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Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment; Denial of Petitions for Rulemaking

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Trucking

Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment; Denial of Petitions for Rulemaking

Barry Felrice
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
April 12, 1994

[Federal Register: April 12, 1994]


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
49 CFR Part 571
[Docket No. 80-9; Notice 9]
RIN 2127-AE86 
Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment; Denial of 
Petitions for Rulemaking 
AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.

ACTION: Denial of petitions for reconsideration and rulemaking.


SUMMARY: This notice denies a petition for reconsideration of the 
trailer conspicuity requirements of Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 
108, and a petition for rulemaking to amend these requirements.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Patrick Boyd, Office of Vehicle Safety 
Standards, NHTSA (202-366-6346).

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: On December 10, 1992, NHTSA published a 
final rule amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 to 
establish a visibility enhancement scheme for large trailers (57 FR 
58406). On October 6, 1993, the agency published a response to 
petitions for reconsideration of that scheme (58 FR 52021). 
A. Petitions Relating to Mounting Height of Side Conspicuity 

    In the time between the two Federal Register notices, the Truck 
Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) wrote NHTSA on August 25, 
1993, asking that the mounting height specification for side 
conspicuity treatment be changed to allow a range of heights from 0.4m 
to 2.1m. It observed that the agency had proposed a lower mounting 
height of 0.4m though it had adopted a height of 1.25m. TTMA observed 
that Standard No. 108 permits reflex reflectors to be mounted within 
0.4m of the ground, which is 34 inches below 1.25m, and ``it seems 
reasonable that the upper location be 34 inches above'' 1.25m, i.e., 
2.1m. It also observed that the only vertical surface of some trailers 
may be at a height even greater than 2.1m. This observation was 
reiterated in a petition for reconsideration of the 1.525m maximum 
adopted on October 6, 1993, and submitted by Terminal Service Company 
(``Terminal''). It asked for a mounting height maximum of 2.28m for 
cargo tanks, expressing its concern ``that enforcement personnel will 
not consider a 508mm (20 inches) to 762mm (30 inches) height above the 
1525mm (60 inches) requirement practicable.''
    At the time that NHTSA received TTMA's letter, it was evaluating 
petitions for reconsideration of the final rule mounting height of ``as 
close to 1.25m as practicable''. Ultimately, it granted those petitions 
and, on October 6, 1993, adopted a revised mounting height of ``as 
close as practicable to not less than 375mm and not more than 1525mm'' 
above the road surface. This amendment effectively granted TTMA's 
petition to allow a lower mounting height than the one originally 
adopted. It also responded in part to TTMA's request for a higher 
mounting height, by allowing a maximum height of ``as close as 
practicable to * * * not more than'' 1.525m, although not as high as 
the 2.1m requested. However, TTMA presented no rationale other than 
symmetry to justify an increase in mounting height from 1.52m to 2.1m. 
The agency finds this an inadequate basis upon which to grant TTMA's 
petition for rulemaking.
    Terminal's rationale is based upon a fear that the mounting height 
chosen by a manufacturer for application of conspicuity treatment on 
cargo tanks will be so much higher than 1525mm that the agency will not 
deem it ``practicable'' and that Federal Highway Administration 
inspectors will not understand the practicability exception to the 
height requirement. NHTSA understands this view and wishes to assure 
Terminal that it regards this concern as unfounded. As the agency has 
advised many times in the past in its interpretations of the 
practicability requirements of Standard No. 108, the determination of 
what is ``practicable'' is initially to be made by the manufacturer, 
whose certification of compliance covers its determinations of 
practicability. NHTSA will not question a manufacturer's determination 
unless it appears clearly erroneous. In this instance, NHTSA interprets 
the conspicuity mounting height specification as allowing mounting 
heights higher than 1525mm if the trailer manufacturer does not find it 
practicable to place the conspicuity treatment at or below 1525mm.
    Terminal's trailer case provides a good example. Since the 
conspicuity material cannot provide the required brightness when the 
trailer is at an angle to traffic unless it is mounted in a nearly 
vertical plane, practicability dictates that the material be moved to 
the height where the trailer provides a suitable, vertical mounting 
    Because the agency has determined that no regulatory action is 
required to give the relief which the petitioner seeks, the petition by 
Terminal Service Company for reconsideration of the maximum mounting 
height requirement is denied. 
B. Petition Relating to Adoption of Geometric Visibility 
    Paragraph S5. of Standard No. 108 specifies that, at the 
location chosen for conspicuity treatment, ``the strip shall not be 
obscured in whole or in part by other motor vehicle equipment or 
trailer cargo.'' TTMA asked that the words ``trailer cargo'' be deleted 
and that obscuration of the strip be determined ``when viewed within   
+/-30 degrees horizontally or perpendicular to the sheeting 15m (50 
feet) away and at a height of 1.25m.'' In justification of its 
petition, it argued that trailer manufacturers should not be 
responsible for the possible obscuring of sheeting by cargo, and that 
``[t]here is not a similar prohibition of obscuring lamps by cargo in 
FMVSS 108.'' TTMA supplemented its August 1993 letter on September 24 
with the example of a container chassis whose gooseneck connector to a 
tractor trailer is obscured when an intermodal container is secured to 
    Although paragraph S5.3.1.1 of Standard No. 108 requires that lamps 
and reflectors be mounted on a vehicle so that they are visible at the 
test points specified in the SAE Standards and Recommended Practices, 
this section does not apply to conspicuity sheeting because no SAE 
standards regarding conspicuity sheeting materials are incorporated in 
Standard No. 108. Furthermore, it would be undesirable to impose 
geometric visibility requirements on conspicuity sheeting or reflectors 
because the practicability constraints on long strips of conspicuity 
material and reflectors used in lieu thereof are different than those 
on lamps and reflectors. While it is possible to move lamps and 
reflectors to locations that achieve geometric visibility, the 
locations available for conspicuity materials on some trailers, such as 
the container chassis, may be too limited to permit optimization.
    With respect to obscuration of conspicuity materials, NHTSA 
considers that strips or reflectors are obscured by cargo or equipment 
only if they are not visible when viewed perpendicular to the 
conspicuity material.
    The potential for obscuration by cargo should not be difficult to 
foresee. NHTSA considers that trailer manufacturers are in a reasonable 
position to anticipate where cargo will be placed in or on their 
trailers because they have designed the trailers to accommodate 
specific cargo types and loading techniques. For example, with respect 
to the container chassis cited in TTMA's supplementary letter of 
September 24, the manufacturer of a container chassis knows that the 
gooseneck connector will be obscured when the load is in place, and may 
apply conspicuity treatment that allows for the load. Assuming an 
overall chassis length of 53 feet, the manufacturer is required to mark 
at least half of that (26.5 feet) with conspicuity marking. Assuming a 
gooseneck length of 9 feet, Standard No. 108 thus requires that the 
minimum of 26.5 feet of conspicuity material be applied in the 44 feet 
of trailer length that is behind the gooseneck. The manufacturer is not 
prohibited from affixing the material to the gooseneck as well if it 
chooses, but in such a location this material is considered surplus 
and, because it will be obscured when the load is in place, cannot be 
included in the manufacturer's 50 percent determination.

C. Denial of TTMA Petition

    The agency has completed its technical review of the TTMA petition 
for rulemaking under 49 CFR part 552, and has determined that there is 
not a reasonable possibility that the amendments requested in the 
petition will be issued at the conclusion of a rulemaking proceeding. 
Therefore, the petition by TTMA is denied in its entirety.

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1410a; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 
1.50 and 501.8.

    Issued on: April 6, 1994.
Barry Felrice,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 94-8625 Filed 4-11-94; 8:45 am]

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