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Receipt of Applications for Temporary Exemption From a Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard

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National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), DOT.


Notice of receipt of applications for temporary exemptions from a Federal motor vehicle safety standard; Request for comments.


We have received applications from three motorcycle manufacturers (Honda, Piaggio, and Yamaha) for temporary exemptions from a provision in the Federal motor vehicle safety standard on motorcycle controls and displays specifying that a motorcycle rear brake, if provided, must be controlled by a right foot control. The manufacturers ask that we permit the left handlebar as an alternative location for the rear brake control. Each manufacturer states its belief that “compliance with the standard would prevent the manufacturer from selling a motor vehicle with an overall level of safety at least equal to the overall safety level of nonexempt vehicles.”

We are publishing this notice of receipt of the applications in accordance with our regulations on the subject, and ask for public comment on each application. This publication does not mean that we have made a judgment yet about the merits of the applications.


You should submit your comments early enough to ensure that Docket Management receives them not later than September 1, 2004.


You may submit your comments [identified by the DOT DMS Docket Number cited in the heading of this document] by any of the following methods:

  • Web site: Follow the instructions for submitting comments on the DOT electronic docket site.
  • Fax: 1-(202)-493-2251.
  • Mail: Docket Management Facility; U.S. Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Nassif Building, Room PL-401, Washington, DC 20590-001.
  • Hand Delivery: Room PL-401 on the plaza level of the Nassif Building, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.
  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to Follow the online instructions for submitting comments.

You may call the Docket at (202) 366-9324. You may visit the Docket from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal Holidays.

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For non-legal issues, you may call Mr. Michael Pyne, Office of Crash Avoidance Standards at (202) 366-4171. His 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 these officials at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh St., SW., Washington, DC 20590.


I. Background

49 U.S.C. section 30113(b) provides the Secretary of Transportation the authority to exempt, on a temporary basis, motor vehicles from a motor vehicle safety standard under certain circumstances. The exemption may be renewed, if the vehicle manufacturer reapplies. The Secretary has delegated Start Printed Page 46206the authority for section 30113(b) to NHTSA.

NHTSA has established regulations at 49 CFR part 555, Temporary Exemption from Motor Vehicle Safety and Bumper Standards. Part 555 provides a means by which motor vehicle manufacturers may apply for temporary exemptions from the Federal motor vehicle safety standards on the basis of substantial economic hardship, facilitation of the development of new motor vehicle safety or low-emission engine features, or existence of an equivalent overall level of motor vehicle safety.

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 123, Motorcycle controls and displays (49 CFR section 571.123) specifies requirements for the location, operation, identification, and illumination of motorcycle controls and displays, and requirements for motorcycle stands and footrests. Among other requirements, FMVSS No. 123 specifies that for motorcycles with rear wheel brakes, the rear wheel brakes must be operable through the right foot control, although the left handlebar is permissible for motor-driven cycles. (See S5.2.1, and Table 1, Item 11. Motor-driven cycles are motorcycles with motors that produce 5 brake horsepower or less. (See 49 CFR section 571.3, Definitions.)

On November 21, 2003, NHTSA published in the Federal Register (68 FR 65667) a notice proposing two regulatory alternatives to amend FMVSS No. 123. Each alternative would require that for certain motorcycles without a clutch control lever, the rear brakes must be controlled by a lever located on the left handlebar. We also requested comment on industry practices and plans regarding controls for motorcycles with integrated brakes. If this proposed rule is made final, the left handlebar would be permitted as an alternative location for the rear brake control.

II. Applications for Temporary Exemption From FMVSS No. 123

NHTSA has received applications for temporary exemption from S5.2.1 and Table 1, Item 11 from three motorcycle manufacturers: Honda Motor Company, Ltd. (Honda); Piaggio & C. S.p.A. and Piaggio USA, Inc (Piaggio); and Yamaha Motor Corporation USA (Yamaha) . Honda asks for a new temporary exemption for the PS250 (for Model Years (MYs) 2005 and 2006), and an extension of an existing temporary exemption for the NSS250 (for MYs 2005-2006). Piaggio asks for new temporary exemptions for the Vespa GT200 (for MYs 2005-2006), the Piaggio BV200 (for MYs 2005-2006) and the Piaggio X9-500 (for MYs 2005-2006). Piaggio asks for an extension of an existing temporary exemption for the Vespa ET4 (for MYs 2004-2006). Yamaha asks for a new temporary exemption for the YP-400 (for MYs 2005-2006), which Yamaha asserts is “equivalent” to the Yamaha Vino 125. The Vino 125 is the subject of a grant of a temporary exemption from Standard No. 123 until March 1, 2005 (See 68 FR 15552; March 31, 2003). All of these motorcycles are considered “motor scooters.”

The safety issues are identical in the case of all of these motorcycles. Honda, Piaggio, and Yamaha have applied to use the left handlebar as the location for the rear brake control on their motorcycles whose engines produce more than 5 brake horsepower (all of the motorcycles specified in the previous paragraph). The frames of each of the motorcycles that are the subject of these applications for temporary exemptions have not been designed to mount a right foot operated brake pedal (i.e., these motor scooters have a platform for the feet and operate only through hand controls). Applying considerable stress to this sensitive pressure point of the motor scooter frame by putting on a foot operated brake control could cause failure due to fatigue, unless proper design and testing procedures are performed.

III. Why the Petitioners Claim the Overall Level of Safety of the Motorcycles Equals or Exceeds That of Non-exempted Motorcycles

The applicants have argued that the overall level of safety of the motorcycles covered by their petitions equals or exceeds that of a non-exempted motorcycle for the following reasons. Each manufacturer stated that motorcycles for which applications have been submitted are equipped with an automatic transmission. As there is no foot-operated gear change, the operation and use of a motorcycle with an automatic transmission is similar to the operation and use of a bicycle, and the vehicles can be operated without requiring special training or practice. Each manufacturer provided the following additional arguments:

Honda—Honda provided separate applications for the new exemption for the PS250 and the renewal of the exemption for the NSS250. In both cases, Honda provided test data showing how each motorcycle met the FMVSS No. 122 Motorcycle brake systems test specified at S5.3, service brake system—second effectiveness test. Honda provided separate sets of data showing the results of a second effectiveness comparison test data for the NSS250 and the PS250 equipped with the combined brake system. The test results for the NSS250 and the PS250 were compared to results for similarly sized models without the combined brake systems. In all cases, the NSS250 and the PS250 had shorter braking stopping distances than did the models without the combined brake systems.

Honda also provided results of ECE 78 test data for the NSS250 and PS250, equipped with the combined brake system, and provided test data comparing stopping distances on various surfaces using the rear brake control only between an NSS250 and a PS250 equipped with a combined brake system and a similar model without a combined brake system.

Piaggio—Piaggio stated that brake tests in accordance with FMVSS No. 122 Motorcycle brake systems, were conducted on all Vespa and Piaggio models and stated that all models “easily exceed” the performance requirements of FMVSS No. 122. Piaggio also stated that Vespa and Piaggio vehicles fully meet the 93/14 EEC brake testing requirements, and enclosed a copy of the brake testing report of the “Ministero dei Trasporti e della Navigazione” Italy or TUV/VCA.

Piaggio cited several reasons why it believes the left handlebar rear brake actuation force provides an overall level of safety that equals or exceeds a motorcycle with a right-foot rear brake control. Among these reasons, Piaggio cited the “state of the art” hydraulically activated front disc brakes used on Vespa and Piaggio vehicles, as providing more than enough brake actuation force available to the “hand of even the smallest rider.” Piaggio explained that because of the greater physical size of a foot-powered brake pedal, mechanical efficiency is lower and inertia about the pivot is higher. This results in less effective feedback, or what Piaggio describes as “feeling” of the actuation system. Piaggio asserted that because there is more sensitivity to brake feedback from the hand lever, use of a hand lever reduces the probability of inadvertent wheel locking in an emergency braking situation. Piaggio stated that inexperienced riders may lose control of their motorcycle because of rear wheel locking, and that use of the hand lever reduces the possibility of rear wheel locking.

Yamaha—Yamaha cited an August 1999 study, “Motorcycle Braking Control Response Study” by T. J. Carter, as showing that handlebar-mounted rear brakes have an equivalent level of safety to that of right-foot control rear brakes, because handlebar-mounted rear brakes Start Printed Page 46207have equivalent reaction times to the foot control. Yamaha analogized motorcycle operators changing from the dual hand control wheel brakes to the hand/foot arrangement, to that of an automobile driver going from an automatic transmission to a stick shift. Yamaha asserted: “[t]here have been no required warnings of ‘change’ or ‘difference in operating character’ to the automobile operator, nor has there been shown to be a lessened or lowered level of equivalent safety for the two different systems on the same platform (automobiles).”

IV. Why Petitioners Claim an Exemption Would Be in the Public Interest and Would be Consistent With the Objectives of Motor Vehicle Safety

Each manufacturer offered the following reasons why temporary exemptions for their motorcycles would be in the public interest and would be consistent with the objectives of motor vehicle safety:

Honda—For both the NSS250 and the PS250, Honda asserted that it is “certain” that the level of safety of the two motorcycles “is equal to similar vehicles certified under FMVSS No. 123; therefore, we seek renewal of the [or a new] temporary exemption from this standard.” Honda noted that both the NSS250 and the PS250 are equipped with a combined brake system. The combined brake system uses both front and rear disc brakes and employs a unique three-piston front caliper. Applying the right handlebar brake lever activates the front brake caliper. Applying the left handlebar brake lever activates one piston in the front brake caliper and the rear brake caliper.

Honda asserted that with the combined brake system, the rider is able to precisely control brake force distribution, depending on which control is used. Applying the right handlebar lever activates the outer two pistons in the front caliper. In this case, the front wheel receives a larger portion of the braking force. Applying the left handlebar lever activates the center piston in the front caliper and the single piston in the rear caliper. A valve has been installed in this system to slightly delay the brake force at the front wheel. This delay improves braking by allowing the rear of the scooter to settle, which helps to minimize front nose dive and weight shift. Honda further noted that using both controls at once activates all pistons in both calipers for maximum braking force.

For the NSS250, Honda plans to offer some models with an optional antilock-brake system.

Piaggio—Piaggio stated that with the introduction of automatic transmission engines on motorcycles, “the Code of Federal Regulations is completely out of harmonization with the majority of countries in the world as far as the FMVSS 123-S5.2.1 is concerned.” Piaggio asserted all European Community countries permit motorcycle manufacturers to make their own decision whether to use a left handlebar control or a right foot control for rear wheel brakes.

Yamaha—Since there have been many previous exemptions to Standard No. 123, S5.2.1, and Table 1, Item 11 granted, Yamaha asserts that “the grounds and precedent are clear and a redundant reiteration of same is not in order to preserve precious Agency time.” Yamaha concluded that its “request is consistent with the intent of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act and offers an equivalent level of safety for consumers and other motorists/highway users.”

V. Comments

How Do I Prepare and Submit Comments?

Your comments must be written and in English. To ensure that your comments are correctly filed in the Docket, please include the docket number of this document in your comments.

Your comments must not be more than 15 pages long. (49 CFR 553.21). We 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 Dockets Management System Web site at Click on “Help & Information” or “Help/Info” to obtain instructions for filing the document electronically.

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 our confidential business information regulation. (49 CFR part 512.)

Will the Agency Consider Late Comments?

We 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, we will also consider comments that Docket Management receives after that date.

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 (​).

2. On that page, click on “search.”

3. On the next page (​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, we will continue Start Printed Page 46208to file relevant information in the Docket as it becomes available. Further, some people may submit late comments. Accordingly, we recommend that you periodically check the Docket for new material.

How Does the Federal Privacy Act Apply to My Public Comments?

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

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Authority: 49 U.S.C. Section 30113; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 501.4.

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Issued on: July 28, 2004.

Stephen R. Kratzke,

Associate Administrator for Rulemaking.

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[FR Doc. 04-17535 Filed 7-30-04; 8:45 am]