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Van Hool N.V., Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Buses Topics:  Jeep Wrangler

Van Hool N.V., Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Gregory K. Rea
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
13 May 2016


[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 93 (Friday, May 13, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 29941-29942]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-11271]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2015-0122; Notice 2]


Van Hool N.V., Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential 
Noncompliance

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

ACTION: Denial of Petition.

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SUMMARY: Van Hool N.V. (Van Hool), has determined that certain model 
year (MY) 2015-2016 Van Hool Double Deck buses do not fully comply with 
paragraph S5.3.4 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 
121, Air Brake Systems. Van Hool filed a report dated November 6, 2015, 
pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance Responsibility 
and Reports. Van Hool then petitioned NHTSA under 49 CFR part 556 
requesting a decision that the subject noncompliance is inconsequential 
to motor vehicle safety.

ADDRESSES: For further information on this decision contact James 
Jones, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, the National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366-5294, 
facsimile (202) 366-5930.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Overview

    Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) (see implementing rule 
at 49 CFR part 556), Van Hool submitted a petition for an exemption 
from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 
on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential to motor 
vehicle safety.
    Notice of receipt of Van Hool's petition was published, with a 30-
day public comment period, on January 22, 2016 in the Federal Register 
(81 FR 3861). No comments were received. To view the petition and all 
supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management Systems 
(FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online 
search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2015-0122.''

II. Vehicles Involved

    Affected are approximately 48 MY 2015-2016 Van Hool Double Deck 
buses that were manufactured between December 13, 2014 and October 22, 
2015.

III. Noncompliance

    Van Hool explains that the noncompliance is that brake release 
times slightly exceed the requirements as specified in paragraph S5.3.4 
of FMVSS No. 121.

IV. Rule Text

    Paragraph S5.3.4 of FMVSS No. 121 requires in pertinent part:

    S5.3.4 Brake Release Time. Each service brake system shall meet 
the requirements of S5.3.1 (a) and (b).
    S5.3.4.1(a) With an initial service brake chamber air pressure 
of 95 psi, the air pressure in each brake chamber shall, when 
measured from the first movement of the service brake control, fall 
to 5 psi in not more than 0.55 second in the case of trucks and 
buses; 1.00 second in the case of trailers, other than trailer 
converter dollies, designed to tow another vehicle equipped with air 
brakes; 1.10 seconds in the case of trailer converter dollies; and 
1.20 seconds in the case of trailers other than trailers designed to 
tow another vehicle equipped with air brakes. A vehicle designated 
to tow another vehicle equipped with air brakes shall meet the above 
release time requirement with a 50-cubic-inch test reservoir 
connected to the control line output coupling . . . .

V. Summary of Van Hool's Petition

    Van Hool described the subject noncompliance and stated its belief 
that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety based 
on the following reasoning:
    (1) Based on the results of testing that Van Hool conducted on some 
of the affected buses, it determined that the brake release times, on 
average, exceeded the FMVSS No. 121 requirement by only 0.03 of a 
second on the front axle, by 0.05 of as second on the tag axle, and by 
0.10 of a second on the drive axle.
    (2) Van Hool determined that this noncompliance may be due to the 
change of fitting for this type of vehicle. These new fittings for the 
Double Deck buses were introduced in production in September 2014. The 
classic brass couplings were replaced with push-in tube connections 
made of composite material to remedy certain complaints of air loss. 
The effect of minimal loss of internal air flow was misjudged, which 
caused the brake release time to exceed the requirements.
    However, Van Hool believes that there is no safety issue, nor 
unnecessary brake drag during acceleration after brake release due to 
the reaction time of the driver (moving foot from brake pedal to 
throttle pedal) and the reaction time of the complete driveline being 
longer than the brake release time.
    (3) Van Hool stated its belief that because the brake actuation 
time on the

[[Page 29942]]

subject buses fulfilled the requirements as specified in paragraph 
S5.3.3 of FMVSS No. 121, that the noncompliance has no effect on the 
brake performance. Van Hool found that its testing showed a margin on 
the required brake actuation time of 11% for the front axle, 20% for 
the drive axle and 17% for the tag axle. For this reason Van Hool is 
convinced that the noncompliance will not show significant differences 
in dynamic brake test and will have no influence on the motor vehicle 
safety. Thus, Van Hool did not repeat the dynamic brake test. Also, the 
dynamic brake test was not repeated on any of the subject vehicles 
because Van Hool's dynamic brake test showed a minimum 25% margin for 
the brake stopping distance requirement.
    (4) Van Hool made reference to previous inconsequential 
noncompliance petitions that it believes are similar to its petition 
and that were granted by NHTSA.
    Van Hool additionally informed NHTSA that the noncompliance has 
been corrected on vehicles in subsequent production and that all future 
vehicles will be in full compliance with FMVSS No. 121.
    In summation, Van Hool believes that the described noncompliances 
are inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that its petition, to 
exempt Van Hool from providing recall notification of noncompliances as 
required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the recall noncompliance as 
required by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.

NHTSA'S Decision

    Background: FMVSS No. 121 establishes performance and equipment 
requirements for motor vehicles equipped with air brake systems. 
Paragraph S5.3.4.1(a) of FMVSS No. 121, requires in pertinent part 
that; with an initial service brake chamber air pressure of 95 psi, the 
air pressure in each brake chamber shall, when measured from the first 
movement of the service brake control, fall to 5 psi in not more than 
0.55 second in the case of trucks and buses. To minimize brake drag 
after brake release, this requirement limits the time for pressurized 
air to exhaust from the service brake chamber after the brake pedal has 
been released.
    Poor pneumatic timing could affect brake performance. For example, 
if a vehicle's wheels lock as the driver is attempting to stop, the 
vehicle will skid. If the driver is to regain control of the vehicle, 
immediate release of the brakes is necessary.\1\ Additionally, poor 
pneumatic timing could cause the brakes to drag and cause premature 
wear of the brake linings. Under certain conditions, excessive brake 
drag could contribute to heat build-up within the foundation brake 
assembly resulting in degradation of braking power, particularly in 
cases in which the driver repeatedly applies the vehicle's brakes to 
reduce speed while traveling down an extended slope.
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    \1\ 56 FR 13785
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    Van Hool produced buses that, on average, exceeded the FMVSS No. 
121 requirement by 0.03s on the front axle, by 0.05s on the tag axle, 
and by 0.10s on the drive axle.
    NHTSA's Analysis: Upon receipt and review of the petition, NHTSA 
sent a letter to Van Hool requesting test data, engineering analyses, 
simulations, etc. to support their claim that slower pneumatic release 
times do not adversely affect overall brake performance of subject 
noncompliant vehicles as a result of unnecessary brake drag after brake 
release [see Docket NHTSA-2015-0122].
    In response, Van Hool provided data to demonstrate the performance 
of compliant vehicles when tested to the requirements of FMVSS No. 121 
but failed to include any data or analyses to demonstrate the 
performance of non-compliant vehicles to those requirements.
    Van Hool claimed that the noncompliance will not show significant 
differences in dynamic brake test [performance] and that dynamic 
testing on affected buses was not repeated for the following reasons:
    (1) The brake actuation time on affected buses fulfilled the brake 
actuation timing requirements as specified in paragraph S5.3.3 of FMVSS 
No. 121 by a margin of 11% for the front axle, 20% for the drive axle 
and 17% for the tag axle;
    (2) Dynamic brake tests on compliant buses showed a minimum 25% 
margin for the brake stopping distance requirement(s).
    Van Hool also claimed that ``testing according to FMVSS No. 121 
wouldn't show a difference in heat build-up between a compliant and 
noncompliant bus.''
    Lastly, Van Hool stated that brake release timing has been the 
subject of previous petitions that it believes are similar to its 
petition and were granted by NHTSA. Thus, this petition should be 
granted.
    NHTSA has concluded that Van Hool's claims are unsupported by any 
data or engineering analyses persuasive to grant the petition.
    Certification test data Van Hool submitted in response to the 
letter indicated that brake release times for compliant buses were at 
the maximum limit of the safety standard's requirement of 0.55s in 3 of 
5 tests of the front axles (i.e., Axle 1) and 2 of 5 tests of the drive 
axles (i.e., Axle 2) and tag axles (i.e., Axle 3), respectively.\2\ The 
low margin of safety reflected in these test results, which were 
conducted as early as 2008, should have indicated to Van Hool that a 
corrective action to improve the performance of the braking system to 
achieve a more desirable margin of safety may have been warranted.
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    \2\ In response to question (2) of NHTSA's letter, Van Hool 
submitted brake release timing test results from in-house testing 
conducted on five (5) compliant, Model TD925 double decker buses 
manufactured for sale in the United States from 2008 through 2012. 
Full certification test reports and a table of compiled brake timing 
test results were included in the submission [see page 4, Docket No. 
NHTSA-2015-0122].
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    In previous petitions concerning brake release timing, NHTSA 
emphasized that only the failure of the subject vehicles was at issue. 
NHTSA concluded that, ``the test data results and analyses were 
sufficient to grant the petition for the specific conditions that cause 
the subject vehicles to be out of compliance with the standard's 
pneumatic release time requirement.''[emphasis added] (See 77 FR 
20482). The same is true for this petition, NHTSA has considered the 
failure of the subject vehicles and whether the data and engineering 
analyses provided by Van Hool are sufficient to support its contention 
that the subject noncompliance in the subject vehicles is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. In this case, Van Hool has 
failed to adequately support its contention.
    NHTSA's Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA finds 
that Van Hool has not met its burden of persuasion that the subject 
FMVSS No. 121 noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, NHTSA hereby denies Van Hool's petition and Van Hool is 
consequently obligated to provide notification of, and a free remedy 
for, that noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 30120.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 
49 CFR 1.95 and 501.8.

Gregory K. Rea,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2016-11271 Filed 5-12-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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