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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard; Convex Cross View Mirrors on School Buses

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard; Convex Cross View Mirrors on School Buses

Barry Felrice
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Federal Register
July 11, 1994

[Federal Register: July 11, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 89-26; Notice 5]
RIN 2127-AF31

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard; Convex Cross View Mirrors 
on School Buses

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

ACTION: Notice of proposed rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: In response to a petition for rulemaking submitted by the Blue 
Bird Body Company (Blue Bird), NHTSA has decided to propose amending 
Standard No. 111, Rearview Mirrors, with respect to the field-of-view 
around school buses. Specifically, the agency is proposing to rescind a 
provision in the Standard so that certain driving mirrors would no 
longer be required to provide a field-of-view of the ground forward of 
cylinders by the bus's rear wheels to areas directly beneath the mirror 
surface. The agency is concerned that the current requirement may 
compromise safety either by making it more difficult for the driver to 
use the driving mirror when the bus is in motion as the result of 
having a more distorted image from a more convex mirror or by reducing 
the driver's direct line of sight as the result of creating a larger 
blind spot near the bus.

DATES: Comment Date: Comments must be received by August 10, 1994.
    Effective Date: If adopted, the proposed amendments would become 
effective 30 days following publication of the final rule.

ADDRESSES: Comments should refer to the docket and notice number of 
this notice and be submitted to: Docket Section, Room 5109, National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., 
Washington, DC 20590. (Docket Room hours are 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday 
through Friday.)

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Charles Hott, Office of Vehicle 
Safety Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590 (202) 366-0247.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Previous Agency Rulemakings

    On December 2, 1992, NHTSA published a final rule amending Federal 
Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 111, Rear-View Mirrors, to ensure 
that a school bus provides an adequate field-of-view around a stopped 
school bus, thus reducing the risk of school buses striking students as 
the students are approaching the buses in order to board them or as 
they are leaving the buses. (57 FR 57015) The final rule requires each 
school bus to be equipped with two mirror systems on each side of the 
bus: (1) ``System A,'' which consists of a flat driving mirror of unit 
magnification and typically a convex driving mirror; and (2) ``System 
B,'' which consists of convex cross view mirrors for spotting students 
during the loading and unloading of students. The System A mirror 
system must provide, among other things, a view of the area of the 
ground extending rearward from the area below the mirror surface. The 
System B convex cross view mirrors must provide, among other things, a 
view of the ground that overlaps with the view of the ground provided 
by System A. System A and System B mirrors in combination are required 
to provide the driver with a view of the ground in front of and along 
both sides of the bus and extending at least 200 feet rearward from the 
driving mirror. This final rule took effect on December 2, 1993.
    NHTSA again evaluated the field-of-view requirements for System A 
mirrors in response to a petition for reconsideration of the final rule 
submitted by Ford Motor Company (Ford). (58 FR 60399, November 16, 
1993) Ford stated that requiring System A mirrors to provide a view of 
the ground immediately beneath them fails to meet the need for safety 
and may make impracticable the use of currently designed flat unit 
magnification mirrors. Ford requested that NHTSA amend the requirement 
in Standard No. 111 that System A mirrors provide an extended rearward 
view of the ground starting from the area beneath the mirror 
(S9.2(b)(1), (2)).
    NHTSA decided not to adopt Ford's requested revision, because the 
agency was concerned that Ford's suggested System A mirrors might have 
had blind spots in the area of the ground directly below the driver's 
mirrors and forward of the rear edge of the side windows. The agency 
explained that it is permissible to use a combination of convex and 
flat mirrors to meet the System A requirements, and that the convex 
portion of the mirror system can be used for the view beneath the 
System A mirror. 57 FR at 57005.

II. Blue Bird Petition

    Blue Bird Body Company (Blue Bird) petitioned the agency to amend 
Standard No. 111 with respect to the field-of-view requirements for 
System A mirrors. Blue Bird stated that to comply with the final rule's 
requirements, either a small radius of curvature convex mirror or a 
second convex mirror would have to be attached to the System A mirror. 
Blue Bird argued that either approach would be impracticable and 
inconsistent with motor vehicle safety. According to the petitioner, a 
small radius of curvature mirror would provide unreasonably small and 
distorted images that would be unsafe for driving, while a second 
convex mirror would create a larger blind spot for the driver. Blue 
Bird also stated that any convex mirror added to a system A mirror 
should have a radius of curvature of at least 35 inches, since convex 
mirrors with low radii of curvature would provide unreasonably small 
and distorted images thus causing problems for the school bus driver, 
while the vehicle is in motion.
    Blue Bird stated that the requirement, as adopted, is inconsistent 
with previous agency statements about problems associated with using 
highly convex mirrors for driving. Blue Bird further stated that none 
of the discussions in the NPRM explaining the requirements for System A 
mirrors implies the need for driving mirrors to see the area directly 
below them. Blue Bird requested the agency immediately amend the 
wording of S9.2(b)(1) and S9.2(b)(2) to require that System A mirrors 
provide views of the area of the ground that extend rearward from the 
test cylinders near the rear axles to not less than 200 feet measured 
from the rear surface of the mirrors. As the result of such an 
amendment, the System A mirrors would no longer be required to provide 
a view of the ground between those cylinders and the ground beneath the 
mirror.
    On January 13, 1994, agency personnel met with representatives of 
Blue Bird and Mirror Lite Company, a mirror manufacturer, to evaluate 
the field-of-view provided by various mirror configurations on school 
buses. At that meeting, Blue Bird stated that the installation and use 
of a driving mirror with a small radius of curvature may result in 
unsafe driving practices since it distorts images, thus making it 
difficult for a driver to judge the distance between his or her bus and 
following vehicles when the driver is attempting to change lanes. 
Similarly, Blue Bird alleged that, with a small radius of curvature 
mirror, other vehicles appear to approach suddenly (i.e., images of 
oncoming vehicles at the rear of the bus that are very small and 
difficult to recognize suddenly appear greatly distorted as the 
vehicles get closer to the mirror).
    Thomas Built Bus, another manufacturer of school buses, has 
contacted the agency to express its opposition to Blue Bird's petition. 
After spending significant amounts of time and money reconfiguring and 
retesting its buses and mirrors to comply with the final rule, Thomas 
Built believes that it would be inappropriate for the agency now to 
amend the standard to accommodate a specific school bus or mirror 
design of another manufacturer. Memoranda memorializing these contacts 
have been placed in the docket.

III. Agency Proposal

    After reviewing the petition, NHTSA has decided to propose amending 
Standard No. 111 so that System A mirrors would no longer be required 
to provide a field-of-view of the ground forward of cylinders by the 
bus's rear wheels to areas directly beneath the mirror surface. The 
agency tentatively believes that the current requirement makes it 
necessary for school bus manufacturers to install either a small radius 
of curvature convex mirror or a second convex mirror. NHTSA is 
concerned that the current requirement may compromise safety either by 
making it more difficult for the driver to use the driving mirror when 
the bus is in motion as the result of having a more distorted image 
from a more convex mirror or by reducing the driver's direct line of 
sight as the result of creating a larger blind spot near the bus, based 
on Blue Bird's demonstration and other available information. The 
agency has tentatively concluded that the driveability problems 
resulting from requiring System A mirrors to have a view of the ground 
directly beneath them outweigh the safety benefits obtained by having a 
redundant view of this area. Specifically, the agency believes that the 
proposed amendment would not adversely affect pedestrian safety because 
System B mirrors would still be required to have a view of the ground 
directly below the System A mirrors, as well as the areas alongside the 
bus to the rear axles.
    NHTSA did not anticipate that there would be a driveability problem 
associated with the System A mirror requirements when it issued the 
final rule. The requirement that the driving mirrors provide a view of 
the ground from beneath the mirror surface to 200 feet rearward was 
considered necessary because several pedestrian fatalities have 
occurred near the front entrance doors and the rear tires. In issuing 
the final rule, NHTSA was aware that the System B convex crossview 
mirror already provides a view of these areas. The agency's intention 
was to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities by providing the 
school bus driver with the largest field-of-view possible. Redundant 
views of these areas seemed logical and the view of the test grid was 
comprehensive. However, the school buses with complying System A 
mirrors were not actually driven as part of the agency evaluation of 
the new mirror system requirements in connection with the final rule.
    NHTSA requests comments about the potential safety problems 
discussed in this notice. To what extent does adding a second convex 
mirror to a System A mirror increase the blind spot? How significant a 
safety problem is caused by the increase in the blind spot? How 
significant a safety problem is caused by the driver's inability to use 
the entire mirror system, particularly with mirrors with a radius of 
curvature less than 35 inches, while operating a moving bus? If a 
manufacturer added a second convex mirror to a System A mirror system, 
couldn't the driver use the preexisting high radius of curvature 
driving mirror?
    As to Blue Bird's request for the agency to ``immediately issue'' 
its requested change to the Standard, NHTSA has determined that it 
cannot legally accommodate Blue Bird's request. The Administrative 
Procedure Act generally requires an agency to issue a notice for public 
comment before issuing a final rule such as a rescission of a 
requirement. (5 U.S.C 553) There is one narrow exception to this 
requirement which provides that an agency may forego notice-and-comment 
procedures upon a finding that such procedures are ``impracticable, 
unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.'' ( 5 U.S.C. 
553(b)(B)) However, the courts have construed this exception very 
narrowly, emphasizing that:

circumstances justifying reliance on this exception are ``indeed 
rare'' and will be accepted only after the court has ``examine[d]'' 
closely proffered rationales justifying the elimination of public 
procedures. Council of Southern Mountains, Inc. v. Donovan, 653 F.2d 
573 (DC Cir. 1981) citing American Federation of Government 
Employees v. Block, 655 F.2d 1153 (DC Cir 1981).

    This case law and previous agency experience indicate that 
foregoing notice-and-comment is a disfavored approach to be used only 
in emergency situations involving great urgency. The agency has 
determined that the circumstances surrounding Blue Bird's petition do 
not rise to this level of urgency.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    This notice was not reviewed under E.Q. 12866, ``Regulatory 
Planning and Review.'' NHTSA has considered the impact of this 
rulemaking action under the Department of Transportation's regulatory 
policies and procedures. The agency believes that a full regulatory 
evaluation is not required because the rule would have only minimal 
economic impacts. The proposal, if adopted, would not result in any 
cost savings or cost increases since to comply, the small radius of 
curvature mirrors would be replaced by larger radius of curvature 
mirrors.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    NHTSA has also considered the impacts of this notice under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. I hereby certify that this proposed rule 
would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities. School bus manufacturers are generally not small 
businesses within the meaning of the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Small 
governmental units and small organizations are generally affected by 
amendments to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards as purchasers 
of new school buses. However, any impact on small entities from this 
action would be minimal since it would make a minimal change that would 
not impose additional costs. Accordingly, the agency has determined 
that preparation of a regulatory flexibility analysis is unnecessary.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act

    In accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (Pub. L. 96-
511), NHTSA notes that there are no requirements for information 
collection associated with this proposed rule.

D. National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has also analyzed this proposed rule under the National 
Environmental Policy Act and determined that it would not have a 
significant impact on the human environment.

E. Executive Order 12612 (Federalism)

    NHTSA has analyzed this proposal in accordance with the principles 
and criteria contained in E.O. 12612, and has determined that this 
proposed rule would not have significant federalism implications to 
warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

F. Civil Justice Reform

    This proposed rule would not have any retroactive effect. Under 
section 103(d) of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act 
(Safety Act; 15 U.S.C. 1392(d)), whenever a Federal motor vehicle 
safety standard is in effect, a State may not adopt or maintain a 
safety standard applicable to the same aspect of performance which is 
not identical to the Federal standard, except to the extent that the 
state requirement imposes a higher level of performance and applies 
only to vehicles procured for the State's use. Section 105 of the 
Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1394) sets forth a procedure for judicial review 
of final rules establishing, amending or revoking Federal motor vehicle 
safety standards. That section does not require submission of a 
petition for reconsideration or other administrative proceedings before 
parties may file suit in court.

Submission of Comments

    Interested persons are invited to submit comments on the proposal. 
It is requested, but not required, that 10 copies be submitted.
    All comments must not exceed 15 pages in length. (49 CFR 553.21). 
Necessary attachments may be appended to these submissions without 
regard to the 15-page limit. This limitation is intended to encourage 
commenters to detail their primary arguments in a concise fashion.
    If a commenter wishes to submit certain information under a claim 
of confidentiality, three copies of the complete submission, including 
purportedly confidential business information, should be submitted to 
the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at the street address given above, and seven 
copies from which the purportedly confidential information has been 
deleted should be submitted to the Docket Section. A request for 
confidentiality should be accompanied by a cover letter setting forth 
the information specified in the agency's confidential business 
information regulation. 49 CFR part 512.
    All comments received before the close of business on the comment 
closing date indicated above for the proposal will be considered, and 
will be available for examination in the docket at the above address 
both before and after that date. To the extent possible, comments filed 
after the closing date will also be considered. Comments received too 
late for consideration in regard to the final rule will be considered 
as suggestions for further rulemaking action. Comments on the proposal 
will be available for inspection in the docket. The NHTSA will continue 
to file relevant information as it becomes available in the docket 
after the closing date, and it is recommended that interested persons 
continue to examine the docket for new material.
    Those persons desiring to be notified upon receipt of their 
comments in the rules docket should enclose a self-addressed, stamped 
postcard in the envelope with their comments. Upon receiving the 
comments, the docket supervisor will return the postcard by mail.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Motor vehicle safety, Motor vehicle.

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR part 571 would be 
amended, as follows:
    1. The authority citation for part 571 of title 49 would continue 
to read as follows:

    Authority: 15 U.S.C 1392, 1401, 1403, 1407; delegation of 
authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    2. In Sec. 571.111, S9.2, S9.2(a), S9.2(b), S9.2(b)(1), and 
S9.2(b)(2) would be revised to read as follows:


Sec. 571.111   Standard No. 111; rearview mirrors.

* * * * *
    S9.2 System A shall be located with stable supports so that the 
portion of the system on the bus's left side, and the portion on its 
right side, each:
    (a) Includes at least one mirror of unit magnification with not 
less than 322.60 square centimeters (50 square inches) of reflective 
surface; and
    (b) Includes one or more mirrors which together provide, at the 
driver's eye location, a view of:
    (1) For the mirror system on the right side of the bus, the entire 
top surface of cylinder N in Figure 2, and that area of the ground 
which extends rearward from cylinder N to a point not less than 60.93 
meters (200 feet) from the mirror surface.
    (2) For the mirror system on the left side of the bus, the entire 
top surface of cylinder M in Figure 2, and that area of the ground 
which extends rearward from cylinder M to a point not less than 60.93 
meters (200 feet) from the mirror surface.
* * * * *
    Issued on July 5, 1994.
Barry Felrice,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 94-16614 Filed 7-8-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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