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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection; Seat Belt Assemblies

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

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

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash Protection; Seat Belt Assemblies

Christopher A. Hart
Federal Register
April 15, 1994

[Federal Register: April 15, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 74-14; Notice 87]
RIN 2127-AE79

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Crash 
Protection; Seat Belt Assemblies

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule allows manufacturers of all replacement seat 
belt assemblies intended for use only in specifically stated motor 
vehicles a choice of two means of providing information regarding the 
seating positions and vehicle models for which the assemblies are 
appropriate. The information may be provided either on the assembly 
itself or in the installation instruction sheet currently required to 
accompany the assembly. This final rule also removes the labeling 
requirement for two types of seat belt assemblies when they are 
installed as original equipment in a new motor vehicle. NHTSA believes 
that this final rule provides manufacturers more flexibility in the 
manner of providing this information without decreasing the likelihood 
that belts will be correctly installed.

DATES: Effective Date: The amendments made in this rule are effective 
October 12, 1994.
    Petition Date: Any petitions for reconsideration must be received 
by NHTSA no later than May 16, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Any petitions for reconsideration should refer to the docket 
and notice number of this notice and be submitted to: Administrator, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, DC 20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Daniel S. Cohen, Office of Vehicle 
Safety Standards, NRM-12, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. 
Telephone: (202) 366-4911.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

    Standard No. 209 takes three different approaches to requiring 
manufacturers of replacement seat belt assemblies to provide 
information regarding the vehicle models and seating positions for 
which the assemblies are appropriate. The standard requires some seat 
belt assemblies to be labeled, some to be both labeled and accompanied 
by an installation instruction sheet, and some to be accompanied by an 
installation instruction sheet. The following belts are required to be 
labeled:
     Dynamically tested belts with load limiters installed in 
new motor vehicles (section S4.5(c)); and
     Dynamically tested manual belts installed in new trucks 
and multipurpose passenger vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating 
of 8,500 pounds or less and an unloaded weight of less than 5,500 
pounds (LTVs) (section S4.6(b)).
    The following belts are required to be both labeled and accompanied 
by an installation instruction sheet:
     Dynamically tested replacement belts with load limiters 
(sections S4.1(k) and S4.5(c)); and
     Dynamically tested manual replacement belts for LTVs 
(sections S4.1(k) and S4.6(b)).
    All other replacement belts are required to be accompanied by an 
installation instruction sheet (section S4.1(k)).
    On May 10, 1993, NHTSA published a notice of proposed rulemaking 
(NPRM) proposing to replace these three different sets of requirements 
with a single provision allowing manufacturers of replacement seat belt 
assemblies a choice of one of two means of providing information 
regarding the seating positions and vehicle models for which the 
assemblies are appropriate: Either on the assembly or in the 
installation instruction sheet currently required to accompany the 
assembly. The NPRM also proposed to exclude from the proposed labeling 
requirement those seat belt assemblies that are installed as original 
equipment in a new motor vehicle.
    NHTSA received six comments on the NPRM. Four of the commenters 
supported the agency's adopting the amendments proposed in the NPRM. 
None of the commenters objected to the proposed exclusion of seat belt 
assemblies installed as original equipment. This exclusion has been 
adopted as proposed.
    General Motors (GM) raised issues regarding the types of 
replacement belts subject to the two proposed options, regarding the 
means of providing the required information, and regarding the effect 
of the proposal on current inventories. Volkswagen (VW) suggested that 
the agency rescind the requirement to provide installation 
instructions. All of the comments were considered in the formulation of 
this final rule and are addressed below. Since the final rule will 
provide manufacturers more flexibility in the manner of providing 
installation information without decreasing the likelihood that belts 
will be correctly installed, NHTSA is adopting the provision regarding 
the choice of two means of providing the information as proposed.

    Note: On May 28, 1993, the Association of International 
Automobile Manufacturers submitted a petition for rulemaking 
requesting the agency to rescind the requirement that replacement 
seat belt assemblies be accompanied by installation instructions. 
Elsewhere in this issue of the Federal Register, the agency has 
published a notice denying this petition.

Applicability

    In the NPRM, NHTSA proposed a 30 day leadtime based on its belief 
that all belts which comply with the current requirements would comply 
with the new requirement. GM disagreed with this assumption. GM 
correctly stated that make/model information is currently required only 
on certain dynamically tested belts. The proposed language required 
this information to be either on all replacement belts or on the 
instruction sheet for all replacement belts.
    This final rule will require the addition of only one sentence on 
either the belt or the instruction sheet for some dynamically tested 
belts. For all other replacement belts, no change will be necessary. In 
order to provide manufacturers with sufficient time to design, 
fabricate, and attach new labels, or to change, edit, and approve the 
additional text for the instruction sheet to be provided with the 
replacement belt assembly, NHTSA has provided for a leadtime of 180 
days.

Current Inventories

    GM also expressed concern that the proposed requirement would apply 
to replacement belts in inventory which had not been installed prior to 
the effective date of the final rule. GM is incorrect. Only products 
manufactured on or after the effective date of an applicable 
requirement in a Federal motor vehicle safety standard must comply with 
that requirement. Therefore, only replacement belt assemblies 
manufactured on or after the effective date of the final rule would be 
required to comply with the new requirements.

Allow ``Alternative Means'' or Rescind Requirement

    Citing recent agency grants of petitions for inconsequential 
noncompliance with S4.1(k) of Standard No. 209, GM suggested that the 
agency should amend the proposed language to allow other ``alternative 
means'' of providing installation information in addition to placing it 
on the belt or on an instruction sheet in the box. GM did not identify 
any specific ``alternative means'' or provide any other guidance on how 
the agency would determine that a seat belt assembly met such a 
requirement. Also citing the grants of petitions for inconsequential 
noncompliance, VW suggested that the agency should rescind the 
requirement to provide installation instructions completely. As 
explained below, the agency disagrees with both commenters.
    With regard to GM's request that ``alternative means'' of providing 
the required information be allowed, NHTSA believes that the language 
suggested by GM is not sufficiently objective to satisfy the 
requirements of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (15 
U.S.C. 1381 et seq.). Therefore, NHTSA has not altered the proposed 
language as GM suggested.
    With regard to VW's comment, the agency notes that since November 
5, 1992, it has received seven petitions for inconsequential 
noncompliance because replacement belt assemblies were not accompanied 
by required installation information. These petitions were granted 
because the petitioner demonstrated that the noncompliance was 
inconsequential due to other procedures or practices that provided the 
information in another format than that required by Standard No. 209. 
The other procedures or practices involved a determination by a 
mechanic or technician of physical differences unique to a particular 
design. These practices and procedures may work well, but their success 
depends on the vigilance and experience of the installer. VW did not 
provide any information indicating that any of these procedures or 
practices would ensure that an untrained person could correctly install 
the belts. NHTSA notes that not all belts are replaced by a trained 
mechanic. Moreover, a change in the standard to remove this requirement 
would substantially magnify the potential risk of improper 
installation, given that no evidence was provided that all seat belt or 
vehicle manufacturers have such a practice or procedure.
    The grant of a petition for inconsequential noncompliance exempts 
the manufacturer from the notification and remedy requirements of the 
National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.). 
An inconsequentiality proceeding is retrospective, and, in the case of 
the failure to provide installation instructions, the granting of 
petitions was based, in part, on the fact that there was no evidence 
that any of the replacement belt assemblies had been installed 
incorrectly. A rulemaking proceeding is, by contrast, prospective, 
looking at whether all future seat belt assemblies should be excluded 
from the requirement to provide installation information. VW did not 
demonstrate that the installation information would get to all users in 
a reliable and effective manner absent the requirement that it be 
provided with the belt. Thus, NHTSA disagrees with VW that this 
requirement should be rescinded.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    NHTSA has considered the impact of this rulemaking action under 
Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation's regulatory 
policies and procedures. This action was not reviewed under the 
Executive Order. With respect to the DOT policies and procedures, this 
action has been determined not to be significant. This final rule 
allows manufacturers an option of either providing information with 
seat belt assemblies or labeling the seat belt assemblies. Except for 
some dynamically tested belts, seat belt assemblies currently are 
required to comply with one of these options. The cost savings 
associated with deleting some of the requirements should more than 
offset any additional minor costs associated with adding make/model 
information to the installation instruction sheets. Therefore, the 
agency has determined that there will be minimal additional costs with 
respect to some assemblies.

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. As explained above, the agency has determined that this final 
rule will have only a minimal cost impact on some seat belt assemblies. 
Accordingly, a regulatory evaluation has not been prepared for this 
final rule.

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)

    Finally, NHTSA has analyzed this rule in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 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.

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

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

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


Sec. 571.208  [Amended]

    2. Section 571.208 is amended by adding a new S4.5.3.5 to read as 
follows:


Sec. 571.208  Standard No. 208; Occupant crash protection.

* * * * *
    S4.5.3.5  A replacement automatic belt shall meet the requirements 
of S4.1(k) of Standard No. 209.
* * * * *


Sec. 571.209  [Amended]

    3. Section 571.209 is amended by removing S4.5(c) and S4.6(b), and 
by revising S4.1(k) to read as follows:


Sec. 571.209  Standard No. 209; Seat belt assemblies.

* * * * *
    S4.1  * * *
* * * * *
    (k) Installation instructions. A seat belt assembly, other than a 
seat belt assembly installed in a motor vehicle by an automobile 
manufacturer, shall be accompanied by an instruction sheet providing 
sufficient information for installing the assembly in a motor vehicle. 
The installation instructions shall state whether the assembly is for 
universal installation or for installation only in specifically stated 
motor vehicles, and shall include at least those items specified in SAE 
Recommended Practice J800c, ``Motor Vehicle Seat Belt Installations,'' 
November 1973. If the assembly is for use only in specifically stated 
motor vehicles, the assembly shall either be permanently and legibly 
marked or labeled with the following statement, or the instruction 
sheet shall include the following statement:

    This seat belt assembly is for use only in [insert specific 
seating position(s), e.g., ``front right''] in [insert specific 
vehicle make(s) and model(s)].
* * * * *
    Issued on April 11, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-9086 Filed 4-14-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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