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Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.; Action on Application for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Recreational Vehicles American Government Topics:  Fleetwood

Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.; Action on Application for Decision of Inconsequential Noncompliance

L. Robert Shelton
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
March 5, 1998

[Federal Register: March 5, 1998 (Volume 63, Number 43)]
[Notices]               
[Page 10964-10965]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr05mr98-133]

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
[Docket No. NHTSA-98-3558]

 
Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc.; Action on Application for Decision 
of Inconsequential Noncompliance

    This document grants in part and denies in part the application by 
Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc. (Fleetwood) of Riverside, California for a 
determination that the failure of glazing to comply with the light 
transmittance requirements of 49 CFR 571.205, Federal Motor Vehicle 
Safety Standard No. 205, ``Glazing Materials,'' is inconsequential to 
safety. The glazing was installed in certain motor homes manufactured 
by Fleetwood.
    Notice of receipt of the application was published on June 16, 1997 
(62 FR 32676) and an opportunity for comment was afforded.
    Standard No. 205 incorporates by reference the American National 
Standards Institute's (ANSI) ``Safety Code for Safety Glazing Materials 
for Glazing Motor Vehicles Operating on Land Highways'' Z-26.1-1977, 
January 26, 1977, as supplemented by Z26.1a, July 3, 1980 (ANS Z26.1). 
This specifies that glazing materials used in windshields and in 
windows to the immediate right and left of the driver of trucks and 
buses shall have a luminous transmittance of not less than 70 percent 
of the light, at normal incidence, when measured in accordance with 
``Light Transmittance, Test 2'' of ANSI Z-26.1-1980. (It also specifies 
that all windows of an automobile shall have a luminous transmittance 
of not less than 70 percent.)
    From July 1995 through January 1997, Fleetwood manufactured 
approximately 1,438 1996 and 1997 model year Flair brand motor homes 
having front side windows with a luminous transmittance of 62 percent 
and approximately 188 Bounder brand motor homes and 733 Discovery brand 
motor homes, also of model years 1996 and 1997, having double panes of 
the same glazing in the front side windows. Fleetwood reported a 
luminous transmittance of 41 percent for the dual pane application. 
Beginning with vehicle production in January 1997, front side windows 
with a luminous transmittance of greater than 70 percent have been 
installed in all Fleetwood motor homes.
    Fleetwood supported its application for inconsequential 
noncompliance with the following:

    Fleetwood considered a Ford Motor Company inconsequentiality 
petition that references computer modeling studies and in-car 
evaluations conducted by Ford Motor Company that were used in their 
petition dated February 6, 1995 which showed a 5 point reduction in 
the percentage of light transmission, from 65 to 60 percent, 
resulted in a reduction of seeing distance of only 1 to 2 percent 
during night time driving, and little or no reduction in seeing 
distance during dusk and daytime driving. Based on these studies, 
the subject Flair brand motor home driver and passenger side windows 
with 62 percent light transmittance would be expected to result in 
no significant reduction in seeing distance during night time 
driving and virtually no reduction during dusk and daytime driving, 
compared to glass with a 70 percent transmittance. Reductions in 
seeing distances of 1 percent or less have no practical or 
perceivable effect on driver visibility based on observer's reports 
in vehicle evaluations by Ford of windshields with line-of-sight 
transmittance in the 60 to 65 percent range. The subject Bounder and 
Discovery brand motor home driver and passenger side windows with 41 
percent light transmittance would be expected to result in no 
significant reduction in seeing distances during night time driving, 
and little to no reduction in seeing distance during dusk and 
daytime driving.
    Fleetwood also considered that the stated purpose of Standard 
No. 205 to which the light transmittance requirements are directed 
is `to ensure a necessary degree of transparency in motor vehicle 
windows for driver visibility.' NHTSA, in its March 1991 `Report to 
Congress on Tinting of Motor Vehicle Windows', concluded that the 
light transmittance of windows of the then new passenger cars and 
vans that complied with Standard No. 205 did not present an 
unreasonable risk of accident occurrence. The new passenger cars and 
vans that were considered to not present an unreasonable risk had 
effective line-of-sight light transmittances through the windshields 
as low as approximately 63 percent on passenger car windshields and 
55 percent on van windshields (as determined by a 1990 agency 
survey, the results of which were included in the Report to 
Congress). Fleetwood feels that while light transmittance and driver 
visibility through front side windows is important to the safe 
operation of motor homes, it is not as important as driver 
visibility through motor

[[Page 10965]]

home windshields. Therefore, while the use of front side window 
glazing with luminous transmittance less than 70 percent is 
technically a non-compliance, we believe the condition presents no 
risk to motor vehicle safety.
    Fleetwood's opinion that this non-compliance is not safety 
related is also based upon the consideration of the great amount of 
visibility that is inherent in the driver packaging of the subject 
motor homes. Factors which contribute to this visibility are:
    1. The windshield glass is approximately 100 inches wide by 36 
inches tall.
    2. The windshield glass is installed at an incidence angle of 4 
degrees back from vertical.
    3. The involved side window glass on the Flair and Bounder brand 
motor homes is approximately 46 inches long by 31 inches tall. The 
involved side window glass on the Discovery brand motor home is 
approximately 52 inches long by 34 inches tall.
    4. The involved side window glass is flat and is installed 
perpendicular to the ground.
    5. The driver's seat H point ranges from approximately 50 to 62 
inches from the ground.
    6. The involved windows have a slider feature which allows them 
to be positioned out of line of sight (if desired), and
    7. Side window visibility is primarily key in sharp turning 
maneuvers which are typically performed at low speeds.

    No comments were received on the application.
    NHTSA has reviewed Fleetwood's application and, for the reasons 
discussed below, concludes that the noncompliance of the Flair motor 
homes with a front side window light transmittance of 62 percent is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. However, it denies the 
application with respect to the noncompliances of the Discovery and 
Bounder motor homes with a front side window light transmittance of 41 
percent.
    Fleetwood's argument was based in part on information from a 
similar inconsequentiality application from Ford Motor Company 
(``Ford'') demonstrating that there is only a small effect upon seeing 
distance of a decline in light transmittance from 65 to 60 percent. 
Ford also cited a NHTSA report to Congress that the rake angle of 
certain windshields reduces the effective transmittance of light to 63 
percent in some automobiles and to 55 percent in a particular minivan. 
(Ford's application involved 8,250 1995 Lincoln Continental passenger 
cars whose front door windows had a luminous transmittance of 
approximately 68 percent.) The application was granted (60 FR 31345) on 
June 14, 1995. Although a windshield might have the requisite minimum 
of 70 percent transmittance when tested in a vertical position, its 
rake angle as installed reduces the light transmittance below 70 
percent, and to 63 percent on some passenger cars, without creating a 
noncompliance with Standard No. 205. Given that fact, NHTSA has 
concluded that a value of 62 percent transmittance of the side windows 
on Flair motor homes is inconsequential to safety.
    However, the agency cannot make the same finding with respect to 
the Discovery and Bounder motor homes where double pane glass has 
reduced the light transmittance to a reported 41 percent. Fleetwood 
characterized the role of front side windows as ``primarily key in 
sharp turning maneuvers which are typically performed at low speeds'' 
and to expect no significant reduction in night time seeing distances 
with windows having a light transmittance of 41 percent (Fleetwood 
derives the 41 percent transmittance value from a double pane 
application of the 62 percent transmittance windows. However, the 
agency believes that it is closer to 38.4 percent).
    NHTSA cannot accept Fleetwood's assertion that the noncomplying 
glazing material in the Discovery and Bounder motor homes is 
inconsequential. The previously mentioned report to Congress discusses 
a research study which included glazing of 40 percent transmittance 
(Rompe and Engel, ``The Influence of Windshields with Lower Light 
Transmission in Driver's Vision During Night Driving,'' SAE Technical 
Paper 870062). The study found 25 to 35 percent reductions in the 
ability of subjects to detect low contrast targets in simulated 
twilight driving when 40 percent transmittance glazing was substituted 
for 76 percent transmittance glazing. NHTSA also believes that side 
window visibility has a much greater safety role than in simply 
supplementing the large windshield of a motor home in low speed 
turning. Clear side window visibility is necessary in times of darkness 
for the driver to use the outside rear view mirrors and to have direct 
side vision at intersections and in lane change maneuvers.
    Accordingly, for the reasons discussed above, it is hereby found 
that the applicant has met its burden of persuasion that the 
noncompliance of Flair motor homes with the requirements of 49 CFR 
571.205 for light transmittance in front side window glazing is 
inconsequential to safety. However, it is also hereby found that the 
applicant has not met this burden of persuasion with respect to the 
noncompliance of Discovery and Bounder motor homes with the 
requirements of 49 CFR 571.205 for light transmittance in front side 
window glazing, and its application is denied.

(49 U.S.C. 30108, 30120; delegations of authority at 49 CFR 1.50 and 
501.8)

    Issued on: March 2, 1998.
L. Robert Shelton,
Associate Administrator for Safety Performance Standards.
[FR Doc. 98-5743 Filed 3-4-98; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P



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