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

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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

Barry Felrice
Federal Register
April 12, 1994

[Federal Register: April 12, 1994]


49 CFR Part 571

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

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

ACTION: Denial of petition for rulemaking.


SUMMARY: This notice denies a petition for rulemaking by Metalcore, 
Ltd., to amend the trailer conspicuity requirements of Federal Motor 
Vehicle Safety Standard No. 108 as they apply to the rear of van 
trailers. The reason for the denial is the importance of maintaining a 
common image of rear conspicuity while ensuring the availability of 
appropriate cues to drivers following large trailers.

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

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Metalcore Ltd. is a Canadian company that 
manufactures aftermarket door seals for van trailers. It sells a model 
which includes \1/2\-inch wide conspicuity tape on the rigid channel 
which supports the seal. The installed seals create a conspicuity tape 
pattern equivalent to outlining each rear van door with \1/2\-inch wide 
conspicuity tape. In response to the final rule of December 10, 1992, 
adopting trailer conspicuity requirements (57 FR 58406), Metalcore 
submitted a ``petition for reconsideration'' on November 5, 1993, in 
which it asked for the adoption of an alternative rear conspicuity 
treatment in which outlining the doors of a van in \1/2\-inch wide 
white material would replace the 2-inch wide red/white stripe across 
the rear of the body and the 2-inch wide white upper corner markings. 
However, because the petition was not filed within 30 days of the final 
rule, it has been considered as a petition for rulemaking in accordance 
with NHTSA regulations (49 CFR 553.35).
    Metalcore serves the trailer repair industry, and its products are 
used mainly on older trailers which are not subject to Federal 
requirements for conspicuity systems, and, to a lesser extent, on 
trailers which were equipped upon manufacture with conspicuity tape. 
Metalcore anticipates that fleets wishing to add conspicuity material 
voluntarily to older trailers will prefer to do so in a way that they 
can claim meets the standards for new vehicles. The requested amendment 
would allow Metalcore to make the sales claim that the use of its door 
seals would permit trailer owners to retrofit a conforming conspicuity 
system using about 12 feet less tape than the minimum 63 feet necessary 
for compliance on a typical 45-foot van trailer. The conspicuity rule 
does not prohibit the use of Metalcore's product as an auxiliary 
reflector on any trailer, and the ultimate value to customers of the 
Metalcore door seal resides in its qualities as a door seal rather than 
in the reflective tape attached to it.
    NHTSA considered that two issues to be important in the 
consideration of this petition for an alternative conspicuity system. 
The first issue was whether it is desirable to have any alternatives to 
the required conspicuity configuration, and the second issue was the 
merit of the proposed alternative.

Desirability of Alternative Conspicuity Systems

    The notice proposing the conspicuity rule (56 FR 63474) presented 
alternative treatments but made clear the agency's desire to achieve a 
common conspicuity configuration. NHTSA said: ``While the agency is 
proposing two specific configurations of conspicuity treatment, it * * 
* anticipates that the final rule would specify only one pattern, and 
not allow alternative treatments.'' The NPRM specifically asked for 
comments ``on the desirability of standardizing to the maximum extent 
possible the treatment for all trailers,'' and it introduced for 
comment the possibility of exempting certain types of trailers if a 
standard treatment proved impractical for them.
    Most comments to the docket urged a conspicuity system with 
sufficient flexibility for universal application without the need for 
exceptions. The University of Michigan Transportation Research 
Institute (UMTRI) study (see 57 FR 58409 et seq.), completed during the 
comment period, concluded that a conspicuity system using the most 
universally applicable elements of alternative 2 of the proposed rule 
would meet the minimum needs for safety in terms of an unambiguous 
reflective image with adequate sight distance and closing speed cues. 
In the final rule preamble, NHTSA noted that one of the attributes of 
alternative 2 was that it ``promoted uniformity of appearance,'' and 
the agency adopted the modifications recommended by UMTRI to establish 
a universal treatment without the need for exceptions for difficult to 
treat trailers.
    Van trailers have more surface available for conspicuity treatment 
than other trailers, but NHTSA did not adopt requirements that appeared 
unsuitable for other types of trailers. Part of the value of the 
uniform conspicuity treatment is that it is expected to maximize the 
conspicuity of the least conspicuous trailers, such as platform 
trailers, by giving them a familiar night image. While the agency does 
not discourage the use of auxiliary material on trailers with large 
amounts of surface area, it believes that maximizing the number of 
common elements between trailer treatments aids in their recognition. 
NHTSA, therefore, is disinclined to allow alternative conspicuity 
treatments in general because the final rule was designed to make them 
unnecessary. Standard No. 108 specifies a minimum amount of reflective 
material to achieve the safety purpose, and at minimum cost.

Attributes of the Metalcore Alternative

    Metalcore has suggested the alternative of substituting \1/2\-inch 
wide white reflective tape stripes outlining the doors of a van trailer 
for the required 2-inch wide white upper corner stripes and 2-inch wide 
red/white stripe across the full width of the trailer near the bottom 
of the doors. It claims that the alternative projects approximately the 
same reflective area as the requirement of Standard No. 108 and that 
the total light return of the alternative is greater because only white 
material would be used. It further claims that its alternative of 
outlining in white has been shown to be superior to the requirements of 
Standard No. 108 by Carlton University's report (Tansley and Petrusic) 
to Transport Canada.
    Tansley and Petrusic discounted the value of the U.S. red/white 
pattern in connoting a hazard and suggested that detection distance 
should be the principal measure of safety in evaluating conspicuity 
schemes. According to the petitioner, Tansley and Petrusic predicted a 
detection distance of 819 m for the white outline treatment recommended 
by Carlton University as compared with a predicted detection distance 
of 450 m for Standard No. 108.
    In the notice responding to petitions for reconsideration on 
October 6, 1993 (58 FR 52021, at 52023), the agency discussed its 
disagreement with the decision sight distance criterion recommended by 
Carlton University and the reasons for NHTSA's use of the stopping 
sight distance criterion recommended by UMTRI. The agency believes that 
Standard No. 108 is more cost effective than the Carlton University 
recommendations while providing a detection distance adequate for 
safety and superior recognition and hazard awareness cues. Standard No. 
108 also addresses the practicability problems of trailers other than 
vans that were not considered in the Carlton University 
recommendations. NHTSA also notes that in a demonstration test reported 
by Transport Canada in its Technical Memorandum TME 9301, the detection 
distances found for the Carlton and U.S. rear van treatments were 993 m 
and 902 m, respectively, with even less difference in recognition 
    It is true that compliance with Standard No. 108 and the Metalcore 
alternative can be achieved with equivalent amounts of reflective 
material and that an all white treatment returns more light than a red/
white treatment of equal area (although the petitioner has 
underestimated the relative brightness of the red material). However, 
the petitioner's claims of greater sight distance based on Tansley and 
Petrusic are in error.
    The white outlining scheme of Tansley and Petrusic uses 2-inch wide 
reflective material as does Standard No. 108. The stripes are perceived 
at a distance as a line of point sources of light, and the sight 
distance of a point source depends on its total light return rather 
than its luminance per unit area. The sight distance of a \1/2\-inch 
wide stripe will be less than that of a 2-inch stripe of the same 
material because it will be perceived as a line of point sources each 
having only one fourth the light return. Therefore, the sight distance 
of the Metalcore alternative will be inferior to the Tansley and 
Petrusic scheme cited by the petitioner and to at least the white 
components of Standard No. 108.
    The UMTRI report discusses the data of previous researchers 
concerning the width of conspicuity stripes, and remarked that ``the 
luminance of a one-inch treatment must be about double that of a two-
inch treatment to achieve equal conspicuity.'' The point source model 
for visibility distance discussed in the previous paragraph is 
consistent with data for conspicuity stripes narrower than 4 inches.


    The agency has conducted a technical review of the petition and 
determined that there is not a reasonable possibility that the 
amendment requested in the petition will be issued at the end of a 
rulemaking proceeding. Therefore, the petition is denied.

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1392, 1401, 1403, 1407; delegations of 
authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

    Issued on: April 6, 1994.
Barry Felrice,
Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.
[FR Doc. 94-8626 Filed 4-11-94; 8:45 am]

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