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Spartan Motor Chassis, Inc.; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Emergency Services Vehicles American Government Topics:  Spartan

Spartan Motor Chassis, Inc.; Denial of Petition for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

Nancy Lummen Lewis
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
August 13, 2013


[Federal Register Volume 78, Number 156 (Tuesday, August 13, 2013)]
[Notices]
[Pages 49333-49334]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Printing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2013-19489]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2012-0003; Notice 2]


Spartan Motor Chassis, Inc.; Denial of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT.

ACTION: Notice of Denial.

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SUMMARY: Spartan Motor Chassis, Inc. (Spartan) has determined that 
model year 2011 and 2012 model MM, K2, K3, and SU incomplete vehicles 
manufactured between January 28, 2011 and June 28, 2011, do not fully 
comply with paragraph S5.1.4 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 
(FMVSS) No. 121, Air Brake Systems. Spartan has filed an appropriate 
report pursuant to 49 CFR Part 573, Defect and Noncompliance 
Responsibility and Reports (dated July 13, 2011).
    Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and the rule 
implementing those provisions at 49 CFR Part 556, Exemption for 
Inconsequential Defect or Noncompliance, Spartan has petitioned for an 
exemption from the notification and remedy requirements of 49 U.S.C. 
Chapter 301 on the basis that this noncompliance is inconsequential to 
motor vehicle safety. Notice of receipt of the petition was published, 
with a 30-day public comment period, on February 7, 2012 in the Federal 
Register (77 FR 6190). No comments were received. To view the petition, 
and all supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management 
System (FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the 
online search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2012-0003.''
    Contact Information: For further information on this decision 
contact Mr. James A. Jones, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, the 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 
366-5294, facsimile (202) 366-7002.
    Summary of Spartans' Analyses: Spartan explains that the 
noncompliance is the accuracy of the air gauges used in the air brake 
systems on the subject vehicles do not meet the accuracy requirements 
identified in FMVSS No. 121 S5.1.4. Spartan explains that the air brake 
systems operate as designed and meet all other applicable requirements 
of FMVSS No. 121. In this case, the operator may not be able to detect, 
by way of the air gauges, the variation between the physical cut-out 
pressure of the air compressor versus what is shown on the gauge. 
Although the air pressure within the air systems is controlled by an 
air governor that is independent of the gauges, rendering the gauges do 
not provide an accurate indication of the air pressure to the driver.
    Spartan additionally states that it has corrected the gauge 
calibration so that future production will be in compliance.
    In summation, Spartan believes that the described noncompliance of 
its vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that its 
petition, to exempt from providing recall notification of noncompliance 
as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the recall noncompliance 
as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.

NHTSA Decision

Requirement Background

    Paragraphs S5 of FMVSS No. 121 requires in pertinent part:

S5.1 Required equipment for trucks and buses. Each truck and bus 
shall have the following equipment: * * *

S5.1.4 Pressure gauge. A pressure gauge in each service brake 
system, readily visible to a person seated in the normal driving 
position, that indicates the service reservoir system air pressure. 
The accuracy of the gauge shall be within plus or minus 7 percent of 
the compressor cut-out pressure.

    The air pressure gauge requirement was adopted during the initial 
proposal of Standard No. 121 and has been a longstanding requirement of 
the agency's safety standard that regulates the manufacture of buses 
and trucks equipped with air brakes. The agency initially proposed that 
air pressure gauges be visible to the driver seated at the driver's 
position and have an accuracy of ``plus or minus 5 percent'' of the air 
compressor cut-out pressure (see 35 FR 10368). In response to comments, 
the agency decided to broaden the accuracy of the gauges to ``plus or 
minus 7 percent'' of the air compressor cut-out pressure (see 36 FR 
3817).
    The requirement focuses on two important aspects of motor vehicle 
safety: 1. Air gauges must be readily visible to the driver seated 
behind the steering wheel and, 2. Air gauges must accurately display 
system air pressure to the driver during operation of the vehicle. 
Readily visible and accurate gauges provide critical feedback to 
drivers about the condition of the vehicle's air brake system. 
According to Spartan, with the vehicle's air system fully charged to 
physical cut-out pressure, the faulty gauges could read as high as 133 
psi when they should read 120 psi.
    Discussion: The manufacturer of the faulty analog air pressure 
gauges, Ametek, miscalculated the sweep angle of the pointer-dial 
resulting in pressure readings that could overshoot by as much as 11 
percent of the air compressor cut-out pressure. With the vehicle's air 
system fully charged to the physical cut-out pressure, the faulty 
gauges could read as high as 133 psi when they should read 120 psi.
    There are three psi readings indicated on the faulty air pressure 
gauge read-out displays, at 0, 85 and 150 psi, with no

[[Page 49334]]

other graduation marks or incremental pressures between these 
pressures. Since, the gauges lack markings, Spartan argued that vehicle 
operators may not be able to detect the variance in pressure readings. 
Spartan, however, did not provide any supporting documentation to show 
the difference in angle between a properly calibrated gauge and a 
faulty gauge or any data to demonstrate whether operators, seated at 
the driver's position, detect the difference in angle.
    Spartan also argued that air pressure within the air system is 
controlled by an air governor that is independent of the gauges 
rendering the gauges as only an indicator to the operator. The fact 
that the vehicles may have an air governor that controls air pressure 
cut-out does not eliminate the need for an accurate gauge for the 
driver.
    The 11 percent error as stated by Spartan is unacceptable for air 
pressure gauges used in heavy duty air-braked vehicle applications. 
Because of the large error and overshoot of the faulty gauges, actual 
low system pressures may appear to the driver to be safe, leaving 
operators ignorant of the true condition of the vehicle's air brake 
system. Since the faulty Ametek gauges do not have sufficient markings 
that specify the normal operating range, it is even more important that 
the gauges be accurate so that the driver is aware of the service 
reservoir system air pressures \1\.
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    \1\ On March 29, 2013, in a supplemental submission upon NHTSA's 
request (and incorporated into the official file), Spartan provided 
a copy of the section of the owner's manual which discusses the 
operation of the vehicle's pressure gauges. The manual states that 
the vehicle's normal operating pressure is ``100 to 140 psi, which 
is preset at the factory . . . Before moving the vehicle, be sure 
both gauges are within normal operating range [emphasis added].'' 
The pictorial, however, shows different gauges than the subject 
faulty Ametek pressure gauges. The pressure gauges in the pictorial 
have incremental markings at 0, 50, 65, 100 and 150 psi so that 
drivers can readily check whether system air pressure is in the 
normal operating range. For the faulty gauges, with only 3 
incremental markings at 0, 85 and 150 psi, the normal operating 
range is not specified and drivers may not be able to readily 
determine whether system air is at normal operating pressures.
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    Drivers rely upon the gauges to provide accurate information, 
especially in situations that may involve loss of system air, and that 
detect malfunctioning air system components when service reservoir 
system air does not appear to fully charge to compressor cut-out. These 
conditions can create an operational hazard when there is insufficient 
air pressure for proper functioning of the air brake system. So, it is 
important that the gauges accurately display pressures, not only at 
compressor cut-out, but throughout scale. Gauges must accurately 
display system air pressure to the driver during operation of the 
vehicle as intended.
    Decision: In consideration of the foregoing, NHTSA has decided that 
the petitioner has not met its burden of persuasion that the 
noncompliance described is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, Spartan's petition is hereby denied, and the petitioner 
must notify owners, purchasers and dealers pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118 
and provide a remedy in accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30120.

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

    Issued on: August 5, 2013.
Nancy Lummen Lewis,
Associate Administrator for Enforcement.
[FR Doc. 2013-19489 Filed 8-12-13; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P



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