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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Denial of Petition for Rulemaking

American Government Topics:  Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Denial of Petition for Rulemaking

L. Robert Shelton
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
February 6, 1998

[Federal Register: February 6, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 25)]
[Proposed Rules]               
[Page 6144-6145]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Denial of Petition for 

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

ACTION: Denial of petition for rulemaking.


[[Page 6145]]

SUMMARY: This document denies a petition for rulemaking submitted by 
Mr. Richard J. Shaw to specify the design and method of closure for gas 
caps on motor vehicles. The petition provided insufficient information 
to support petitioner's contention that fuel spillage and vapor release 
represent a safety problem that requires regulation. Available crash 
data do not demonstrate a safety problem with gas cap closure.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For non-legal issues: Dr. William J.J. 
Liu, Office of Crashworthiness Standards, National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, D.C. 
20590. Telephone: (202) 366-4923. Facsimile (202) 366-4329. For legal 
issues: Nicole Fradette, Office of Chief Counsel, National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, S.W., Washington, 
D.C. 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-2992. Facsimile (202) 366-3820, 
electronic mail ``nicole.fradette@nhtsa.dot.gov''.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: By petition dated May 14, 1997, Mr. Richard 
J. Shaw petitioned the agency to issue a rule applicable to gas caps. 
The petitioner stated that the rulemaking was needed to prevent deaths, 
injuries, and environmental damage caused by improperly secured gas 
caps. He stated that crash fires and environmental pollution occur when 
improperly secured gas caps leak gasoline and gasoline vapors. The 
petitioner requested that NHTSA ``standardize gas caps and eliminate 
the problem completely.'' To ensure that gas caps are secured properly, 
the petitioner suggested the use of a robot or an electronic gas cap 
wrench at filling stations.
    To promulgate or amend a vehicle safety requirement, NHTSA must 
decide, on the basis of data and analysis, that a safety problem exists 
and that the requirement would reduce the problem and thus meet the 
need for motor vehicle safety. In this instance, NHTSA has found no 
basis for concluding that there is a safety problem with gas caps. 
Although the petitioner cited some crash data on post-collision vehicle 
fires, he did not demonstrate a causal connection between the fires and 
an improperly sealed gas cap. The petitioner did not provide 
information showing that improper gas cap use or design contributes to 
motor vehicle fires, nor is NHTSA aware of any information from other 
sources demonstrating such a problem. In the research now underway 
relating to a possible upgrade of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 
No. 301, ``Fuel System Integrity'' (49 CFR 571.301), the data collected 
from vehicle crash fires do not show a connection between gas cap 
performance and vehicle fires.
    The agency notes that the specific solution suggested by the 
petitioner, requiring filling stations to install an electronic gas 
wrench, raises questions about the purview of NHTSA's statutory 
authority. NHTSA is authorized to regulate motor vehicles and items of 
motor vehicle equipment. In a September 16, 1994 letter to the Consumer 
Product Safety Commission, NHTSA determined that gasoline pump nozzle/
hose assemblies (referred to in the letter as ``gas nozzles'') are not 
``motor vehicle equipment'' within the meaning of NHTSA's implementing 
statute, in part because they are not purchased or otherwise acquired 
by ordinary users of motor vehicles. An electronic gas wrench installed 
at a filling station is similar to a gas nozzle with regard to the 
intended purchaser.
    The petitioner also raised the issue of environmental damage caused 
by gasoline emissions. This issue is not germane to rulemaking under 49 
U.S.C. Chapter 301, which is limited to matters of motor vehicle 
safety. Congress has delegated the authority to regulate emissions to 
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
    In accordance with 49 CFR part 552, this completes the agency's 
review of the petition. The agency has concluded that there is no 
reasonable possibility that the amendment requested by the petitioner 
would be issued at the conclusion of a rulemaking proceeding. After 
considering all relevant factors, the agency has decided to deny the 

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 30103, 30162; delegation of authority at 49 
CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

    Issued on February 2, 1998.
L. Robert Shelton,
Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.
[FR Doc. 98-2998 Filed 2-5-98; 8:45 am]

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