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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Buses Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release

Howard M. Smolkin
Federal Register
May 4, 1994

[Federal Register: May 4, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 88-21, Notice No. 8]
RIN 2127-AC88

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Bus Emergency Exits and 
Window Retention and Release

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

ACTION: Final rule, delay of effective date.

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SUMMARY: This final rule delays until September 1, 1994, the effective 
date of the requirements in one section of a final rule issued November 
2, 1992, which amended Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 217, 
Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release, to revise the 
minimum requirements for school bus emergency exits and improve access 
to school bus emergency doors. On March 24, 1994, NHTSA issued an 
interpretation of the term ``daylight opening'' used in the final rule. 
Subsequently, NHTSA has learned that several school bus manufacturers 
had misunderstood this term and as a result, will not have designed 
many of their buses with sufficient exits to comply with the new 
requirement by the May 2, 1994 effective date. Because NHTSA agrees 
that this term could have been misunderstood, NHTSA is allowing 
manufacturers to continue certifying their buses as having the exits 
required prior to the November 2, 1992 final rule until September 1, 
1994. All other requirements of the November 2, 1992 final rule will 
continue to be effective on May 2, 1994.

DATES: Effective Date: The amendments made in this rule are effective 
May 2, 1994.
    Petition Date: Any petitions for reconsideration must be received 
by NHTSA no later than June 3, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Any petitions for reconsideration 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. Leon DeLarm, NRM-15, Office of 
Vehicle Safety Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street SW., Washington, DC 20590. 
Telephone: (202) 366-4920.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On March 15, 1991, NHTSA published a notice 
of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to amend Standard No. 217 to 
require that the minimum number of emergency exits on school buses be 
based upon the seating capacity of the school bus (56 FR 11153). Under 
the proposal, all school buses would have been required to have either 
a rear emergency exit door or a side emergency exit door and a rear 
push-out window. Depending on capacity, some school buses would have 
been required to have additional exits. The NPRM proposed two options 
regarding the means for providing the additional emergency exits. 
Option A would have required the use of emergency exit doors. Option B 
would have required a combination of emergency exit doors and emergency 
roof exits. The NPRM included a table indicating the additional exits 
required under each option for any bus with a designated seating 
capacity between 24 and 90. The determination of the number and type of 
exits used in the tables was based on crediting an emergency exit door 
with its minimum area (24 inches  x  45 inches, or 1,080 inches\2\) and 
crediting two emergency roof exits as a single emergency exit door.
    On November 2, 1992, NHTSA published a final rule increasing the 
amount of emergency exit area required on school buses (57 FR 49413). 
As in the proposal, the final rule required that the minimum emergency 
exit area on school buses be based upon the seating capacity of the 
school bus. However, the final rule differed from the NPRM concerning 
the calculation by which the need for additional emergency exits was to 
be determined. (On December 2, 1992 NHTSA published a technical 
amendment to the November 2, 1992 final rule. Both of these notices 
will be referred to collectively as the November 2, 1992 final rule.)
    The November 2, 1992 final rule specified that after calculating 
the total amount of additional emergency exit area [AEEA] needed for a 
school bus, using the formula proposed in the NPRM, each exit was to be 
credited with its ``daylight opening.'' ``Daylight opening'' was 
defined as ``the maximum unobstructed opening of an emergency exit when 
viewed from a direction perpendicular to the plane of the opening.'' 
The preamble to the final rule did not include a further discussion of 
what might constitute an obstruction.
    On January 8, 1994, Mr. Bob Carver of Wayne Wheeled Vehicles 
(Wayne) wrote to the agency requesting clarification of the terms 
``daylight opening'' and ``unobstructed opening.'' The Wayne letter 
included Figure 5C from the November 2, 1992 final rule. This figure 
illustrates the permitted placement of a seat adjacent to a side 
emergency exit door. Wayne stated that agency personnel had indicated 
that only the area visually obstructed by the seat could not be 
credited, and requested confirmation of this interpretation.
    The agency's response, dated March 24, 1994, did not agree with 
this interpretation. The March 24 letter states,

    The term ``daylight opening'' is defined in the Final Rule as 
``the maximum unobstructed opening of an emergency exit when viewed 
from a direction perpendicular to the plane of the opening.'' An 
obstruction in this context would include any obstacle or object 
that would block, obscure, or interfere with, in any way, access to 
that exit when opened. In determining the ``maximum unobstructed 
opening of an emergency exit,'' we would subtract, from the total 
area of the opening, the area of any portions of the opening that 
cannot be used for exit purposes as a result of the obstruction. The 
area measurements would be taken when viewed from a direction 
perpendicular to the plane of the opening.

With regard to the particular illustration included with the Wayne 
letter, the March 24 letter states that the area forward of the seat 
back and leg would be considered obstructed.
    On April 20, 1994, Mr. Thomas D. Turner of Blue Bird Body Company 
(Blue Bird) wrote to the agency regarding the March 24 letter. The Blue 
Bird letter states, ``(w)e believed and were told (by agency personnel) 
that the definition of `daylight opening' applied to the exit opening 
itself and did not involve access to the exit opening.'' The Blue Bird 
letter also notes that additional interpretations will be needed to 
address obstructions at rear emergency exit doors, emergency exit 
windows, and the front service door. Blue Bird requested that the 
agency suspend enforcement until either (1) a final rule is issued in 
connection with a December 1, 1993 NPRM which proposed two alternative 
means of determining the maximum credit of emergency exits or (2) 
September 1, 1994. Blue Bird stated that this would allow sufficient 
time to resolve these issues and make any necessary changes.
    On April 26, 1994, Mr. Turner met with agency to further explain 
the scope of the problem for Blue Bird. In this meeting, Mr. Turner 
explained that the confusion resulted in part because the term 
``daylight opening'' is used differently from the November 2 final rule 
definition in other contexts. The alternate definition is consistent 
with Blue Bird's understanding of the term prior to the March 24, 1994 
letter.
    On April 27, 1994, Ms. Jane L. Dawson of Thomas Built Buses (Thomas 
Built) wrote to the agency to request a delay of the effective date of 
the November 2, 1992 final rule. Thomas Built stated that the March 24, 
1994 letter ``differs drastically from the general interpretation of 
the school bus industry.'' Thomas Built also stated that one effect of 
the March 24 letter was the need for additional interpretations 
regarding other emergency exits.
    Interpreting the term ``daylight opening'' either as any area not 
visually obstructed or as the entire area of the exit opening, results 
in crediting some exits with more exit area than the agency intended. 
On some buses, this would result in an incorrect determination that 
either no additional exits or fewer additional exits are required. For 
example, if a rear emergency exit door is credited with greater area 
than allowed, a manufacturer may have determined that no additional 
exits were required. On other buses, the manufacturer may have 
determined that only an additional side emergency exit door was 
required. However, if the required exits and the additional side 
emergency exit door are credited with greater area than allowed, this 
determination would be incorrect and an additional emergency roof exit 
may also be required.
    The agency has determined that the term ``daylight opening,'' 
without clarifying explanation, is arguably ambiguous, in that it 
leaves open the question of whether an ``obstruction'' is a visual 
obstruction or a physical obstruction. This is the issue resolved by 
the agency's March 24, 1994 letter to Wayne.
    Rather than penalize manufacturers that utilized the alternative 
interpretation, at significant cost to them, NHTSA has decided to allow 
manufacturers the option of complying with the previous requirements 
regarding the number and type of exits required for a school bus until 
September 1, 1994. That is, until September 1, 1994, manufacturers can 
install either a rear emergency exit door or a side emergency exit door 
and a rear push-out window.
    In response to Blue Bird's request to suspend enforcement until a 
final rule is issued for the December 1, 1993, NPRM, NHTSA has 
determined that such a delay is not warranted. Each of the options 
proposed in the December 1, 1993 NPRM would further limit the amount of 
area that can be credited for an emergency exit. Because any final rule 
consistent with the proposals in the December 1, 1993 NPRM would 
require vehicle redesign, additional leadtime would be necessary after 
publication of such a final rule. Therefore, NHTSA has determined that 
suspension of the November 2, 1992 final rule until the rulemaking 
proceeding for the December 1, 1993 NPRM is final would unnecessarily 
delay the safety benefits of the November 2, 1992 final rule.
    NHTSA believes that the safety effects of an extension to September 
1, 1994 will be minimal. The November 2, 1992 final rule required 
additional exits on some school buses. The confusion about the amount 
of area credited for each exit has resulted in some school buses having 
fewer exits than the agency expected under the November 2, 1992 final 
rule. However, many of these school buses have been redesigned to have 
more exits than required prior to the November 2, 1992 final rule. The 
agency expects that manufacturers will not revert to prior designs 
during the extension period. Therefore, much of the anticipated 
benefits of the final rule will be retained during this time period. In 
addition, the length of the extension period is short. Therefore, NHTSA 
anticipates minimal loss of safety benefits as a result of this 
extension.
    By contrast, the economic effects of denying manufacturers' 
requests to delay the effective date would be significant. Most of the 
school buses which are currently being manufactured or which will be 
manufactured during the extension period have already been ordered. 
Because it is common practice to order school buses by competitive 
bidding, manufacturers will have to sell these school buses at the 
price quoted when ordered. If a manufacturer based the price on 
installing fewer exits than required to comply with Standard No. 217, 
the manufacturer would have to absorb the cost. In addition, if an 
extension were not granted, manufacturers would have to stop production 
until changes could be made to designs, which could take several 
months.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    NHTSA has considered the impact of this rulemaking action under 
E.O. 12866 and the Department of Transportation's regulatory policies 
and procedures. This rulemaking document was not reviewed under E.O. 
12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review.'' This action has been 
determined to be not ``significant'' under the Department of 
Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. As explained 
above, this notice merely extends the effective date of the final rule 
of November 2, 1992, which amended Standard 217. There will be no 
additional costs associated with this final rule. Rather, this final 
rule extends the date of compliance with the amendments of Standard 217 
to September 1, 1994.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    NHTSA has also considered the impacts of this final rule under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. I hereby certify that this rule will not 
have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small 
entities. Since this notice merely extends the effective date of a 
previously-issued notice, no costs are associated with it. Accordingly, 
the agency has not prepared a regulatory flexibility analysis.

Paperwork Reduction Act

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

National Environmental Policy Act

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

Executive Order 12612 (Federalism)

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

Civil Justice Reform

    This final rule does 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.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Motor vehicle safety, Motor vehicles.

    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR 571.217 is amended as 
follows:

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

    1. The authority citation for part 571 continues to read as 
follows:

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


Sec. 571.217  [Amended]

    2. Section 571.217 is amended by revising Sec. 5.2.3 and adding a 
new Sec. 5.2.3.4, to read as follows:
    Sec. 5.2.3  School buses. Except as provided in Sec. 5.2.3.4, each 
school bus shall comply with Sec. 5.2.3.1 through Sec. 5.2.3.3.
* * * * *
    Sec. 5.2.3.4  Each school bus manufactured before September 1, 1994 
may, at the manufacturer's option, comply with either Sec. 5.2.3.4(a) 
or Sec. 5.2.3.4(b) instead of Sec. 5.2.3.1 through Sec. 5.2.3.3.
    (a) Each bus shall be equipped with one rear emergency door that 
opens outward and is hinged on the right side (either side in the case 
of a bus with a GVWR of 4,536 kilograms or less); or
    (b) Each bus shall be equipped with one emergency door on the 
vehicle's left side that is hinged on its forward side and meets the 
requirements of Sec. 5.2.3.2(a), and a push-out rear window that 
provides a minimum opening clearance 41 centimeters high and 122 
centimeters wide and meets the requirements of Sec. 5.2.3.2(c).

Howard M. Smolkin,
Executive Director.
[FR Doc. 94-10758 Filed 4-29-94; 4:55 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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