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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release

Document Details

Information about this document as published in the Federal Register.

Published Document

This document has been published in the Federal Register. Use the PDF linked in the document sidebar for the official electronic format.

Start Preamble

AGENCY:

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

ACTION:

Final rule; delay of effective date.

SUMMARY:

NHTSA published a final rule in April 2002 that amended the Federal motor vehicle safety standard on bus emergency exits and window retention and release. The agency received several petitions for reconsideration of the rule. At present, the rule is to take effect on April 21, 2004. To allow for more time to respond to the petitions, this document delays the effective date of the final rule.

DATES:

The effective date of the final rule published on April 19, 2002 (67 FR 19343) and amended on April 22, 2003 (68 FR 19752), is delayed until April 21, 2006. Any petitions for reconsideration of today's final rule must be received by NHTSA not later than April 26, 2004.

ADDRESSES:

Petitions for reconsideration should refer to the docket number for this action and be submitted to: Administrator, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh St., SW., Washington, DC 20590.

Start Further Info

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

For technical issues you may call: Mr. Charles Hott, Office of Crashworthiness Standards, at (202) 366-0247. Mr. Hott's FAX number is: (202) 493-2739.

For legal issues, you may call Ms. Dorothy Nakama, Office of the Chief Counsel, at (202) 366-2992. Her FAX number is: (202) 366-3820.

You may send mail to both of these officials at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590.

End Further Info End Preamble Start Supplemental Information

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release, (49 CFR 571.217) (FMVSS No. 217), specifies requirements for the retention of windows other than windshields in buses, and for operating forces, opening dimensions, and markings for bus emergency exits. The purpose of FMVSS No. 217 is to minimize the likelihood of occupants being thrown from the bus in a crash and to provide a means of readily accessible emergency egress.

2002 Final Rule

On April 19, 2002 (67 FR 19343)(DMS Docket No. NHTSA-99-5157), NHTSA published a final rule amending FMVSS No. 217 to reduce the likelihood that wheelchair securement anchorages [1] would be installed such that a wheelchair secured thereto would block access to emergency exit doors. For a side emergency exit door, the final rule restricted these anchorages from being placed in an area bounded by transverse vertical planes 305 mm (12 inches) forward and rearward of the center of the door aisle and a longitudinal vertical plane through the longitudinal centerline of the school bus.

For a rear emergency exit door, the final rule restricted the anchorages from being placed in an area bounded by: Start Printed Page 11816

(a) longitudinal vertical planes tangent to the left and right sides of the door opening;

(b) a horizontal plane 1,145 mm (45 inches) above the bus floor; and

(c) a transverse vertical plane that is either: (1) 305 mm (12 inches) forward of the bottom edge of the door opening (for school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) over 4,536 kg) (over 10,000 lb), or

(2) 150 mm (6 inches) forward of the bottom edge of the door opening within the bus occupant space (for school buses with a GVWR of 4,536 kg or less)(10,000 lb or less).

The final rule also provided that in school buses with one or more wheelchair securement anchorages, emergency exit doors and emergency exit windows labeled as such must also bear a label stating, “DO NOT BLOCK”. The agency said that access to these doors and exits should never be blocked with wheelchairs or other items, such as book bags, knapsacks, sports equipment or band equipment.

The final rule specified an effective date of April 21, 2003 for these amendments.

Petitions for Reconsideration

NHTSA received petitions for reconsideration of the April 19, 2002 final rule from three school bus manufacturers: Thomas Built Buses; American Transportation Corporation (now known as IC Corporation); and Blue Bird Body Company. The three petitioners requested reconsideration of the final rule's use of transverse vertical and horizontal planes to define the area around the side and rear emergency exit doors where wheelchair anchorages may not be located. All three companies stated that the area should instead be defined using “the rectangular parallelepiped fixture.” The fixture is described in S5.4.2.1 of the standard.

The petitioners also raised other issues for reconsideration. They requested clarification of whether the “DO NOT BLOCK” warning label specified in the final rule is required for both emergency exit doors and emergency exit windows or emergency exit doors only. They asked for clarification about the intent of the “DO NOT BLOCK” warning label. In addition, a manufacturer asked NHTSA to clarify whether emergency exits not required by FMVSS No. 217 must meet FMVSS No. 217 emergency exit requirements.

In a letter dated January 29, 2003, Blue Bird Body Corporation asked NHTSA to delay the effective date of the rule by a year. Blue Bird asked for a one-year delay to give NHTSA an additional six months to respond to the petitions for reconsideration and to provide the school bus industry at least six months lead time to implement the changes. In a Federal Register document of April 22, 2003 (68 FR 19752), NHTSA delayed the effective date to April 21, 2004.

Present Effective Date

The petitions for reconsideration ask us to amend the final rule's method of determining the areas on a school bus where wheelchair securement anchorages must not be installed. Our response to those petitions could affect current designs of school bus exits. The agency is in the process of responding to the petitions. A 24-month extension of the effective date, to April 21, 2006, preserves the status quo until then. The benefits from the April 2002 rulemaking cannot be quantified, and are likely minor.

This Document Takes Effect Immediately

Because the April 21, 2004 effective date for the final rule is fast approaching, NHTSA finds for good cause that this action delaying the effective date should take effect immediately. Today's final rule makes no substantive change to the standard, but delays the effective date of the April 19, 2002 final rule for another two years while the agency responds to the petitions for reconsideration of the rule.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

We have considered the impact of this rulemaking action under Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. This rulemaking document was not reviewed under E.O. 12866, “Regulatory Planning and Review.” Further, we have determined that this action is not “significant” within the meaning of the Department of Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures (44 FR 11034; February 26, 1979).

This final rule delays the effective date of an April 19, 2002 final rule. There are no additional costs associated with today's final rule.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

NHTSA has considered the impacts of this rulemaking action under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.). I certify that the amendment will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. The rule will not impose any new requirements or costs on manufacturers, but instead will only preserve the status quo for 24 months.

C. Paperwork Reduction Act

Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)(PRA), a person is not required to respond to a collection of information by a Federal agency unless the collection displays a valid OMB control number. Since it only delays the effective date of a final rule, this final rule does not impose any new collection of information requirements for which a 5 CFR part 1320 clearance must be obtained.

D. National Environmental Policy Act

We have analyzed this final rule for the purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act. We have determined that implementation of this action will not have any significant impact on the quality of the human environment.

E. Executive Order 13132, Federalism

This final rule does not have substantial direct effects on the States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of government, as specified in Executive Order 13132.

F. Civil Justice Reform

This final rule does not have any retroactive effect. Under 49 U.S.C. 30103(b), whenever a Federal motor vehicle safety standard is in effect, a state or political subdivision may prescribe or continue in effect a standard applicable to the same aspect of performance of a motor vehicle only if the standard is identical to the Federal standard. However, the United States Government, a state or political subdivision of a state may prescribe a standard for a motor vehicle or motor vehicle equipment obtained for its own use that imposes a higher performance requirement than that required by the Federal standard. 49 U.S.C. 30161 sets forth a procedure for judicial review of final rules establishing, amending or revoking Federal motor vehicle safety standards. A petition for reconsideration or other administrative proceedings are not required before parties may file suit in court.

G. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

This final rule will not result in costs of $100 million or more to either State, local, or tribal governments, in the aggregate, or to the private sector. Thus, this final rule is not subject to the requirements of sections 202 and 205 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act. Start Printed Page 11817

H. Executive Order 13045—Economically Significant Rules Disporportionately Affecting Children

This rule is not subject to E.O. 13045 because it is not “economically significant” as defined under E.O. 12866, and does not concern an environmental, health or safety risk that NHTSA has reason to believe may have a disproportionate effect on children.

Start Authority

Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117, and 30166; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.8.

End Authority Start Signature

Issued on: March 9, 2004.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.

End Signature End Supplemental Information

Footnotes

1.  Defined at S4 of 49 CFR 571.222.

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[FR Doc. 04-5691 Filed 3-11-04; 8:45 am]

BILLING CODE 4910-59-P