Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Protection in Interior Impact, 20932-20940 [E6-6024]

Download as PDF 20932 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules Dated: March 16, 2006. Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator, EPA—New England. [FR Doc. 06–3854 Filed 4–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 6560–50–P DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 49 CFR Part 571 [Docket No. NHTSA 2006–24497] RIN 2127–AI93 Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Protection in Interior Impact National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Department of Transportation (DOT). ACTION: Response to petitions for rulemaking; notice of proposed rulemaking. cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS AGENCY: SUMMARY: Our safety standard on occupant protection in interior impact requires, in part, that light vehicles provide head protection when an occupant’s head strikes upper interior components, such as pillars, side rails, headers, and the roof during a crash. For altered vehicles and vehicles built in two or more stages, these requirements become effective September 1, 2006. The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association and the National Truck Equipment Association petitioned the agency to permanently exclude certain types of altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages from these requirements. This document responds to these petitions for rulemaking and proposes certain amendments to the standard. Based on a careful consideration of both the safety benefits of the upper interior protection requirements, and practicability concerns relating to vehicles built in two or more stages and certain altered vehicles, we are proposing to limit these requirements to only the front seating positions of those vehicles. Further, we tentatively conclude that it is appropriate to exclude a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles delivered to the final stage manufacturer without an occupant compartment, because of impracticability concerns. We are also proposing to delay the effective date of the head impact protection requirements as they apply to final stage manufacturers and alterers until September 1, 2008. VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 You should submit your comments early enough to ensure that Docket Management System receives them not later than June 23, 2006. ADDRESSES: You may submit comments [identified by DOT Docket Number at the beginning of this document] by any of the following methods: • Web site: http://dms.dot.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site. • Fax: 1–202–493–2251. • Mail: Docket Management System; U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 7th Street, SW., Room PL–401, Washington, DC 20590. • Hand Delivery: Room PL–401 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays. • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting comments. Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and docket number or Regulatory Identification Number (RIN) for this rulemaking. For detailed instructions on submitting comments and additional information on the rulemaking process, see the Public Participation heading of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this document. Note that all comments received will be posted without change to http://dms.dot.gov, including any personal information provided. Please see the Privacy Act heading under Regulatory Notices. Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or comments received, go to http:// dms.dot.gov at any time or to Room PL– 01 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays. FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The following persons at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590: For technical and policy issues: Lori Summers, Office of Crashworthiness Standards, telephone: (202) 366–4917, facsimile: (202) 366–4329, E-mail: Lori.Summers@dot.gov. For legal issues: George Feygin, Office of the Chief Counsel, telephone: (202) 366–2992, facsimile: (202) 366–3820, Email George.Feygin@dot.gov. SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: DATES: Table of Contents I. Background PO 00000 Frm 00031 Fmt 4702 A. 1995 Final Rule Upgrading FMVSS No. 201 B. Subsequent Amendments to FMVSS No. 201 II. Petitions for Rulemaking A. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Petition for Rulemaking B. National Truck Equipment Association Petition for Rulemaking III. The Agency’s New Approach to Vehicles Built in Two or More Stages and Altered Vehicles A. ‘‘Pass-Through’’ Certification B. The Agency’s Authority To Exclude Multi-Stage Vehicles From FMVSSs C. New Temporary Exemption Procedures Available to Final Stage Manufacturers and Alterers IV. Response to the RVIA and NTEA Petitions for Rulemaking A. Proposal To Limit the Occupant Compartment Area Subject to the FMH Impact Requirements in Ambulances, Motor Homes, and Other Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, and Altered Vehicles B. Proposal To Exclude Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, Other Than Motor Homes, Chassis Cabs, Cutaway Vans, and Other Incomplete Vehicles With a Furnished Front Compartment, From FMH Impact Requirements C. Question Regarding Multistage Vehicles With Raised Roofs D. Additional Relief Is Not Warranted V. Effective Date VI. Submission of Comments VII. Regulatory Analyses and Notices VIII. Proposed Regulatory Text I. Background A. 1995 Final Rule Upgrading FMVSS No. 201 On August 18, 1995, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule (August 1995 final rule) amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 201, ‘‘Occupant Protection in Interior Impact,’’ to provide enhanced head impact protection.1 The August 1995 final rule required passenger cars, and trucks, buses and multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) or less, to provide protection when an occupant’s head strikes upper interior components, including pillars, side rails, headers, and the roof, during a crash. The new head protection requirements were necessary because even in vehicles equipped with air bags, head impacts with upper interior components resulted in a significant number of occupant injuries and fatalities. The August 1995 final rule significantly expanded the scope of FMVSS No. 201. Previously, the 1 See 60 FR 43031, Aug. 18, 1995; Docket No. NHTSA–1996–1762–1. Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules standard applied to the instrument panel, seat backs, interior compartment doors, arm rests and sun visors, but not to interior components such as pillars and headers. The final rule set minimum performance requirements for these upper interior components by establishing target areas that must be padded or otherwise have energy absorbing properties to minimize head injury in the event of a crash. The final rule added procedures for a new invehicle component test in which a freemotion head form (FMH) is fired at certain target locations on the upper interior of a vehicle at an impact speed of 24 km/h (15 mph). Targets that are located on or within 50 mm (2 inches) of dynamically deployable upper interior head protection systems (air bags systems) can, at the option of the manufacturer, be impacted at the reduced speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). Data collected from an FMH impact are translated into a Head Injury Criterion (HIC(d)) score. The resultant HIC(d) must not exceed 1000. The FMH impact requirements excluded targets located on convertible roof frames or roof linkage mechanisms, targets located at least 24 inches rearward of the rearmost designated seating position, and targets located at least 24 inches rearward of the driver’s seating position in an ambulance or a motor home. Walk-in van-type vehicles were also excluded from the new requirements because upper interior components on those vehicles are located much higher compared to other vehicles, and head impacts against these components are unlikely for belted occupants.2 The 1995 final rule provided manufacturers with three alternate phase-in schedules for complying with the FMH impact requirements. At this time, all vehicles except altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two-ormore stages are required to comply with the FMH impact requirements.3 As discussed below, the effective date for altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages to comply with these requirements is presently September 1, 2006.4 cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS B. Subsequent Amendments to FMVSS No. 201 On April 8, 1997, the agency responded to petitions for reconsideration of the 1995 final rule.5 2 The current exclusions are specified in S6.3 of 49 CFR 571.201. 3 We note that under S6.3(d), walk-in van-type vehicles are permanently excluded from the FMH impact requirements. 4 See S6.1.4 of 49 CFR 571.201. 5 See 62 FR 16718, April 8, 1997. VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 Among other things, the agency delayed the effective date of the FMH impact requirements for vehicles manufactured in two or more stages until September 1, 2002. The agency also excluded buses with a GVWR of more than 3,856 kg (8,500 pounds) from the FMH impact requirements because we were concerned that these requirements were prohibitively costly for that class of vehicles.6 Finally, the agency denied a petition to exclude police vehicles from the FMH impact requirements because the petitioner did not present evidence to indicate that police equipment required different treatment from interior attachments present in other vehicles subjected to testing. In 2002, in response to petitions (described in detail in the next section) to permanently exclude altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages from the FMH impact requirements, the agency issued an interim final rule, delaying the effective date of these requirements as they apply to altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages until September 1, 2003.7 On August 28, 2003, the agency further delayed the effective date of the FMH impact requirements for altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages until September 1, 2006.8 The issue of permanent exclusion of these types of vehicles is being addressed in the subsequent sections of this notice.9 II. Petitions for Rulemaking This document addresses petitions for rulemaking submitted by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA). The member companies of RVIA and NTEA are generally considered final-stage manufacturers and alterers. That is, they purchase incomplete vehicles from major manufacturers to serve as the basis for specialty vehicles (manufactured in two or more stages) for certain uses and markets, or alter completed vehicles prior to first retail sale. As such, the petitioners’ members face a variety of challenges in certifying that their vehicles meet applicable safety standards. We note that with respect to vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, some multi-stage vehicles are built from chassis-cabs with a completed occupant compartment. Others are built from less complete id at 16720. 67 FR 41348, June 18, 2002. 8 See 68 FR 51706, August 28, 2003. 9 We note that there have been other, more recent amendments to the requirements of FMVSS No. 201. However, their content had no relevance to this NPRM. 20933 vehicles, often necessitating the addition by the final-stage manufacturer of its own occupant compartment. The final stage manufacturer is responsible for certification of the completed vehicle, although, as discussed below, it can often ‘‘pass-through’’ by incomplete vehicle manufacturer. A. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Petition for Rulemaking On October 4, 2001, the RVIA submitted a petition for rulemaking requesting that ‘‘van conversions, altered vehicles, and motor homes’’ with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less be excluded from the requirements of the August 1995 final rule.10 The RVIA is a national trade association representing final stage manufacturers and alterers. These entities alter vans, pickup trucks, and sport utility vehicles prior to first retail sale (RVIA refers to these vehicles collectively as conversion vehicles or ‘‘CVs’’), and also manufacture motor homes. The RVIA petition requested that CVs and motor homes be excluded from the FMH impact requirements for the following reasons: 1. RVIA argues that in the statutory enactment directing NHTSA to improve head impact protection, Congress specifically limited its mandate to passenger cars. RVIA stated that a proposed Senate amendment to include multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) and light duty trucks (LDTs) was expressly rejected.11 Because the agency chose to proceed beyond the congressional mandate, RVIA argues that NHTSA has the discretion to exclude vehicles, other than passenger cars, from the FMH impact requirements. 2. With the exception of a single entity, all RVIA members fall under the ‘‘small business’’ definition for the purposes of Small Business Administration regulations.12 RVIA states that its members have been operating in a declining market where production of CVs and motor homes has been declining sharply. For example, in 1999, RVIA members produced 104,100 CVs and 4,634 motor homes. By contrast, 2001 shipments were projected at 38,000 CVs and 3,629 motor homes. In light of their member’s ‘‘small business’’ status and declining sales, RVIA argues that the member companies do not have the financial 6 See 7 See PO 00000 Frm 00032 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 10 To examine the petition, please go to http:// dms.dot.gov/ and enter Docket No. NHTSA–2000– 7145–6. 11 See H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 102–404, at 395–396 (1991). 12 See 13 CFR 121.201. E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS 20934 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules resources and technical expertise to comply with FMH impact requirements. 3. RVIA estimates the cost of compliance (including development and tooling) to average $2,401 to $4,850 per each CV and $4,748 to $5,747 per each motor home, respectively.13 RVIA estimates that the costs associated with certification testing to be as high as $46,000 for each vehicle configuration. RVIA argues that most CVs and motor homes feature unique interior designs. Specifically, these vehicles include overhead cabinets, side valances, raised roof structures, and other unusual interior components. RVIA members offer an average of 18 different CV configurations each, all of which would require separate certification testing. Some offer as many as 38 different CV variations. Motor home manufacturers offer as many as 14 motor home variations. However, at least one motor home manufacturer offers at least 73 different ‘‘floor plans.’’ RVIA states that this product variation necessitates conducting FMH impact testing on each vehicle configuration and may even require multiple identical vehicles to test each configuration. Because of the differences in the customized interiors, RVIA argues that the manufacturers have been unable to arrive at practicable and cost-effective ‘‘countermeasures;’’ i.e., additional padding designed to bring these vehicles into compliance with FMH impact requirements. 4. RVIA states that cooperative testing, suggested by NHTSA as a way to lessen compliance costs associated with FMH requirements, is not practicable because each RVIA member manufactures unique vehicles, each substantially different from its competitors. Because these vehicles are different, cooperative testing is impossible unless interiors for all vehicles manufactured by RVIA members are made uniform. Accordingly, RVIA argues that cooperative testing would eliminate interior customization, which would in turn result in a loss of market for CVs and motor homes. 5. RVIA argues that the safety benefits of FMH impact requirements as applied to CVs and motor homes are marginal. RVIA conducted a survey of CV and motor home manufacturers which showed no crashes in which an occupant injury or death had occurred due to head impacts with upper interior components covered by FMH impact requirements. 13 RVIA’s detailed certification testing and tooling cost estimates are on page 7 and in Exhibit D of the petition (Docket No. NHTSA–2002–7145–6). VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 RVIA cites Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data in arguing that vanbased motor homes are safe. Specifically, between 1996 and 1999, there was an average of 14 fatalities per year in all van-based motor homes regardless of the GVWR, which translates to 0.0039 fatalities per 1,000,000 annual vehicle miles (compared to 0.0143 fatalities per 1,000,000 miles for passenger cars). Based on these data, RVIA estimates that the safety benefit reduction from excluding small, van-based motor homes from the FMH impact requirements would be extremely low. Since FARS does not track crash data for all CVs, RVIA was not able to make a similar estimate for CVs. However, RVIA argues that CVs are safer than an average passenger car, and that the safety benefit reduction in the case of CVs would also be quite low.14 6. RVIA members produce vehicles to the consumer’s specifications and many special components and designs are installed in response to consumer requests. RVIA argues that in granting a previous (unrelated) temporary exemption from the requirements of FMVSS No. 201, the agency acknowledged public benefit in affording consumers a wide choice of motor vehicles.15 Petitioners asked that the agency adhere to this policy by allowing RVIA members to continue manufacturing CVs and motor homes built to customer specifications. seating position where the vehicle is equipped with a full or partial bulkhead or other similar device for the purpose of protecting or isolating the driver and passenger compartment from the cargo carrying, load bearing, or work performing area of the vehicle. NTEA represents 1,500 distributors, final stage and intermediate manufacturers, and alterers of workrelated trucks, truck bodies and equipment. More specifically, NTEA member companies produce ambulances, fire fighting, rescue, emergency or law enforcement vehicles, utility company vehicles, aerial bucket trucks, delivery trucks and a variety of other specialized vehicles for commercial or vocational use. These entities generally use incomplete vehicles provided by major manufacturers and assemble a completed vehicle for a specified purpose using the chassis provided by another company. As discussed above, altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages must comply with FMH impact requirements beginning September 1, 2006. In 2001, NTEA estimated that 377,000 vehicles produced by its members annually would have to meet the FMH impact requirements. NTEA asked for an exclusion of such vehicles because it believes that NTEA member manufacturers will not be able to demonstrate that these vehicles comply with FMH impact requirements B. National Truck Equipment without conducting individual full-scale Association Petition for Rulemaking dynamic testing on each vehicle model, On November 27, 2001, NTEA which NTEA argues is not economically submitted a petition for rulemaking or technologically possible. Other requesting that certain vehicles options for demonstrating compliance, manufactured in two or more stages be such as pass through certifications, excluded from FMH impact engineering analysis, and computer requirements arguing that the modeling, are, according to NTEA, not requirements are impracticable as they available or economically feasible. apply to these vehicles.16 These vehicles First, NTEA believes that FMH testing included ambulances, fire fighting, rescue, emergency, and law enforcement for the subject vehicles is not economically feasible because of the vehicles. Additionally, the NTEA number of vehicle configurations requested exemption from FMH impact requirements for any target in a truck or produced by the multi-stage truck and multipurpose passenger vehicle located specialty vehicle industry. NTEA estimates that in aggregate, compliance rearward of a vertical transverse plane testing would cost its members through the foremost design H-point of $160,000,000. Specifically, NTEA states the rear most forward facing designated that there are over 1,200 identifiable vehicle configurations produced by its 14 Petitioners support this assertion by a letter from RV Alliance America. The letter is found in members. For each configuration, the Exhibit E (Docket No. NHTSA–2002–7145–6). cost of actual testing is approximately 15 See 64 FR 61379, November 10, 1999. $14,000 to $17,000 (NTEA states that 16 See NHTSA–2001–8876–10 at http:// this cost estimate does not account for dms.dot.gov/. NTEA also filed subsequent petitions development costs, costs for re-testing to delay the effective date of the August 1995 final rule as it applied to vehicles manufactured in two after failures, transportation of the or more stages. These later petitions relied on the vehicle to the test facility, or same arguments presented to the agency in the countermeasures in production vehicles November 27, 2001 document (see NHTSA–2002– that would be necessary to produce a 12480–2, NHTSA–2002–12480–3). PO 00000 Frm 00033 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules compliant vehicle).17 Besides costs, NTEA argues that it is not feasible to test each vehicle configuration produced by its member manufacturers because they are aware of only two testing facilities that provide dynamic testing, and each is only capable of testing 12 vehicles per month. Second, NTEA stated that alternative options to demonstrate compliance such as pass-through certifications,18 test data from component vendors, engineering analysis, computer modeling, and consortium dynamic testing, are not available. Specifically, NTEA argued that passthrough is not an available option because the member manufacturers often complete the vehicle ‘‘outside the parameters’’ provided by the chassis manufacturer. For example, the installation of bulkheads or partitions usually invalidates the chassis manufacturer’s compliance statement. In many work vans, emergency vehicles, or police vehicles, bulkheads or dividers are needed to ensure that objects or people that must remain in the rear of the vehicle actually do so. Installation of these bulkheads, according to NTEA, is likely to require relocation of target areas originally certified by the incomplete vehicle manufacturer, adding to the compliance burden of the NTEA member and frustrating the ability to take advantage of ‘‘pass through’’ certification. Furthermore, NTEA asserts that the chassis manufacturer’s completion guidelines are too restrictive to allow for compliance. Additionally, NTEA argued that other compliance options are also unavailable to multi-stage manufacturers. NTEA stated that the chassis manufacturers do not provide sufficient compliance information to the multi-stage manufacturers and that the test data is not enough to certify compliance under FMVSS No. 201 because validation requires in-system testing. NTEA also argued that engineering analysis and computer modeling are not possible because they require previous dynamic test data that do not exist. Finally, NTEA stated that consortium testing is not an option since the compliance tests developed by NHTSA are so specific that minor differences produce significantly different test results. 17 See Appendix A of the NTEA petition. a ‘‘pass through’’ of chassis manufacturer compliance, multi-stage manufacturers certify compliance by ‘‘passing through’’ the chassis manufacturer’s certification. 18 In VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 III. The Agency’s New Approach to Vehicles Built in Two or More Stages and Altered Vehicles On February 14, 2005, the agency issued a final rule (February 2005 final rule) which enables more final stage manufacturers to take advantage of ‘‘pass-through’’ certification by requiring incomplete vehicle manufacturers to assume certification responsibility for the vehicle as further manufactured or completed by a finalstage manufacturer, to the extent that the vehicle is completed in accordance with the Incomplete Vehicle Document (IVD) described below.19 Previously, this requirement only applied to chassis-cab manufacturers. The February 2005 final rule also created a new process under which manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages and alterers could obtain temporary exemptions from certain dynamic performance requirements. Finally, as a part of that rulemaking, we refined our analysis of the agency’s authority to establish different requirements for vehicles built in two or more stages. The February 2005 final rule becomes effective September 1, 2006. The agency is in the process of considering a petition for reconsideration of the February 2005 final rule submitted by NTEA.20 We expect to issue our response shortly. A. ‘‘Pass-Through’’ Certification Manufacturers of chassis-cabs are currently required to place on the incomplete vehicle a certification label stating under what conditions the chassis-cab has been certified. This allows what is commonly referred to as ‘‘pass-through’’ certification. As long as a subsequent manufacturer meets the conditions of the chassis-cab certification, that manufacturer may rely on this certification and pass it through when certifying the completed vehicle. However, the current certification regulations do not impose corresponding certification responsibilities on manufacturers of incomplete vehicles other than chassiscabs (e.g., incomplete vans, cut-away chassis, stripped chassis and chassiscowls). The February 2005 final rule extended these certification responsibilities to all types of incomplete vehicles. More specifically, beginning September 1, 2006, all incomplete vehicle 19 See 70 FR 7414, Docket No. 1999–5673–54. Docket No. NHTSA–1999–5673–55. See also comment concerning the NTEA petition for reconsideration submitted by General Motors (Docket No. NHTSA–1999–5673–56). 20 See PO 00000 Frm 00034 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 20935 manufacturers and intermediate manufacturers will have certification responsibilities for the vehicles as further manufactured or completed by final-stage manufacturers, to the extent that the vehicle is completed in accordance with the conditions specified in the IVD.21 B. The Agency’s Authority to Exclude Multi-Stage Vehicles From FMVSSs In the February 2005 final rule, the agency reconsidered a previous position and concluded that it has authority to exclude multi-stage vehicles as a group from FMVSSs that are impracticable as they applied to these vehicles, or to subject these vehicles to different requirements. NHTSA concluded that it is appropriate to consider multi-stage vehicles as a vehicle type subject to consideration in the establishment of a regulation. For a detailed discussion of this issue, see 70 FR 7014 at 7421. C. New Temporary Exemption Procedures Available to Final Stage Manufacturers and Alterers The February 2005 final rule established new procedures available to manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages and alterers for obtaining temporary exemptions from FMVSSs for which the agency specifies certain dynamic test procedures to determine compliance. The new procedures streamline the temporary exemption process by allowing an association or another party representing the interests of multiple manufacturers to bundle exemption petitions for a specific 21 The IVD details, with varying degrees of specificity, the types of future manufacturing contemplated by the incomplete vehicle manufacturer and must provide, for each applicable safety standard, one of three statements that a subsequent manufacturer can rely on when certifying compliance of the vehicle, as finally manufactured, to some or all of all applicable FMVSSs. First, the IVD may state, with respect to a particular safety standard, that the vehicle, when completed, will conform to the standard if no alterations are made in identified components of the incomplete vehicle (this representation is most often made with respect to chassis-cabs, since a significant portion of the occupant compartment is already complete). Second, the IVD may provide a statement for a particular standard or set of standards of specific conditions of final manufacture under which the completed vehicle will conform to the standard (this statement is applicable in those instances in which the incomplete vehicle manufacturer has provided all or a portion of the equipment needed to comply with the standard, but subsequent manufacturing might be expected to change the vehicle such that it may not comply with the standard once finally manufactured). Third, the IVD may identify those standards for which no representation of conformity is made (for example, a manufacturer of a stripped chassis may be unable to make any representations about conformity to any crashworthiness standards if the incomplete vehicle does not contain an occupant compartment). E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 20936 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules vehicle design, thus permitting a single explanation of the potential safety impact and good faith attempts to comply with the standards. The new exemption procedures specify that each manufacturer seeking an exemption is required to demonstrate financial hardship and good faith efforts to comply with applicable requirements. Exemptions based on financial hardship are available to companies manufacturing less than 10,000 vehicles per year, and any one exemption cannot apply to more than 2,500 vehicles per year. We note that, given the regulatory text specifying the new temporary exemption procedure, there is an issue whether that procedure is available for the head impact protection requirements at issue in the NTEA and RVIA petitions. That regulatory text reads as follows: cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS * * *An alterer, intermediate or final-stage manufacturer, or industry trade association representing a group of alterers, intermediate and/or final-stage manufacturers may seek * * * a temporary exemption or a renewal of a temporary exemption from any performance requirement for which a Federal motor vehicle safety standard specifies the use of a dynamic crash test procedure to determine compliance. [Emphasis added] The procedure for the head impact protection requirements does not incorporate a full scale crash test except as an option for vehicles equipped with a dynamically deployable upper interior head protection system, which we do not believe is relevant to vehicles that are subject of the RVIA and NTEA FMVSS No. 201 petitions. Nevertheless, the upper interior requirements have a number of similarities to crash tests. For purposes of this rulemaking, we are proposing to extend the scope of the new temporary exemption procedures such that multistage manufacturers would be able to petition NHTSA for an exemption from FMH impact requirements. First, we observe that small volume multistage manufacturers are currently able to petition the agency for temporary exemptions from all FMVSSs, including FMH impact requirements, under the existing temporary exemption procedures currently in effect. Therefore, our proposal to expand the scope of the new temporary exemption procedures to include consideration of petitions related to FMH impact testing relates to the availability of the more streamlined procedures rather than to the possibility of a manufacturer obtaining an exemption, in appropriate circumstances, at all. Second, we believe that, in limited circumstances, the difficulty or VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 impracticability of testing a multitude of unique vehicle configurations, or otherwise obtaining an appropriate basis for certification, with the associated financial hardships, may extend to FMH impact requirements. Specifically, there is a considerable cost associated with FMH impact tests and vehicles are usually damaged during testing. Finally, we expect the number of instances in which an exemption will be needed to be very small because in order to petition for an exemption, the petitioner would have to show why FMH impact tests would cause substantial economic hardship. This showing must include detailed financial information and a complete description of the petitioner’s good faith efforts to comply with the standards. Specifically, the petitioner would have to explain the inadequacy of IVD documents furnished by one or more incomplete vehicle manufacturers or by prior intermediate manufacturers pursuant to 49 CFR part 568. The petitioner would also have to show why generic or cooperative testing is impracticable. In addition, each petitioner is required to explain under § 555.13(c) why the requested temporary exemption would not unreasonably degrade safety. We are not proposing specific regulatory text in this document. We note that this issue is also before the agency in the context of petitions for reconsideration of the February 2005 final rule establishing the new exemption procedures. We also note that depending on the agency’s decision in that proceeding, this issue could become moot as to this rulemaking. IV. Response to the RVIA and NTEA Petitions for Rulemaking As discussed above, RVIA and NTEA petitioned the agency to permanently exclude certain altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages from all or a portion of the FMH impact requirements. We are granting the petition in part, by proposing to further limit the area that is subject to FMH impact requirements in ambulances, motor homes, and extending this limitation to other vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, as well as altered vehicles. We are also proposing to exclude vehicles delivered to a final stage manufacturer without an occupant compartment from the FMH impact requirements. We are denying all other parts of the petitions. PO 00000 Frm 00035 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 A. Proposal To Limit the Occupant Compartment Area Subject to the FMH Impact Requirements in Ambulances, Motor Homes, and Other Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, and Altered Vehicles In ambulances and motor homes, the current standard excludes the occupant compartment area located more than 600 mm (24 inches) behind the seating reference point of the driver’s seating position from the FMH impact requirements. For all other vehicles, the occupant compartment area located more than 600 mm (24 inches) behind the seating reference point of the rearmost designated seating position is similarly excluded from the FMH impact requirements. For altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, including motor homes and ambulances, we are proposing to limit the area subject to the FMH impact requirements to not more than 300 mm (12 inches) behind the seating reference point of the driver’s seating position. This would have the effect of limiting the FMH impact requirements to the front seating positions for these vehicles. We believe that the distance reduction to 300 mm (12 inches) is more representative of the distance between the seating reference point and the upper seat back/head restraint location where the occupant’s head is located. Because of the front head restraint height requirements, we believe it is unlikely that the head of a seated occupant would come in contact with bulkheads, partitions, or overhead cabinets and storage shelves located further than 300 mm (12 inches) behind the seating reference point of the driver’s seating position. However, we are not granting the NTEA proposal to limit the seat position for this exclusion to the foremost design H-point (rather than the seating reference point) since we believe that a large portion of the seated driver’s head would not be provided head protection in the areas of B-pillars and side rails between the Apillar and the B-pillar. In developing this proposal, we have carefully considered both the safety benefits of the FMH requirements and practicability concerns relating to multistage vehicles. Based on previous estimates of the benefits of the FMVSS No. 201 final rule, and estimates from the National Automotive Sampling System, Crashworthiness Data System of the percent of injuries occurring to light truck occupants in multi-stage vehicles, the agency derived the following estimate of safety benefits. Requiring all multi-stage manufactured vehicles to E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules meet FMVSS No. 201 would have annual benefits in the front seat of 16– 22 fewer fatalities and 19–22 fewer AIS 2–5 injuries. However, in the rear seats, the benefits are estimated to be less than 1 fatality (which would round down to 0) and 1 AIS 2–5 injury. Thus, based on this analysis, excluding multi-stage vehicles from target points that could not be struck by the front row occupants would have a very small impact on safety. Given the small safety benefits associated with the FMH impact requirements for rear seating positions and practicability concerns, we have tentatively concluded that the FMH impact requirements should be limited to the front seating positions for these vehicles. As indicated in its petition, many commercial vehicles manufactured by NTEA members feature bulkheads or partitions located less than 600 mm (24 inches) behind the rearmost designated seating position. Bulkheads or partitions are used in a variety of work vehicles that haul odd-shaped objects that cannot be readily secured in the cargo area. These structures protect the driver and passenger from loose or shifting or shifting cargo or work equipment. NTEA argued that the installation of bulkheads or partitions would likely require relocation of target areas originally certified by the incomplete vehicle manufacturer, thus significantly adding to the compliance burden. As discussed above, RVIA argued that most CVs and motor homes feature unique interior designs. Specifically, these vehicles include overhead cabinets, side valances, raised roof structures, and other unusual interior components. Among other things, RVIA stated that cooperative testing, suggested by NHTSA as a way to lessen compliance costs associated with FMH requirements, is not practicable because each RVIA member manufactures unique vehicles, each substantially different from its competitors. RVIA argued that cooperative testing would eliminate interior customization, which would in turn result in a loss of market for CVs and motor homes. We believe our proposal to effectively limit the FMH impact requirements to the front seating positions for these vehicles would provide appropriate relief to the industries represented by NTEA and RVIA, while continuing to meet the need for safety. As discussed above, the benefits related to rear seating positions are very small. We note that NTEA and RVIA members can ordinarily purchase incomplete vehicles that are already designed to meet the FMH impact VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 requirements for the front seating positions. Under our proposal, final stage manufacturers would ordinarily be able to take advantage of pass-through certification by not changing the upper interior portions of the front of the vehicle. We believe the requirements are justified by safety. As indicated above, we estimate that requiring all multistage manufactured vehicles to meet FMVSS No. 201 would have annual benefits in the front seat of 16–22 fewer fatalities and 19–22 fewer AIS 2–5 injuries. Given the safety significance of these requirements, we believe, in situations where final stage manufacturers use incomplete vehicles that have occupant compartments that either are designed to meet the FMH impact requirements for the front seating positions or can be purchased in a configuration that is designed to meet those requirements, it would be inconsistent with the need for safety to generally exclude the vehicles from these head impact protection requirements. We also note that while final stage manufacturers will be able to submit petitions under subpart B of part 555, it is unlikely in this type of situation that the agency would find it in the public interest to exclude final stage manufacturers from the front seat head impact protection requirements of FMVSS No. 201 to facilitate customization of the upper interior portions of the front of the vehicle. Our proposal would, however, facilitate customization of the rear of vehicles, including conversion vans, where there would be no significant impact on safety. Moreover, we continue to believe that final stage manufacturers can use cooperative testing to determine the types of changes that can be made while enabling vehicles to continue to comply with the FMH requirements, including ones related to use of overhead cabinets, raised roof structures, and so forth. Thus, while customization of the front portion of occupant compartments will be more difficult and may be more limited, it will by no means be eliminated. B. Proposal To Exclude Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, Other Than Motor Homes, Chassis Cabs, Cutaway Vans, and Other Incomplete Vehicles With a Furnished Front Compartment, From FMH Impact Requirements We tentatively conclude that a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles contains physical attributes that make compliance with the FMH impact requirements impracticable. These are PO 00000 Frm 00036 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 20937 vehicles built on a ‘‘stripped’’ chassis; i.e., an incomplete vehicle without an occupant compartment. The manufacturers of these vehicles would not be able to rely on pass-through certification. This is because these vehicles are highly customized and produced in quantities that would make compliance prohibitively expensive. Further, these vehicles are often equipped with partitions and bulkheads that present a further impediment to the compliance efforts. We note that for vehicles manufactured from stripped chassis, the cost of meeting the FMH impact requirements could be substantial because the alternative means of compliance such as passthrough certification are not available. In the context of serving niche markets demanding specialized work vehicles that are not delivered to the final stage manufacturers with an intact occupant compartment (unlike for example, chassis cabs and cut-away vans), we believe that the physical limitations of these vehicles can adversely affect the ability of multi-stage manufacturers to design safety performance into their completed vehicles. Accordingly, we believe it appropriate to exclude this narrow group of vehicles from FMH impact testing. C. Question Regarding Multistage Vehicles With Raised Roofs Certain multistage vehicles are manufactured with raised roofs. The final-stage manufacturer cuts out a portion of the original roof and attaches a raised roof, typically made of fiberglass that may also have metal inserts imbedded for strength. The manufacturers of these vehicles may not be able to take advantage of pass through certification because raising the roof affects the location of certain targets subject to FMH impact testing. The raised roof has a different shape than the van portion of an incomplete vehicle. Therefore, the reference points located on the exterior, i.e., APR and BPR, will probably not be the same and the FMH targets inside the vehicle may be in different locations from those that the incomplete vehicle manufacturer stated could be certified as pass through. In addition, the portion of the roof over the front seating area would be affected when the final-stage manufacturer installs a headliner and/or padding in a vehicle with a raised roof or a non-raised roof. We believe that the original targets in raised roof vehicles, e.g., those along the pillars and side rails, may be as appropriate for safety as the targets that would be calculated for the new E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 20938 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS configuration. We are therefore considering permitting manufacturers to meet requirements for either the target locations as calculated for the original configuration or changed configuration. This would also make compliance easier for final stage manufacturers. We are asking for comment on this approach to targets in vehicles with raised roofs. D. Additional Relief Is Not Warranted After carefully considering RVIA’s and NTEA’s petitions, we have decided not to propose a broader exclusion from the FMH requirements for front seat areas of conversion vans, motor homes, ambulances, fire fighting, rescue, emergency, law enforcement, and altered vehicles. As explained above, we believe that the head impact protection requirements provide important safety benefits in front seating positions of vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, and our proposal would provide appropriate relief to the industries represented by NTEA and RVIA, while continuing to meet the need for safety. RVIA and NTEA did not provide any convincing reasons why occupants of its members’ vehicles would not benefit from the same level of protection as required for other vehicles. Conversion vans, light duty motor homes, and other altered vehicles are typically driven by regular passenger vehicle drivers who require the same type of occupant protection as other passenger vehicle drivers. Furthermore, the petitioners did not explain why the occupants of ambulances, fire fighting, rescue, emergency, and law enforcement vehicles that may additionally travel at high rates of speed through unconventional traffic paths would not benefit from countermeasures designed to reduce head impacts in the event of a collision. We note that the petitioners are also able to purchase incomplete vehicles that are already designed to meet the FMH impact requirements for the front seating positions. Under our proposal, the rear portions of multi-stage and altered vehicles, where the majority of vehicle customization is performed, would be excluded from the FMH requirements. Furthermore, final stage manufacturers would ordinarily be able to take advantage of pass-through certification by not changing the upper interior portions of the front of the vehicle. Accordingly, compliance costs and test burdens, (i.e., the petitioners’ main concerns), would be substantially reduced when certifying these vehicles. We further believe that the compliance costs provided by the RVIA and NTEA in their petition were overstated. For example, the compliance VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 test cost estimates provided by RVIA were not averaged over the years of vehicle production. Instead, the costs were reflective of only the first production year. RVIA did not provide the actual production cycles for its various vehicles, so its cost estimates were based on a one-year production cycle. Typically, when vehicle compliance costs are amortized over the vehicle production years, the costs are a lot smaller, as evidenced by the rulemaking involving small school buses where the estimated compliance cost per multi-stage vehicle was less than $1,000 in 1993 economics.22 NTEA estimated that compliance with the FMH requirements would cost its industry a minimum of $160 million and 64 years to comply. However, this was based on the availability of two test laboratories that conducted FMH testing in 2001 and no pass-through certification was applied. We believe that laboratory experience has improved greatly since that time, and the exclusions that we are proposing in this notice will have a large impact on reducing the actual compliance costs. RVIA and NTEA did not provide any convincing reasons why it is not generally practicable for these vehicles to comply. With respect to conversion vans and motor homes, the agency believes that there are alternative locations for the installation of hardwood cabinetry, and audio/video entertainment systems (other than mounted over the heads of front seat occupants). There are also other more compliant materials than hardwood that could be utilized by conversion van and motor home customization specialists. As to fire fighting and rescue vehicles (with a gross vehicle weight rating of 4,536 kg or less), these vehicles are basically multi-stage work vehicles furnished with special equipment and tools designed exclusively for the purpose of rescuing people in emergency situations. We are proposing to exclude the rear compartment area of these vehicles from FMH target requirements, as we are for other multistage. We do not believe there is any reason to treat the front occupant compartment of these vehicles differently from other multistage vehicles (such as utility company trucks, contractor vehicles, snow removal vehicles, etc). Thus, we believe that no additional relief is necessary. The agency has also previously considered and denied the exclusion of police cars from the FMH requirements.23 Our position on that issue has not changed substantially. Previously, the NTEA requested that police cars be excluded since these cars have special equipment, including gun racks and spotlight control mounted on the upper roof interior, and a bulkhead behind the front seats. However, the agency believes that interior components, such as gun racks and spotlight controls do not necessarily have to be mounted on the vehicle roof interior surface in the vicinity of the driver’s head, and can alternatively be accommodated with padding. Furthermore, we are aware that there are available equipment packages (such as remote-controlled spotlights and Apillar mounted spotlights below the AP3 target location) that would facilitate compliance with the FMH requirements. VII. Effective Date We are proposing to delay the effective date of the FMH impact requirements as they apply to final stage manufacturers and alterers from September 1, 2006 until September 1, 2008. VIII. Submission of Comments A. How Do I Prepare and Submit Comments? Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your comments are filed correctly in the Docket, please include the docket number of this document in your comments. Your comments must not be more than 15 pages long.24 NHTSA established this limit to encourage you to write your primary comments in a concise fashion. However, you may attach necessary additional documents to your comments. There is no limit on the length of the attachments. Please submit two copies of your comments, including the attachments, to Docket Management at the address given above under ADDRESSES. You may also submit your comments to the docket electronically by logging onto the Docket Management System (DMS) Web site at http://dms.dot.gov. Click on ‘‘Help & Information’’ or ‘‘Help/Info’’ to obtain instructions for filing your comments electronically. Please note, if you are submitting comments electronically as a PDF (Adobe) file, we ask that the documents submitted be scanned using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, thus allowing the agency to search and copy certain portions of your submissions.25 24 49 22 See 62 FR 16718, April 8, 1997. 23 See id. PO 00000 Frm 00037 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 CFR 553.21. character recognition (OCR) is the process of converting an image of text, such as a 25 Optical E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules How Can I Be Sure That My Comments Were Received? If you wish Docket Management to notify you upon its receipt of your comments, enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the envelope containing your comments. Upon receiving your comments, Docket Management will return the postcard by mail. How Do I Submit Confidential Business Information? If you wish to submit any information under a claim of confidentiality, you should submit three copies of your complete submission, including the information you claim to be confidential business information, to the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at the address given above under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. In addition, you should submit two copies, from which you have deleted the claimed confidential business information, to Docket Management at the address given above under ADDRESSES. When you send a comment containing information claimed to be confidential business information, you should include a cover letter setting forth the information specified in NHTSA’s confidential business information regulation (49 CFR part 512). cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS Will the Agency Consider Late Comments? NHTSA will consider all comments that Docket Management receives before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated above under DATES. To the extent possible, the agency will also consider comments that Docket Management receives after that date. If Docket Management receives a comment too late for the agency to consider it in developing a final rule (assuming that one is issued), the agency will consider that comment as an informal suggestion for future rulemaking action. How Can I Read the Comments Submitted by Other People? You may read the comments received by Docket Management at the address given above under ADDRESSES. The hours of the Docket are indicated above in the same location. You may also see the comments on the Internet. To read the comments on the Internet, take the following steps: 1. Go to the Docket Management System (DMS) Web page of the Department of Transportation http:// dms.dot.gov. scanned paper document or electronic fax file, into computer-editable text. VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 2. On that page, click on ‘‘search.’’ 3. On the next page http:// dms.dot.gov/search, type in the fourdigit docket number shown at the beginning of this document. Example: If the docket number were ‘‘NHTSA– 1998–1234,’’ you would type ‘‘1234.’’ After typing the docket number, click on ‘‘search.’’ 4. On the next page, which contains docket summary information for the docket you selected, click on the desired comments. You may download the comments. Although the comments are imaged documents, instead of word processing documents, the ‘‘pdf’’ versions of the documents are word searchable. Please note that even after the comment closing date, NHTSA will continue to file relevant information in the Docket as it becomes available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, the agency recommends that you periodically check the Docket for new material. VIII. Regulatory Analyses and Notices A. Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures Executive Order 12866, ‘‘Regulatory Planning and Review’’ (58 FR 51735, October 4, 1993), provides for making determinations whether a regulatory action is ‘‘significant’’ and therefore subject to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review and to the requirements of the Executive Order. The Order defines a ‘‘significant regulatory action’’ as one that is likely to result in a rule that may: (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public health or safety, or State, local, or Tribal governments or communities; (2) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an action taken or planned by another agency; (3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients thereof; or (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal mandates, the President’s priorities, or the principles set forth in the Executive Order. This proposal was not reviewed under Executive Order 12866. It is not significant within the meaning of the DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures. If adopted, it would not impose any new burdens on manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages or vehicles alterers. PO 00000 Frm 00038 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 20939 Further, if adopted, this proposal would limit certain existing requirements as they apply to multistage vehicles, and exclude a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles manufactured from chassis without occupant compartments from the same requirements. The agency believes that this impact is so minimal as to not warrant the preparation of a full regulatory evaluation. B. Regulatory Flexibility Act The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) requires agencies to evaluate the potential effects of their proposed rules on small businesses, small organizations and small governmental jurisdictions. I have considered the possible effects of this rulemaking action under the Regulatory Flexibility Act and certify that it would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. Under 13 CFR 121.201, the Small Business Administration (SBA) defines small business (for the purposes of receiving SBA assistance) as a business with less than 750 employees. Most of the manufacturers of recreation vehicles, conversion vans, and specialized work trucks are small businesses that alter completed vehicles or manufacture vehicles in two or more stages. While the number of these small businesses potentially affected by this proposal is substantial, the economic impact upon these entities will not be significant because this document proposes to limit certain existing requirements as they apply to multistage vehicles, and exclude a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles manufactured from chassis without occupant compartments from the same requirements. For other multistage manufacturers, recent agency action described above will enable the manufacturers to more fully utilize passthrough certification. C. National Environmental Policy Act NHTSA has analyzed this proposal for the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act. The agency has determined that implementation of this action would not have any significant impact on the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, no environmental assessment is required. D. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism) The agency has analyzed this rulemaking in accordance with the principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 13132 and has determined that it does not have sufficient federal implications to warrant consultation with State and local officials or the preparation of a E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1 20940 Federal Register / Vol. 71, No. 78 / Monday, April 24, 2006 / Proposed Rules federalism summary impact statement. The proposal would not have any substantial impact on the States, or on the current Federal-State relationship, or on the current distribution of power and responsibilities among the various local officials. E. Unfunded Mandates Act The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 requires agencies to prepare a written assessment of the costs, benefits and other effects of proposed or final rules that include a Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, local or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of more than $100 million annually ($120.7 million as adjusted annually for inflation with base year of 1995). The assessment may be combined with other assessments, as it is here. This proposal is not likely to result in expenditures by State, local or tribal governments or automobile manufacturers and/or their suppliers of more than $120.7 million annually. If adopted, it would not impose any new burdens on manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages or vehicles alterers. Further, if adopted, this proposal would limit certain existing requirements as they apply to multistage vehicles, and exclude a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles manufactured from chassis without occupant compartments from the same requirements. cchase on PROD1PC60 with PROPOSALS F. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform) Pursuant to Executive Order 12988, ‘‘Civil Justice Reform’’, 26 the agency has considered whether this proposed rule would have any retroactive effect. We conclude that it would not have such an effect. Under 49 U.S.C. 30103, 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. 49 U.S.C. 30161 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 a suit in court. 26 See 61 FR 4729, February 7, 1996. VerDate Aug<31>2005 16:27 Apr 21, 2006 Jkt 208001 G. Paperwork Reduction Act PART 571—[AMENDED] There are no information collection requirements in this proposal. H. Regulation Identifier Number (RIN) The Department of Transportation assigns a regulation identifier number (RIN) to each regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations. The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda in April and October of each year. You may use the RIN contained in the heading at the beginning of this document to find this action in the Unified Agenda. I. Plain Language Executive Order 12866 requires each agency to write all rules in plain language. Application of the principles of plain language includes consideration of the following questions: • Have we organized the material to suit the public’s needs? • Are the requirements in the rule clearly stated? • Does the rule contain technical language or jargon that isn’t clear? • Would a different format (grouping and order of sections, use of headings, paragraphing) make the rule easier to understand? • Would more (but shorter) sections be better? • Could we improve clarity by adding tables, lists, or diagrams? • What else could we do to make the rule easier to understand? If you have any responses to these questions, please include them in your comments on this proposal. J. Privacy Act Anyone is able to search the electronic form of all comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the comment (or signing the comment, if submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT’s complete Privacy Act Statement in the Federal Register published on April 11, 2000 (Volume 65, Number 70; Pages 19477–78) or you may visit http://dms.dot.gov. IX. Proposed Regulatory Text List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571 Motor vehicle safety, Reporting and recordkeeping requirements, Tires. In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA proposes to amend chapter V of title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations by amending 49 CFR 571.201 to read as follows: PO 00000 Frm 00039 Fmt 4702 Sfmt 4702 1. The authority citation of part 571 would continue to read as follows: Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 2011, 30115, 30166 and 30117; delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50. 2. Section 571.201 would be amended by revising S6.1.4, S6.3(b) and S6.3(c) to read as set forth below: § 571.201 Standard No. 201; Occupant protection in interior impact. * * * * * S6.1.4 Phase-in Schedule #4 A final stage manufacturer or alterer may, at its option, comply with the requirements set forth in S6.1.4.1 and S6.1.4.2. S6.1.4.1 Vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 1998 and before September 1, 2008 are not required to comply with the requirements specified in S7. S6.1.4.2 Vehicles manufactured on or after September 1, 2008 shall comply with the requirements specified in S7. * * * * * S6.3 * * * (b) Any target located rearward of a vertical plane 600 mm behind the seating reference point of the rearmost designated seating position. For altered vehicles and vehicles built in two or more stages, including ambulances and motor homes, any target located rearward of a vertical plane 300 mm behind the seating reference point of the driver’s designated seating position. (c) Any target in a walk-in van-type vehicle or a vehicle manufactured in two or more stages that is delivered to a final stage manufacturer without an occupant compartment. Note: Motor homes, ambulances, and other vehicles manufactured using a chassis cab, a cut-away van, or any other incomplete vehicle delivered to a final stage manufacturer with a furnished front compartment are not excluded under this paragraph. * * * * * Issued on April 18, 2006. Ronald L. Medford, Senior Associate Administrator for Vehicle Safety. [FR Doc. E6–6024 Filed 4–21–06; 8:45 am] BILLING CODE 4910–59–P E:\FR\FM\24APP1.SGM 24APP1

Agencies

[Federal Register Volume 71, Number 78 (Monday, April 24, 2006)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 20932-20940]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: E6-6024]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. NHTSA 2006-24497]
RIN 2127-AI93


Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Occupant Protection in 
Interior Impact

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

ACTION: Response to petitions for rulemaking; notice of proposed 
rulemaking.

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SUMMARY: Our safety standard on occupant protection in interior impact 
requires, in part, that light vehicles provide head protection when an 
occupant's head strikes upper interior components, such as pillars, 
side rails, headers, and the roof during a crash. For altered vehicles 
and vehicles built in two or more stages, these requirements become 
effective September 1, 2006. The Recreation Vehicle Industry 
Association and the National Truck Equipment Association petitioned the 
agency to permanently exclude certain types of altered vehicles and 
vehicles manufactured in two or more stages from these requirements. 
This document responds to these petitions for rulemaking and proposes 
certain amendments to the standard.
    Based on a careful consideration of both the safety benefits of the 
upper interior protection requirements, and practicability concerns 
relating to vehicles built in two or more stages and certain altered 
vehicles, we are proposing to limit these requirements to only the 
front seating positions of those vehicles. Further, we tentatively 
conclude that it is appropriate to exclude a narrow group of multi-
stage vehicles delivered to the final stage manufacturer without an 
occupant compartment, because of impracticability concerns.
    We are also proposing to delay the effective date of the head 
impact protection requirements as they apply to final stage 
manufacturers and alterers until September 1, 2008.

DATES: You should submit your comments early enough to ensure that 
Docket Management System receives them not later than June 23, 2006.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments [identified by DOT Docket Number at 
the beginning of this document] by any of the following methods:
     Web site: http://dms.dot.gov. Follow the instructions for 
submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site.
     Fax: 1-202-493-2251.
     Mail: Docket Management System; U.S. Department of 
Transportation, 400 7th Street, SW., Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590.
     Hand Delivery: Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the 
Nassif Building, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. 
and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.
     Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to http://
www.regulations.gov. Follow the online instructions for submitting 
comments.
    Instructions: All submissions must include the agency name and 
docket number or Regulatory Identification Number (RIN) for this 
rulemaking. For detailed instructions on submitting comments and 
additional information on the rulemaking process, see the Public 
Participation heading of the SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION section of this 
document. Note that all comments received will be posted without change 
to http://dms.dot.gov, including any personal information provided. 
Please see the Privacy Act heading under Regulatory Notices.
    Docket: For access to the docket to read background documents or 
comments received, go to http://dms.dot.gov at any time or to Room PL-
01 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 7th Street, SW., 
Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal Holidays.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: The following persons at the National 
Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 7th Street, SW., Washington, 
DC 20590:
    For technical and policy issues: Lori Summers, Office of 
Crashworthiness Standards, telephone: (202) 366-4917, facsimile: (202) 
366-4329, E-mail: Lori.Summers@dot.gov.
    For legal issues: George Feygin, Office of the Chief Counsel, 
telephone: (202) 366-2992, facsimile: (202) 366-3820, E-mail 
George.Feygin@dot.gov.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Table of Contents

I. Background
    A. 1995 Final Rule Upgrading FMVSS No. 201
    B. Subsequent Amendments to FMVSS No. 201
II. Petitions for Rulemaking
    A. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Petition for 
Rulemaking
    B. National Truck Equipment Association Petition for Rulemaking
III. The Agency's New Approach to Vehicles Built in Two or More 
Stages and Altered Vehicles
    A. ``Pass-Through'' Certification
    B. The Agency's Authority To Exclude Multi-Stage Vehicles From 
FMVSSs
    C. New Temporary Exemption Procedures Available to Final Stage 
Manufacturers and Alterers
IV. Response to the RVIA and NTEA Petitions for Rulemaking
    A. Proposal To Limit the Occupant Compartment Area Subject to 
the FMH Impact Requirements in Ambulances, Motor Homes, and Other 
Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, and Altered Vehicles
    B. Proposal To Exclude Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More 
Stages, Other Than Motor Homes, Chassis Cabs, Cutaway Vans, and 
Other Incomplete Vehicles With a Furnished Front Compartment, From 
FMH Impact Requirements
    C. Question Regarding Multistage Vehicles With Raised Roofs
    D. Additional Relief Is Not Warranted
V. Effective Date
VI. Submission of Comments
VII. Regulatory Analyses and Notices
VIII. Proposed Regulatory Text

I. Background

A. 1995 Final Rule Upgrading FMVSS No. 201

    On August 18, 1995, the National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration (NHTSA) issued a final rule (August 1995 final rule) 
amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 201, 
``Occupant Protection in Interior Impact,'' to provide enhanced head 
impact protection.\1\ The August 1995 final rule required passenger 
cars, and trucks, buses and multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) with 
a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) 
or less, to provide protection when an occupant's head strikes upper 
interior components, including pillars, side rails, headers, and the 
roof, during a crash. The new head protection requirements were 
necessary because even in vehicles equipped with air bags, head impacts 
with upper interior components resulted in a significant number of 
occupant injuries and fatalities.
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    \1\ See 60 FR 43031, Aug. 18, 1995; Docket No. NHTSA-1996-1762-
1.
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    The August 1995 final rule significantly expanded the scope of 
FMVSS No. 201. Previously, the

[[Page 20933]]

standard applied to the instrument panel, seat backs, interior 
compartment doors, arm rests and sun visors, but not to interior 
components such as pillars and headers. The final rule set minimum 
performance requirements for these upper interior components by 
establishing target areas that must be padded or otherwise have energy 
absorbing properties to minimize head injury in the event of a crash. 
The final rule added procedures for a new in-vehicle component test in 
which a free-motion head form (FMH) is fired at certain target 
locations on the upper interior of a vehicle at an impact speed of 24 
km/h (15 mph). Targets that are located on or within 50 mm (2 inches) 
of dynamically deployable upper interior head protection systems (air 
bags systems) can, at the option of the manufacturer, be impacted at 
the reduced speed of 19 km/h (12 mph). Data collected from an FMH 
impact are translated into a Head Injury Criterion (HIC(d)) score. The 
resultant HIC(d) must not exceed 1000.
    The FMH impact requirements excluded targets located on convertible 
roof frames or roof linkage mechanisms, targets located at least 24 
inches rearward of the rearmost designated seating position, and 
targets located at least 24 inches rearward of the driver's seating 
position in an ambulance or a motor home. Walk-in van-type vehicles 
were also excluded from the new requirements because upper interior 
components on those vehicles are located much higher compared to other 
vehicles, and head impacts against these components are unlikely for 
belted occupants.\2\
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    \2\ The current exclusions are specified in S6.3 of 49 CFR 
571.201.
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    The 1995 final rule provided manufacturers with three alternate 
phase-in schedules for complying with the FMH impact requirements. At 
this time, all vehicles except altered vehicles and vehicles 
manufactured in two-or-more stages are required to comply with the FMH 
impact requirements.\3\ As discussed below, the effective date for 
altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages to 
comply with these requirements is presently September 1, 2006.\4\
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    \3\ We note that under S6.3(d), walk-in van-type vehicles are 
permanently excluded from the FMH impact requirements.
    \4\ See S6.1.4 of 49 CFR 571.201.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. Subsequent Amendments to FMVSS No. 201

    On April 8, 1997, the agency responded to petitions for 
reconsideration of the 1995 final rule.\5\ Among other things, the 
agency delayed the effective date of the FMH impact requirements for 
vehicles manufactured in two or more stages until September 1, 2002. 
The agency also excluded buses with a GVWR of more than 3,856 kg (8,500 
pounds) from the FMH impact requirements because we were concerned that 
these requirements were prohibitively costly for that class of 
vehicles.\6\ Finally, the agency denied a petition to exclude police 
vehicles from the FMH impact requirements because the petitioner did 
not present evidence to indicate that police equipment required 
different treatment from interior attachments present in other vehicles 
subjected to testing.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \5\ See 62 FR 16718, April 8, 1997.
    \6\ See id at 16720.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    In 2002, in response to petitions (described in detail in the next 
section) to permanently exclude altered vehicles and vehicles 
manufactured in two or more stages from the FMH impact requirements, 
the agency issued an interim final rule, delaying the effective date of 
these requirements as they apply to altered vehicles and vehicles 
manufactured in two or more stages until September 1, 2003.\7\ On 
August 28, 2003, the agency further delayed the effective date of the 
FMH impact requirements for altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured 
in two or more stages until September 1, 2006.\8\ The issue of 
permanent exclusion of these types of vehicles is being addressed in 
the subsequent sections of this notice.\9\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \7\ See 67 FR 41348, June 18, 2002.
    \8\ See 68 FR 51706, August 28, 2003.
    \9\ We note that there have been other, more recent amendments 
to the requirements of FMVSS No. 201. However, their content had no 
relevance to this NPRM.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

II. Petitions for Rulemaking

    This document addresses petitions for rulemaking submitted by the 
Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and the National Truck 
Equipment Association (NTEA). The member companies of RVIA and NTEA are 
generally considered final-stage manufacturers and alterers. That is, 
they purchase incomplete vehicles from major manufacturers to serve as 
the basis for specialty vehicles (manufactured in two or more stages) 
for certain uses and markets, or alter completed vehicles prior to 
first retail sale. As such, the petitioners' members face a variety of 
challenges in certifying that their vehicles meet applicable safety 
standards. We note that with respect to vehicles manufactured in two or 
more stages, some multi-stage vehicles are built from chassis-cabs with 
a completed occupant compartment. Others are built from less complete 
vehicles, often necessitating the addition by the final-stage 
manufacturer of its own occupant compartment. The final stage 
manufacturer is responsible for certification of the completed vehicle, 
although, as discussed below, it can often ``pass-through'' by 
incomplete vehicle manufacturer.

A. Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Petition for Rulemaking

    On October 4, 2001, the RVIA submitted a petition for rulemaking 
requesting that ``van conversions, altered vehicles, and motor homes'' 
with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less be excluded from the requirements 
of the August 1995 final rule.\10\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \10\ To examine the petition, please go to http://dms.dot.gov/ and enter Docket No. NHTSA-2000-7145-6.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The RVIA is a national trade association representing final stage 
manufacturers and alterers. These entities alter vans, pickup trucks, 
and sport utility vehicles prior to first retail sale (RVIA refers to 
these vehicles collectively as conversion vehicles or ``CVs''), and 
also manufacture motor homes. The RVIA petition requested that CVs and 
motor homes be excluded from the FMH impact requirements for the 
following reasons:
    1. RVIA argues that in the statutory enactment directing NHTSA to 
improve head impact protection, Congress specifically limited its 
mandate to passenger cars. RVIA stated that a proposed Senate amendment 
to include multipurpose passenger vehicles (MPVs) and light duty trucks 
(LDTs) was expressly rejected.\11\ Because the agency chose to proceed 
beyond the congressional mandate, RVIA argues that NHTSA has the 
discretion to exclude vehicles, other than passenger cars, from the FMH 
impact requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \11\ See H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 102-404, at 395-396 (1991).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    2. With the exception of a single entity, all RVIA members fall 
under the ``small business'' definition for the purposes of Small 
Business Administration regulations.\12\ RVIA states that its members 
have been operating in a declining market where production of CVs and 
motor homes has been declining sharply. For example, in 1999, RVIA 
members produced 104,100 CVs and 4,634 motor homes. By contrast, 2001 
shipments were projected at 38,000 CVs and 3,629 motor homes. In light 
of their member's ``small business'' status and declining sales, RVIA 
argues that the member companies do not have the financial

[[Page 20934]]

resources and technical expertise to comply with FMH impact 
requirements.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \12\ See 13 CFR 121.201.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    3. RVIA estimates the cost of compliance (including development and 
tooling) to average $2,401 to $4,850 per each CV and $4,748 to $5,747 
per each motor home, respectively.\13\ RVIA estimates that the costs 
associated with certification testing to be as high as $46,000 for each 
vehicle configuration.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \13\ RVIA's detailed certification testing and tooling cost 
estimates are on page 7 and in Exhibit D of the petition (Docket No. 
NHTSA-2002-7145-6).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    RVIA argues that most CVs and motor homes feature unique interior 
designs. Specifically, these vehicles include overhead cabinets, side 
valances, raised roof structures, and other unusual interior 
components. RVIA members offer an average of 18 different CV 
configurations each, all of which would require separate certification 
testing. Some offer as many as 38 different CV variations. Motor home 
manufacturers offer as many as 14 motor home variations. However, at 
least one motor home manufacturer offers at least 73 different ``floor 
plans.'' RVIA states that this product variation necessitates 
conducting FMH impact testing on each vehicle configuration and may 
even require multiple identical vehicles to test each configuration.
    Because of the differences in the customized interiors, RVIA argues 
that the manufacturers have been unable to arrive at practicable and 
cost-effective ``countermeasures;'' i.e., additional padding designed 
to bring these vehicles into compliance with FMH impact requirements.
    4. RVIA states that cooperative testing, suggested by NHTSA as a 
way to lessen compliance costs associated with FMH requirements, is not 
practicable because each RVIA member manufactures unique vehicles, each 
substantially different from its competitors. Because these vehicles 
are different, cooperative testing is impossible unless interiors for 
all vehicles manufactured by RVIA members are made uniform. 
Accordingly, RVIA argues that cooperative testing would eliminate 
interior customization, which would in turn result in a loss of market 
for CVs and motor homes.
    5. RVIA argues that the safety benefits of FMH impact requirements 
as applied to CVs and motor homes are marginal. RVIA conducted a survey 
of CV and motor home manufacturers which showed no crashes in which an 
occupant injury or death had occurred due to head impacts with upper 
interior components covered by FMH impact requirements.
    RVIA cites Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data in arguing 
that van-based motor homes are safe. Specifically, between 1996 and 
1999, there was an average of 14 fatalities per year in all van-based 
motor homes regardless of the GVWR, which translates to 0.0039 
fatalities per 1,000,000 annual vehicle miles (compared to 0.0143 
fatalities per 1,000,000 miles for passenger cars). Based on these 
data, RVIA estimates that the safety benefit reduction from excluding 
small, van-based motor homes from the FMH impact requirements would be 
extremely low. Since FARS does not track crash data for all CVs, RVIA 
was not able to make a similar estimate for CVs. However, RVIA argues 
that CVs are safer than an average passenger car, and that the safety 
benefit reduction in the case of CVs would also be quite low.\14\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \14\ Petitioners support this assertion by a letter from RV 
Alliance America. The letter is found in Exhibit E (Docket No. 
NHTSA-2002-7145-6).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    6. RVIA members produce vehicles to the consumer's specifications 
and many special components and designs are installed in response to 
consumer requests. RVIA argues that in granting a previous (unrelated) 
temporary exemption from the requirements of FMVSS No. 201, the agency 
acknowledged public benefit in affording consumers a wide choice of 
motor vehicles.\15\ Petitioners asked that the agency adhere to this 
policy by allowing RVIA members to continue manufacturing CVs and motor 
homes built to customer specifications.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \15\ See 64 FR 61379, November 10, 1999.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. National Truck Equipment Association Petition for Rulemaking

    On November 27, 2001, NTEA submitted a petition for rulemaking 
requesting that certain vehicles manufactured in two or more stages be 
excluded from FMH impact requirements arguing that the requirements are 
impracticable as they apply to these vehicles.\16\ These vehicles 
included ambulances, fire fighting, rescue, emergency, and law 
enforcement vehicles. Additionally, the NTEA requested exemption from 
FMH impact requirements for any target in a truck or multipurpose 
passenger vehicle located rearward of a vertical transverse plane 
through the foremost design H-point of the rear most forward facing 
designated seating position where the vehicle is equipped with a full 
or partial bulkhead or other similar device for the purpose of 
protecting or isolating the driver and passenger compartment from the 
cargo carrying, load bearing, or work performing area of the vehicle.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \16\ See NHTSA-2001-8876-10 at http://dms.dot.gov/. NTEA also 
filed subsequent petitions to delay the effective date of the August 
1995 final rule as it applied to vehicles manufactured in two or 
more stages. These later petitions relied on the same arguments 
presented to the agency in the November 27, 2001 document (see 
NHTSA-2002-12480-2, NHTSA-2002-12480-3).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    NTEA represents 1,500 distributors, final stage and intermediate 
manufacturers, and alterers of work-related trucks, truck bodies and 
equipment. More specifically, NTEA member companies produce ambulances, 
fire fighting, rescue, emergency or law enforcement vehicles, utility 
company vehicles, aerial bucket trucks, delivery trucks and a variety 
of other specialized vehicles for commercial or vocational use. These 
entities generally use incomplete vehicles provided by major 
manufacturers and assemble a completed vehicle for a specified purpose 
using the chassis provided by another company. As discussed above, 
altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more stages must 
comply with FMH impact requirements beginning September 1, 2006. In 
2001, NTEA estimated that 377,000 vehicles produced by its members 
annually would have to meet the FMH impact requirements.
    NTEA asked for an exclusion of such vehicles because it believes 
that NTEA member manufacturers will not be able to demonstrate that 
these vehicles comply with FMH impact requirements without conducting 
individual full-scale dynamic testing on each vehicle model, which NTEA 
argues is not economically or technologically possible. Other options 
for demonstrating compliance, such as pass through certifications, 
engineering analysis, and computer modeling, are, according to NTEA, 
not available or economically feasible.
    First, NTEA believes that FMH testing for the subject vehicles is 
not economically feasible because of the number of vehicle 
configurations produced by the multi-stage truck and specialty vehicle 
industry. NTEA estimates that in aggregate, compliance testing would 
cost its members $160,000,000. Specifically, NTEA states that there are 
over 1,200 identifiable vehicle configurations produced by its members. 
For each configuration, the cost of actual testing is approximately 
$14,000 to $17,000 (NTEA states that this cost estimate does not 
account for development costs, costs for re-testing after failures, 
transportation of the vehicle to the test facility, or countermeasures 
in production vehicles that would be necessary to produce a

[[Page 20935]]

compliant vehicle).\17\ Besides costs, NTEA argues that it is not 
feasible to test each vehicle configuration produced by its member 
manufacturers because they are aware of only two testing facilities 
that provide dynamic testing, and each is only capable of testing 12 
vehicles per month.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \17\ See Appendix A of the NTEA petition.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Second, NTEA stated that alternative options to demonstrate 
compliance such as pass-through certifications,\18\ test data from 
component vendors, engineering analysis, computer modeling, and 
consortium dynamic testing, are not available.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \18\ In a ``pass through'' of chassis manufacturer compliance, 
multi-stage manufacturers certify compliance by ``passing through'' 
the chassis manufacturer's certification.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Specifically, NTEA argued that pass-through is not an available 
option because the member manufacturers often complete the vehicle 
``outside the parameters'' provided by the chassis manufacturer. For 
example, the installation of bulkheads or partitions usually 
invalidates the chassis manufacturer's compliance statement. In many 
work vans, emergency vehicles, or police vehicles, bulkheads or 
dividers are needed to ensure that objects or people that must remain 
in the rear of the vehicle actually do so. Installation of these 
bulkheads, according to NTEA, is likely to require relocation of target 
areas originally certified by the incomplete vehicle manufacturer, 
adding to the compliance burden of the NTEA member and frustrating the 
ability to take advantage of ``pass through'' certification. 
Furthermore, NTEA asserts that the chassis manufacturer's completion 
guidelines are too restrictive to allow for compliance.
    Additionally, NTEA argued that other compliance options are also 
unavailable to multi-stage manufacturers. NTEA stated that the chassis 
manufacturers do not provide sufficient compliance information to the 
multi-stage manufacturers and that the test data is not enough to 
certify compliance under FMVSS No. 201 because validation requires in-
system testing. NTEA also argued that engineering analysis and computer 
modeling are not possible because they require previous dynamic test 
data that do not exist. Finally, NTEA stated that consortium testing is 
not an option since the compliance tests developed by NHTSA are so 
specific that minor differences produce significantly different test 
results.

III. The Agency's New Approach to Vehicles Built in Two or More Stages 
and Altered Vehicles

    On February 14, 2005, the agency issued a final rule (February 2005 
final rule) which enables more final stage manufacturers to take 
advantage of ``pass-through'' certification by requiring incomplete 
vehicle manufacturers to assume certification responsibility for the 
vehicle as further manufactured or completed by a final-stage 
manufacturer, to the extent that the vehicle is completed in accordance 
with the Incomplete Vehicle Document (IVD) described below.\19\ 
Previously, this requirement only applied to chassis-cab manufacturers. 
The February 2005 final rule also created a new process under which 
manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages and alterers 
could obtain temporary exemptions from certain dynamic performance 
requirements. Finally, as a part of that rulemaking, we refined our 
analysis of the agency's authority to establish different requirements 
for vehicles built in two or more stages. The February 2005 final rule 
becomes effective September 1, 2006.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \19\ See 70 FR 7414, Docket No. 1999-5673-54.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The agency is in the process of considering a petition for 
reconsideration of the February 2005 final rule submitted by NTEA.\20\ 
We expect to issue our response shortly.
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \20\ See Docket No. NHTSA-1999-5673-55. See also comment 
concerning the NTEA petition for reconsideration submitted by 
General Motors (Docket No. NHTSA-1999-5673-56).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

A. ``Pass-Through'' Certification

    Manufacturers of chassis-cabs are currently required to place on 
the incomplete vehicle a certification label stating under what 
conditions the chassis-cab has been certified. This allows what is 
commonly referred to as ``pass-through'' certification. As long as a 
subsequent manufacturer meets the conditions of the chassis-cab 
certification, that manufacturer may rely on this certification and 
pass it through when certifying the completed vehicle. However, the 
current certification regulations do not impose corresponding 
certification responsibilities on manufacturers of incomplete vehicles 
other than chassis-cabs (e.g., incomplete vans, cut-away chassis, 
stripped chassis and chassis-cowls).
    The February 2005 final rule extended these certification 
responsibilities to all types of incomplete vehicles. More 
specifically, beginning September 1, 2006, all incomplete vehicle 
manufacturers and intermediate manufacturers will have certification 
responsibilities for the vehicles as further manufactured or completed 
by final-stage manufacturers, to the extent that the vehicle is 
completed in accordance with the conditions specified in the IVD.\21\
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

    \21\ The IVD details, with varying degrees of specificity, the 
types of future manufacturing contemplated by the incomplete vehicle 
manufacturer and must provide, for each applicable safety standard, 
one of three statements that a subsequent manufacturer can rely on 
when certifying compliance of the vehicle, as finally manufactured, 
to some or all of all applicable FMVSSs. First, the IVD may state, 
with respect to a particular safety standard, that the vehicle, when 
completed, will conform to the standard if no alterations are made 
in identified components of the incomplete vehicle (this 
representation is most often made with respect to chassis-cabs, 
since a significant portion of the occupant compartment is already 
complete). Second, the IVD may provide a statement for a particular 
standard or set of standards of specific conditions of final 
manufacture under which the completed vehicle will conform to the 
standard (this statement is applicable in those instances in which 
the incomplete vehicle manufacturer has provided all or a portion of 
the equipment needed to comply with the standard, but subsequent 
manufacturing might be expected to change the vehicle such that it 
may not comply with the standard once finally manufactured). Third, 
the IVD may identify those standards for which no representation of 
conformity is made (for example, a manufacturer of a stripped 
chassis may be unable to make any representations about conformity 
to any crashworthiness standards if the incomplete vehicle does not 
contain an occupant compartment).
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

B. The Agency's Authority to Exclude Multi-Stage Vehicles From FMVSSs

    In the February 2005 final rule, the agency reconsidered a previous 
position and concluded that it has authority to exclude multi-stage 
vehicles as a group from FMVSSs that are impracticable as they applied 
to these vehicles, or to subject these vehicles to different 
requirements. NHTSA concluded that it is appropriate to consider multi-
stage vehicles as a vehicle type subject to consideration in the 
establishment of a regulation. For a detailed discussion of this issue, 
see 70 FR 7014 at 7421.

C. New Temporary Exemption Procedures Available to Final Stage 
Manufacturers and Alterers

    The February 2005 final rule established new procedures available 
to manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages and alterers 
for obtaining temporary exemptions from FMVSSs for which the agency 
specifies certain dynamic test procedures to determine compliance. The 
new procedures streamline the temporary exemption process by allowing 
an association or another party representing the interests of multiple 
manufacturers to bundle exemption petitions for a specific

[[Page 20936]]

vehicle design, thus permitting a single explanation of the potential 
safety impact and good faith attempts to comply with the standards. The 
new exemption procedures specify that each manufacturer seeking an 
exemption is required to demonstrate financial hardship and good faith 
efforts to comply with applicable requirements. Exemptions based on 
financial hardship are available to companies manufacturing less than 
10,000 vehicles per year, and any one exemption cannot apply to more 
than 2,500 vehicles per year.
    We note that, given the regulatory text specifying the new 
temporary exemption procedure, there is an issue whether that procedure 
is available for the head impact protection requirements at issue in 
the NTEA and RVIA petitions. That regulatory text reads as follows:

    * * *An alterer, intermediate or final-stage manufacturer, or 
industry trade association representing a group of alterers, 
intermediate and/or final-stage manufacturers may seek * * * a 
temporary exemption or a renewal of a temporary exemption from any 
performance requirement for which a Federal motor vehicle safety 
standard specifies the use of a dynamic crash test procedure to 
determine compliance. [Emphasis added]

    The procedure for the head impact protection requirements does not 
incorporate a full scale crash test except as an option for vehicles 
equipped with a dynamically deployable upper interior head protection 
system, which we do not believe is relevant to vehicles that are 
subject of the RVIA and NTEA FMVSS No. 201 petitions. Nevertheless, the 
upper interior requirements have a number of similarities to crash 
tests. For purposes of this rulemaking, we are proposing to extend the 
scope of the new temporary exemption procedures such that multistage 
manufacturers would be able to petition NHTSA for an exemption from FMH 
impact requirements.
    First, we observe that small volume multistage manufacturers are 
currently able to petition the agency for temporary exemptions from all 
FMVSSs, including FMH impact requirements, under the existing temporary 
exemption procedures currently in effect. Therefore, our proposal to 
expand the scope of the new temporary exemption procedures to include 
consideration of petitions related to FMH impact testing relates to the 
availability of the more streamlined procedures rather than to the 
possibility of a manufacturer obtaining an exemption, in appropriate 
circumstances, at all.
    Second, we believe that, in limited circumstances, the difficulty 
or impracticability of testing a multitude of unique vehicle 
configurations, or otherwise obtaining an appropriate basis for 
certification, with the associated financial hardships, may extend to 
FMH impact requirements. Specifically, there is a considerable cost 
associated with FMH impact tests and vehicles are usually damaged 
during testing.
    Finally, we expect the number of instances in which an exemption 
will be needed to be very small because in order to petition for an 
exemption, the petitioner would have to show why FMH impact tests would 
cause substantial economic hardship. This showing must include detailed 
financial information and a complete description of the petitioner's 
good faith efforts to comply with the standards. Specifically, the 
petitioner would have to explain the inadequacy of IVD documents 
furnished by one or more incomplete vehicle manufacturers or by prior 
intermediate manufacturers pursuant to 49 CFR part 568. The petitioner 
would also have to show why generic or cooperative testing is 
impracticable. In addition, each petitioner is required to explain 
under Sec.  555.13(c) why the requested temporary exemption would not 
unreasonably degrade safety.
    We are not proposing specific regulatory text in this document. We 
note that this issue is also before the agency in the context of 
petitions for reconsideration of the February 2005 final rule 
establishing the new exemption procedures. We also note that depending 
on the agency's decision in that proceeding, this issue could become 
moot as to this rulemaking.

IV. Response to the RVIA and NTEA Petitions for Rulemaking

    As discussed above, RVIA and NTEA petitioned the agency to 
permanently exclude certain altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured 
in two or more stages from all or a portion of the FMH impact 
requirements. We are granting the petition in part, by proposing to 
further limit the area that is subject to FMH impact requirements in 
ambulances, motor homes, and extending this limitation to other 
vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, as well as altered 
vehicles. We are also proposing to exclude vehicles delivered to a 
final stage manufacturer without an occupant compartment from the FMH 
impact requirements. We are denying all other parts of the petitions.

A. Proposal To Limit the Occupant Compartment Area Subject to the FMH 
Impact Requirements in Ambulances, Motor Homes, and Other Vehicles 
Manufactured in Two or More Stages, and Altered Vehicles

    In ambulances and motor homes, the current standard excludes the 
occupant compartment area located more than 600 mm (24 inches) behind 
the seating reference point of the driver's seating position from the 
FMH impact requirements. For all other vehicles, the occupant 
compartment area located more than 600 mm (24 inches) behind the 
seating reference point of the rearmost designated seating position is 
similarly excluded from the FMH impact requirements.
    For altered vehicles and vehicles manufactured in two or more 
stages, including motor homes and ambulances, we are proposing to limit 
the area subject to the FMH impact requirements to not more than 300 mm 
(12 inches) behind the seating reference point of the driver's seating 
position. This would have the effect of limiting the FMH impact 
requirements to the front seating positions for these vehicles. We 
believe that the distance reduction to 300 mm (12 inches) is more 
representative of the distance between the seating reference point and 
the upper seat back/head restraint location where the occupant's head 
is located. Because of the front head restraint height requirements, we 
believe it is unlikely that the head of a seated occupant would come in 
contact with bulkheads, partitions, or overhead cabinets and storage 
shelves located further than 300 mm (12 inches) behind the seating 
reference point of the driver's seating position. However, we are not 
granting the NTEA proposal to limit the seat position for this 
exclusion to the foremost design H-point (rather than the seating 
reference point) since we believe that a large portion of the seated 
driver's head would not be provided head protection in the areas of B-
pillars and side rails between the A-pillar and the B-pillar.
    In developing this proposal, we have carefully considered both the 
safety benefits of the FMH requirements and practicability concerns 
relating to multistage vehicles. Based on previous estimates of the 
benefits of the FMVSS No. 201 final rule, and estimates from the 
National Automotive Sampling System, Crashworthiness Data System of the 
percent of injuries occurring to light truck occupants in multi-stage 
vehicles, the agency derived the following estimate of safety benefits. 
Requiring all multi-stage manufactured vehicles to

[[Page 20937]]

meet FMVSS No. 201 would have annual benefits in the front seat of 16-
22 fewer fatalities and 19-22 fewer AIS 2-5 injuries. However, in the 
rear seats, the benefits are estimated to be less than 1 fatality 
(which would round down to 0) and 1 AIS 2-5 injury. Thus, based on this 
analysis, excluding multi-stage vehicles from target points that could 
not be struck by the front row occupants would have a very small impact 
on safety.
    Given the small safety benefits associated with the FMH impact 
requirements for rear seating positions and practicability concerns, we 
have tentatively concluded that the FMH impact requirements should be 
limited to the front seating positions for these vehicles.
    As indicated in its petition, many commercial vehicles manufactured 
by NTEA members feature bulkheads or partitions located less than 600 
mm (24 inches) behind the rearmost designated seating position. 
Bulkheads or partitions are used in a variety of work vehicles that 
haul odd-shaped objects that cannot be readily secured in the cargo 
area. These structures protect the driver and passenger from loose or 
shifting or shifting cargo or work equipment. NTEA argued that the 
installation of bulkheads or partitions would likely require relocation 
of target areas originally certified by the incomplete vehicle 
manufacturer, thus significantly adding to the compliance burden.
    As discussed above, RVIA argued that most CVs and motor homes 
feature unique interior designs. Specifically, these vehicles include 
overhead cabinets, side valances, raised roof structures, and other 
unusual interior components. Among other things, RVIA stated that 
cooperative testing, suggested by NHTSA as a way to lessen compliance 
costs associated with FMH requirements, is not practicable because each 
RVIA member manufactures unique vehicles, each substantially different 
from its competitors. RVIA argued that cooperative testing would 
eliminate interior customization, which would in turn result in a loss 
of market for CVs and motor homes.
    We believe our proposal to effectively limit the FMH impact 
requirements to the front seating positions for these vehicles would 
provide appropriate relief to the industries represented by NTEA and 
RVIA, while continuing to meet the need for safety. As discussed above, 
the benefits related to rear seating positions are very small.
    We note that NTEA and RVIA members can ordinarily purchase 
incomplete vehicles that are already designed to meet the FMH impact 
requirements for the front seating positions. Under our proposal, final 
stage manufacturers would ordinarily be able to take advantage of pass-
through certification by not changing the upper interior portions of 
the front of the vehicle.
    We believe the requirements are justified by safety. As indicated 
above, we estimate that requiring all multi-stage manufactured vehicles 
to meet FMVSS No. 201 would have annual benefits in the front seat of 
16-22 fewer fatalities and 19-22 fewer AIS 2-5 injuries. Given the 
safety significance of these requirements, we believe, in situations 
where final stage manufacturers use incomplete vehicles that have 
occupant compartments that either are designed to meet the FMH impact 
requirements for the front seating positions or can be purchased in a 
configuration that is designed to meet those requirements, it would be 
inconsistent with the need for safety to generally exclude the vehicles 
from these head impact protection requirements. We also note that while 
final stage manufacturers will be able to submit petitions under 
subpart B of part 555, it is unlikely in this type of situation that 
the agency would find it in the public interest to exclude final stage 
manufacturers from the front seat head impact protection requirements 
of FMVSS No. 201 to facilitate customization of the upper interior 
portions of the front of the vehicle.
    Our proposal would, however, facilitate customization of the rear 
of vehicles, including conversion vans, where there would be no 
significant impact on safety. Moreover, we continue to believe that 
final stage manufacturers can use cooperative testing to determine the 
types of changes that can be made while enabling vehicles to continue 
to comply with the FMH requirements, including ones related to use of 
overhead cabinets, raised roof structures, and so forth. Thus, while 
customization of the front portion of occupant compartments will be 
more difficult and may be more limited, it will by no means be 
eliminated.

B. Proposal To Exclude Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages, 
Other Than Motor Homes, Chassis Cabs, Cutaway Vans, and Other 
Incomplete Vehicles With a Furnished Front Compartment, From FMH Impact 
Requirements

    We tentatively conclude that a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles 
contains physical attributes that make compliance with the FMH impact 
requirements impracticable. These are vehicles built on a ``stripped'' 
chassis; i.e., an incomplete vehicle without an occupant compartment. 
The manufacturers of these vehicles would not be able to rely on pass-
through certification. This is because these vehicles are highly 
customized and produced in quantities that would make compliance 
prohibitively expensive. Further, these vehicles are often equipped 
with partitions and bulkheads that present a further impediment to the 
compliance efforts. We note that for vehicles manufactured from 
stripped chassis, the cost of meeting the FMH impact requirements could 
be substantial because the alternative means of compliance such as 
pass-through certification are not available.
    In the context of serving niche markets demanding specialized work 
vehicles that are not delivered to the final stage manufacturers with 
an intact occupant compartment (unlike for example, chassis cabs and 
cut-away vans), we believe that the physical limitations of these 
vehicles can adversely affect the ability of multi-stage manufacturers 
to design safety performance into their completed vehicles. 
Accordingly, we believe it appropriate to exclude this narrow group of 
vehicles from FMH impact testing.

C. Question Regarding Multistage Vehicles With Raised Roofs

    Certain multistage vehicles are manufactured with raised roofs. The 
final-stage manufacturer cuts out a portion of the original roof and 
attaches a raised roof, typically made of fiberglass that may also have 
metal inserts imbedded for strength. The manufacturers of these 
vehicles may not be able to take advantage of pass through 
certification because raising the roof affects the location of certain 
targets subject to FMH impact testing. The raised roof has a different 
shape than the van portion of an incomplete vehicle. Therefore, the 
reference points located on the exterior, i.e., APR and BPR, will 
probably not be the same and the FMH targets inside the vehicle may be 
in different locations from those that the incomplete vehicle 
manufacturer stated could be certified as pass through. In addition, 
the portion of the roof over the front seating area would be affected 
when the final-stage manufacturer installs a headliner and/or padding 
in a vehicle with a raised roof or a non-raised roof.
    We believe that the original targets in raised roof vehicles, e.g., 
those along the pillars and side rails, may be as appropriate for 
safety as the targets that would be calculated for the new

[[Page 20938]]

configuration. We are therefore considering permitting manufacturers to 
meet requirements for either the target locations as calculated for the 
original configuration or changed configuration. This would also make 
compliance easier for final stage manufacturers. We are asking for 
comment on this approach to targets in vehicles with raised roofs.

D. Additional Relief Is Not Warranted

    After carefully considering RVIA's and NTEA's petitions, we have 
decided not to propose a broader exclusion from the FMH requirements 
for front seat areas of conversion vans, motor homes, ambulances, fire 
fighting, rescue, emergency, law enforcement, and altered vehicles. As 
explained above, we believe that the head impact protection 
requirements provide important safety benefits in front seating 
positions of vehicles manufactured in two or more stages, and our 
proposal would provide appropriate relief to the industries represented 
by NTEA and RVIA, while continuing to meet the need for safety.
    RVIA and NTEA did not provide any convincing reasons why occupants 
of its members' vehicles would not benefit from the same level of 
protection as required for other vehicles. Conversion vans, light duty 
motor homes, and other altered vehicles are typically driven by regular 
passenger vehicle drivers who require the same type of occupant 
protection as other passenger vehicle drivers. Furthermore, the 
petitioners did not explain why the occupants of ambulances, fire 
fighting, rescue, emergency, and law enforcement vehicles that may 
additionally travel at high rates of speed through unconventional 
traffic paths would not benefit from countermeasures designed to reduce 
head impacts in the event of a collision.
    We note that the petitioners are also able to purchase incomplete 
vehicles that are already designed to meet the FMH impact requirements 
for the front seating positions. Under our proposal, the rear portions 
of multi-stage and altered vehicles, where the majority of vehicle 
customization is performed, would be excluded from the FMH 
requirements. Furthermore, final stage manufacturers would ordinarily 
be able to take advantage of pass-through certification by not changing 
the upper interior portions of the front of the vehicle. Accordingly, 
compliance costs and test burdens, (i.e., the petitioners' main 
concerns), would be substantially reduced when certifying these 
vehicles.
    We further believe that the compliance costs provided by the RVIA 
and NTEA in their petition were overstated. For example, the compliance 
test cost estimates provided by RVIA were not averaged over the years 
of vehicle production. Instead, the costs were reflective of only the 
first production year. RVIA did not provide the actual production 
cycles for its various vehicles, so its cost estimates were based on a 
one-year production cycle. Typically, when vehicle compliance costs are 
amortized over the vehicle production years, the costs are a lot 
smaller, as evidenced by the rulemaking involving small school buses 
where the estimated compliance cost per multi-stage vehicle was less 
than $1,000 in 1993 economics.\22\
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    \22\ See 62 FR 16718, April 8, 1997.
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    NTEA estimated that compliance with the FMH requirements would cost 
its industry a minimum of $160 million and 64 years to comply. However, 
this was based on the availability of two test laboratories that 
conducted FMH testing in 2001 and no pass-through certification was 
applied. We believe that laboratory experience has improved greatly 
since that time, and the exclusions that we are proposing in this 
notice will have a large impact on reducing the actual compliance 
costs.
    RVIA and NTEA did not provide any convincing reasons why it is not 
generally practicable for these vehicles to comply. With respect to 
conversion vans and motor homes, the agency believes that there are 
alternative locations for the installation of hardwood cabinetry, and 
audio/video entertainment systems (other than mounted over the heads of 
front seat occupants). There are also other more compliant materials 
than hardwood that could be utilized by conversion van and motor home 
customization specialists.
    As to fire fighting and rescue vehicles (with a gross vehicle 
weight rating of 4,536 kg or less), these vehicles are basically multi-
stage work vehicles furnished with special equipment and tools designed 
exclusively for the purpose of rescuing people in emergency situations. 
We are proposing to exclude the rear compartment area of these vehicles 
from FMH target requirements, as we are for other multistage. We do not 
believe there is any reason to treat the front occupant compartment of 
these vehicles differently from other multistage vehicles (such as 
utility company trucks, contractor vehicles, snow removal vehicles, 
etc). Thus, we believe that no additional relief is necessary.
    The agency has also previously considered and denied the exclusion 
of police cars from the FMH requirements.\23\ Our position on that 
issue has not changed substantially. Previously, the NTEA requested 
that police cars be excluded since these cars have special equipment, 
including gun racks and spotlight control mounted on the upper roof 
interior, and a bulkhead behind the front seats. However, the agency 
believes that interior components, such as gun racks and spotlight 
controls do not necessarily have to be mounted on the vehicle roof 
interior surface in the vicinity of the driver's head, and can 
alternatively be accommodated with padding. Furthermore, we are aware 
that there are available equipment packages (such as remote-controlled 
spotlights and A-pillar mounted spotlights below the AP3 target 
location) that would facilitate compliance with the FMH requirements.
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    \23\ See id.
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VII. Effective Date

    We are proposing to delay the effective date of the FMH impact 
requirements as they apply to final stage manufacturers and alterers 
from September 1, 2006 until September 1, 2008.

VIII. Submission of Comments

A. How Do I Prepare and Submit Comments?

    Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your 
comments are filed correctly in the Docket, please include the docket 
number of this document in your comments.
    Your comments must not be more than 15 pages long.\24\ NHTSA 
established this limit to encourage you to write your primary comments 
in a concise fashion. However, you may attach necessary additional 
documents to your comments. There is no limit on the length of the 
attachments.
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    \24\ 49 CFR 553.21.
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    Please submit two copies of your comments, including the 
attachments, to Docket Management at the address given above under 
ADDRESSES. You may also submit your comments to the docket 
electronically by logging onto the Docket Management System (DMS) Web 
site at http://dms.dot.gov. Click on ``Help & Information'' or ``Help/
Info'' to obtain instructions for filing your comments electronically. 
Please note, if you are submitting comments electronically as a PDF 
(Adobe) file, we ask that the documents submitted be scanned using 
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) process, thus allowing the agency 
to search and copy certain portions of your submissions.\25\
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    \25\ Optical character recognition (OCR) is the process of 
converting an image of text, such as a scanned paper document or 
electronic fax file, into computer-editable text.
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[[Page 20939]]

How Can I Be Sure That My Comments Were Received?
    If you wish Docket Management to notify you upon its receipt of 
your comments, enclose a self-addressed, stamped postcard in the 
envelope containing your comments. Upon receiving your comments, Docket 
Management will return the postcard by mail.
How Do I Submit Confidential Business Information?
    If you wish to submit any information under a claim of 
confidentiality, you should submit three copies of your complete 
submission, including the information you claim to be confidential 
business information, to the Chief Counsel, NHTSA, at the address given 
above under FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT. In addition, you should 
submit two copies, from which you have deleted the claimed confidential 
business information, to Docket Management at the address given above 
under ADDRESSES. When you send a comment containing information claimed 
to be confidential business information, you should include a cover 
letter setting forth the information specified in NHTSA's confidential 
business information regulation (49 CFR part 512).
Will the Agency Consider Late Comments?
    NHTSA will consider all comments that Docket Management receives 
before the close of business on the comment closing date indicated 
above under DATES. To the extent possible, the agency will also 
consider comments that Docket Management receives after that date. If 
Docket Management receives a comment too late for the agency to 
consider it in developing a final rule (assuming that one is issued), 
the agency will consider that comment as an informal suggestion for 
future rulemaking action.
How Can I Read the Comments Submitted by Other People?
    You may read the comments received by Docket Management at the 
address given above under ADDRESSES. The hours of the Docket are 
indicated above in the same location.
    You may also see the comments on the Internet. To read the comments 
on the Internet, take the following steps:
    1. Go to the Docket Management System (DMS) Web page of the 
Department of Transportation http://dms.dot.gov.
    2. On that page, click on ``search.''
    3. On the next page http://dms.dot.gov/search, type in the four-
digit docket number shown at the beginning of this document. Example: 
If the docket number were ``NHTSA-1998-1234,'' you would type ``1234.'' 
After typing the docket number, click on ``search.''
    4. On the next page, which contains docket summary information for 
the docket you selected, click on the desired comments. You may 
download the comments. Although the comments are imaged documents, 
instead of word processing documents, the ``pdf'' versions of the 
documents are word searchable.
    Please note that even after the comment closing date, NHTSA will 
continue to file relevant information in the Docket as it becomes 
available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, 
the agency recommends that you periodically check the Docket for new 
material.

VIII. Regulatory Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review'' (58 FR 
51735, October 4, 1993), provides for making determinations whether a 
regulatory action is ``significant'' and therefore subject to Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) review and to the requirements of the 
Executive Order. The Order defines a ``significant regulatory action'' 
as one that is likely to result in a rule that may:
    (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more or 
adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the 
economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public 
health or safety, or State, local, or Tribal governments or 
communities;
    (2) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    (3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, 
user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in 
the Executive Order.
    This proposal was not reviewed under Executive Order 12866. It is 
not significant within the meaning of the DOT Regulatory Policies and 
Procedures. If adopted, it would not impose any new burdens on 
manufacturers of vehicles built in two or more stages or vehicles 
alterers. Further, if adopted, this proposal would limit certain 
existing requirements as they apply to multistage vehicles, and exclude 
a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles manufactured from chassis 
without occupant compartments from the same requirements. The agency 
believes that this impact is so minimal as to not warrant the 
preparation of a full regulatory evaluation.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980 (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) 
requires agencies to evaluate the potential effects of their proposed 
rules on small businesses, small organizations and small governmental 
jurisdictions. I have considered the possible effects of this 
rulemaking action under the Regulatory Flexibility Act and certify that 
it would not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number 
of small entities.
    Under 13 CFR 121.201, the Small Business Administration (SBA) 
defines small business (for the purposes of receiving SBA assistance) 
as a business with less than 750 employees. Most of the manufacturers 
of recreation vehicles, conversion vans, and specialized work trucks 
are small businesses that alter completed vehicles or manufacture 
vehicles in two or more stages. While the number of these small 
businesses potentially affected by this proposal is substantial, the 
economic impact upon these entities will not be significant because 
this document proposes to limit certain existing requirements as they 
apply to multistage vehicles, and exclude a narrow group of multi-stage 
vehicles manufactured from chassis without occupant compartments from 
the same requirements. For other multistage manufacturers, recent 
agency action described above will enable the manufacturers to more 
fully utilize pass-through certification.

C. National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has analyzed this proposal for the purposes of the National 
Environmental Policy Act. The agency has determined that implementation 
of this action would not have any significant impact on the quality of 
the human environment. Accordingly, no environmental assessment is 
required.

D. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

    The agency has analyzed this rulemaking in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 13132 and has 
determined that it does not have sufficient federal implications to 
warrant consultation with State and local officials or the preparation 
of a

[[Page 20940]]

federalism summary impact statement. The proposal would not have any 
substantial impact on the States, or on the current Federal-State 
relationship, or on the current distribution of power and 
responsibilities among the various local officials.

E. Unfunded Mandates Act

    The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 requires agencies to 
prepare a written assessment of the costs, benefits and other effects 
of proposed or final rules that include a Federal mandate likely to 
result in the expenditure by State, local or tribal governments, in the 
aggregate, or by the private sector, of more than $100 million annually 
($120.7 million as adjusted annually for inflation with base year of 
1995). The assessment may be combined with other assessments, as it is 
here.
    This proposal is not likely to result in expenditures by State, 
local or tribal governments or automobile manufacturers and/or their 
suppliers of more than $120.7 million annually. If adopted, it would 
not impose any new burdens on manufacturers of vehicles built in two or 
more stages or vehicles alterers. Further, if adopted, this proposal 
would limit certain existing requirements as they apply to multistage 
vehicles, and exclude a narrow group of multi-stage vehicles 
manufactured from chassis without occupant compartments from the same 
requirements.

F. Executive Order 12988 (Civil Justice Reform)

    Pursuant to Executive Order 12988, ``Civil Justice Reform'', \26\ 
the agency has considered whether this proposed rule would have any 
retroactive effect. We conclude that it would not have such an effect. 
Under 49 U.S.C. 30103, 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. 49 U.S.C. 30161 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 a suit in court.
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    \26\ See 61 FR 4729, February 7, 1996.
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G. Paperwork Reduction Act

    Th