aware 
that their vehicles use a non-conventional fuel,

[[Page 63276]]

and are attuned to the unique characteristics associated with CNG use, 
such as service pressure, and tank inspection and replacement 
provisions. These aspects of the CNG fuel system are likely known to 
owners when or even before they purchase the CNG vehicle, and in any 
event are easily obtained for the subject vehicles from the labels at 
the fueling port, from the vehicle owner's manuals, and/or from the 
labels on the CNG tanks themselves. As mentioned above, the information 
is provided in the owner's manual.
    In addition, GM stated its belief that NHTSA has previously granted 
petitions for labeling related inconsequential noncompliances that GM 
believes can be applied to a decision on its petition.
    GM informed NHTSA that it is not aware of any crashes, injuries or 
customer complaints associated with this condition.
    GM also informed NHTSA that it has corrected the noncompliance for 
all future production.
    In summation, GM believes that the described noncompliance of the 
subject vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that 
its petition, to exempt from providing recall notification of 
noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the recall 
noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.

NHTSA Decision

    NHTSA Analysis: NHTSA added the subject vehicle label requirements 
to FMVSS No. 303 to aid in assuring that CNG containers are not 
overfilled.\1\ The overfilling of a CNG tank can affect the integrity 
of the storage tank as well as other system components. Pressurized CNG 
fuel dispensing and storage methods are significantly different from 
those for more traditional diesel and gasoline fuels which are stored 
as liquid at atmospheric pressure. Significant stored mechanical energy 
exists within a pressurized CNG tank that is not present in traditional 
liquid fuel (fuel with a boiling point above 0 [deg]C) storage tanks. 
Should a CNG tank be weakened by repeated overfilling, the stored 
mechanical energy could be explosively released.
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    \1\ See 59 FR 65307 and 60 FR 57944.
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    The lettering height required for the CNG vehicle label is greater 
than that required for similar information in the owner's manual and 
the alternative one page document (4.76 mm versus 2.5 mm).\2\ NHTSA 
believes that the larger lettering size is important for the vehicle 
label in order to make it easier to read for a wide range of 
conditions, both environmental and operator related. The label is 
required to be located near the vehicle refueling connection in 
addition to the owner's manual for the following reasons:
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    \2\ 49 CFR 571.303 S5.2
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    1. Not all vehicle operators will have read or have ready access to 
the vehicle's owner's manual, especially when vehicles have been 
acquired on the secondary market.
    2. Immediately prior to or during vehicle refueling is the most 
opportune time to provide a person refueling the vehicle with 
information that may reduce accidental overfilling, and the vehicle 
refueling connection label is more likely to be read than the owner's 
manual during vehicle refueling.
    3. Vehicle refueling connection label readability and conspicuity 
are important to help to ensure that the information is actually read 
and understood by the person refueling the vehicle, the person 
ultimately responsible for the safe refueling of the vehicle.
    NHTSA is currently investigating several incidents where over-
pressurization of CNG tanks mounted on vehicles other than the subject 
vehicles may have contributed to explosions. A lack of understanding 
related to the rated service pressure and actual working pressure of 
the fuel containers are factors that NHTSA believes may have 
contributed to these explosions. This further reinforces NHTSA's belief 
that label information at the vehicle's filling location must be easy 
to read.
    NHTSA has previously granted inconsequential noncompliance 
petitions for labeling issues including discrepancies in lettering 
height, missing information, incorrect information, and misplaced or 
obscured information. We believe this label is different because of the 
frequency of filling the fuel tank. Filling the fuel tank can occur on 
a daily basis whereas labels for other purposes, e.g., a tire label, 
are likely to be accessed by operators much less frequently. It is 
important that the operator be able to read the label to verify an 
overfill situation does not occur. We also believe the routine nature 
of fuel filling makes it less likely the operator would check the 
owner's manual, assuming the owner's manual is available, if the 
fueling label cannot be read. The labeling provides important safety 
information that is intended to prevent a potential explosion. 
Therefore, NHTSA believes that the required size of the information on 
the subject nonconforming CNG label is consequential to motor vehicle 
safety.
    NHTSA Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has 
decided that GM has not met its burden of persuasion that its FMVSS No. 
303 noncompliance is inconsequential. Accordingly, GM's petition is 
hereby denied and GM is obligated to provide notification of, and a 
remedy for, that noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 30120.

    Authority:  (49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 
49 CFR 1.95 and 501.8)

Frank S. Borris,
Acting Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2015-26400 Filed 10-16-15; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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