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Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; School Bus Pedestrian Safety Devices

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

American Government Buses Topics:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; School Bus Pedestrian Safety Devices

Christopher A. Hart
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Federal Register
May 24, 1994

[Federal Register: May 24, 1994]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 90-01; Notice 4]
RIN 2127-AF32

 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; School Bus Pedestrian 
Safety Devices

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

ACTION: Interim final rule, request for comments.

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SUMMARY: In response to a petition for rulemaking from Blue Bird Body 
Company, this notice amends Standard No. 131, School Bus Pedestrian 
Safety Devices, with respect to the flash rate for stop signal arm 
lamps. Specifically, this notice amends the standard to remove design 
restrictive language that acts to prohibit strobe lamps. The agency has 
determined that immediate action is in the public interest since school 
buses are currently being ordered and manufactured with strobe lamps so 
that purchasers can comply with the laws of several States and local 
jurisdictions that require these types of lamps. The agency is also 
requesting comments on whether NHTSA should make permanent its 
amendment of the flash rate requirement.

DATES: Effective Date: The amendments made by this interim final rule 
are effective May 24, 1994.
    Comments. Comments must be received on or before July 8, 1994.

ADDRESSES: Comments should refer to the docket and notice numbers above 
and be submitted to: Docket Section, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590. Docket 
hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Charles Hott, Office of Vehicle 
Safety Standards, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590 (202) 366-0247.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Background

    On May 3, 1991, NHTSA published a final rule establishing a new 
Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) requiring each new school 
bus to be equipped with a stop signal arm. (56 FR 20363). A stop signal 
arm is a device patterned after a conventional ``STOP'' sign and 
attached to the driver's side of a school bus. When the school bus 
stops, the stop signal arm automatically extends outward from the bus. 
Its purpose is to alert motorists that a school bus is stopping or has 
stopped. The standard specifies requirements about the stop signal 
arm's appearance, size, conspicuity, operation and location.
    To enhance the conspicuity of a stop signal arm, Standard No. 131 
specifies that the device must be either reflectorized or be 
illuminated with flashing lamps. If flashing lamps are used to comply 
with the Standard, they must comply with the requirements for color, 
flash rate, vibration, moisture, dust, corrosion, photometry, and 
warpage, as set forth in S6.2 of the Standard. In the preamble to the 
final rule, the agency stated that the tests for flash rate were 
patterned after the tests in the Society of Automotive Engineer's 
(SAE's) Recommended Practice, J1054, Warning Lamp Alternating Flashers 
(January 1977). Specifically, S6.2.2 of the final rule states:

    The lamps on each side of the stop signal arm, when operated at 
the manufacturer's design load, shall flash at a rate of 60-120 
flashes per minute with a current ``on'' time of 50 percent.

    NHTSA received a petition for reconsideration of the May 1991 final 
rule from Epicor Industries, a manufacturer of turn signals, hazard 
warnings and alternating flashers. It requested that the agency change 
the requirements for the flash rate for stop signal arm lamps under 
S6.2.2 to conform with the most recent version of SAE J1054, ``Warning 
Lamp Flashers, (October 1989). The petitioner stated that such an 
amendment would assure that the lamps on either side of the stop signal 
arm would flash alternately and have ``on'' times that meet an accepted 
requirement and have proven effective. The previous version of SAE 
J1054 (January 1977), which was used by NHTSA to develop the final 
requirements of S6.2.2, was determined by the SAE to have been 
incorrectly written.
    After reviewing Epicor's petition in light of the modified SAE 
recommended practice, NHTSA decided to amend S6.2.2 to make the 
requirement consistent with the most recent SAE Recommended Practice. 
(57 FR 40131, September 2, 1992). In that notice, the agency explained 
its decision to revise S6.2.2 to reflect the most recent language 
adopted in the October 1989 version of J1054. The amended version of 
S6.2.2 states:

    S6.2.2  Flash rate. The lamps on each side of the stop signal 
arm, when operated at the manufacturer's design load, shall flash at 
a rate of 60 to 120 flashes per minute with a current ``on'' time of 
30 to 75 percent. The total of the percent current ``on'' time for 
the two terminals shall be between 90 and 110.

II. Petition for Rulemaking

    On February 22, 1994, Blue Bird Body Company (Blue Bird) petitioned 
the agency to amend Standard No. 131 to allow the use of strobe lamps 
on stop signal arms. Blue Bird stated that, according to Specialty 
Manufacturing Company, one of the largest manufacturers of stop signal 
arms, approximately 15 percent of the total stop signal arm market 
(5,000 units) were equipped with strobe lamps in 1992. Citing previous 
agency notices, Blue Bird stated its belief that NHTSA had not 
intended, in issuing the May 1991 final rule, to prohibit the use of 
strobe lamps on stop signal arms. For instance, it stated that in the 
advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM), the agency had solicited 
comments about whether the agency should require strobe lamps.1
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    \1\The agency notes that there was no ANPRM addressing stop 
signal arms. The discussion described by Blue Bird was contained in 
the NPRM.
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    Blue Bird stated its petition was precipitated by a letter that it 
received from NHTSA's Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance addressing an 
apparent non-compliance of school buses manufactured with stop signal 
arms equipped with strobe lamps. According to Blue Bird, the apparent 
non-compliance results from the fact that S6.2.2 sets forth restrictive 
design requirements based on the operating characteristics of 
incandescent lamps instead of more performance-oriented requirements 
based on visual effectiveness. The petitioner alleged that the 
requirement prevents the use of strobe lamps. Based on these 
allegations, Blue Bird stated that the apparent noncompliance results 
from a deficiency in the Standard and not a deficiency in its school 
buses. Blue Bird requested that the agency amend S6.2.2 to allow the 
use of strobe lamps, stating that this would be in the interests of 
safety and consistent with the Standard's intent.
    Blue Bird also stated that four states (Alaska, New Mexico, 
Washington, and West Virginia) as well as some local school districts 
require stop signal arms to be equipped with strobe lamps. This 
consideration prompted Blue Bird to request that this rulemaking take 
effect immediately, claiming that the production and delivery of school 
buses with strobe lamp equipped stop signal arms needs to continue 
without disruption.

III. Agency's Decision

    NHTSA notes that, in establishing the flash rate requirements, it 
did not intend to prohibit stop signal arms from being equipped with 
strobe lamps. Instead, the flash rate requirements were intended to 
assure the conspicuity of stop signal arms. The absence of any intent 
to prohibit strobe lamps is evident from the preambles to the notice of 
proposed rulemaking (NPRM) and final rule. In the NPRM, the agency 
solicited comments about whether the Standard should require strobe 
lamps after discussing the potential benefits from them. (55 FR 3618, 
3624, February 2, 1990) In the May 1991 final rule, the agency declined 
to mandate strobe lights on all new school buses, but suggested that 
they might be beneficial in areas prone to poor visibility.
    NHTSA further notes that the agency has attempted to make Standard 
No. 131 consistent with the SAE's Recommended Practice J1133, School 
Bus Stop Arms, within the parameters of the National Traffic and Motor 
Vehicle Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 1381 et seq.) As a result, in reviewing 
Blue Bird's petition, the agency has analyzed the changes made in the 
July 1989 revision to J1133, School Bus Stop Arms. The agency notes 
that the only significant change was one expressly made to accommodate 
strobe lamps and had the effect of allowing them to be installed on 
stop signal arms.
    NHTSA has determined that the current requirements, which are based 
upon incandescent or filament type lamps, cannot be met by strobe or 
gaseous discharge lamps. Filament type bulbs do not reach full 
brilliance until sufficient time has passed for the electrical current 
to heat up the filament wire in the light bulb. This is a function of 
the filament wire diameter and the supplied voltage which results in a 
time delay while the filament wire is being heated to produce light. As 
a result of the delay, an extended period of time must be specified 
before a filament light comes to complete brilliance. In contrast, 
strobe lamps are gaseous discharge type lamps that do not have a 
filament that emits light and thus do not require an extended time 
period to achieve complete brilliance. Gaseous discharge lamps emit 
light by charging a capacitor and discharging the capacitor through an 
ionized gas. As a result, the current ``on'' time duration is typically 
much shorter for a gaseous type lamp than a filament type lamp. 
Specifically, the relationship between the amount of time for a 
filament type bulb to come to full brilliance is a function of filament 
wire diameter, voltage, type of filament wire, and the gas surrounding 
the filament wire. Based on the above considerations, NHTSA has decided 
to issue this interim final rule changing the flash rate requirements 
for stop signal arms to remove design restrictive language that acts to 
prohibit strobe lamps. Specifically, the agency is amending S6.2.2 to 
modify the requirements addressing the ``current `on' time.'' As a 
result, School buses manufactured after the date of the interim final 
rule's issuance are permitted to be equipped with strobe lamps.
    NHTSA notes that without this amendment to permit strobe lamps, 
school bus manufacturers and users would be violating the laws of 
several States and local jurisdictions that require strobe lamps. This 
amendment will allow manufacturers to build and school districts to 
order school buses that comply with State and local laws that require 
stop signal arms to be equipped with strobe lamps. The amendment will 
also alleviate potential compliance problems for manufacturers that 
would have to modify their stop signal arms to remove a noncomplying 
strobe lamp. Comments on this notice should address whether the amended 
language for flash rate is appropriate for strobe lamps.
    NHTSA finds that the issuance of this notice without prior 
opportunity for comment is necessary in view of the compliance 
difficulties that are occurring and would continue to occur if the 
standard were not amended. The agency also finds for good cause that it 
is in the public interest to establish an immediate effective date for 
the amendments made by this notice. In the absence of an immediate 
effective date, manufacturers would be unable to both certify 
compliance with Standard No. 131 and meet the requirements of some 
state laws. The amendments impose no new requirements but instead 
provide additional flexibility to manufacturers by removing a design 
restrictive requirement.

Regulatory Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866 (Federal Regulation) and DOT Regulatory 
Policies and Procedures

    This notice was not reviewed under E.O. 12866. NHTSA has analyzed 
this rulemaking and determined that it is not significant within the 
meaning of the Department of Transportation regulatory policies and 
procedures. The agency has determined that the economic effects of the 
amendment are so minimal that a full regulatory evaluation is not 
required. Since the amendment imposes no new requirement but simply 
allows for an alternative design, any cost impacts will be in the 
nature of slight, nonquantifiable cost savings. Additional cost savings 
may be realized since the amendment permits manufacturers to avoid 
civil penalties.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    In accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act, NHTSA has 
evaluated the effects of this rulemaking on small entities. Based on 
this evaluation, I hereby certify that the amendments will not have 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
Few of the school bus manufacturers qualify as small entities. In 
addition, manufacturers of motor vehicles, small businesses, small 
organizations, and small governmental units that purchase motor 
vehicles will not be significantly affected by the amendments. 
Accordingly, a regulatory flexibility analysis has not been performed.

C. Federalism Assessment

    This action has been analyzed in accordance with the principles and 
criteria contained in Executive Order 12612. NHTSA has determined that 
the rulemaking does not have sufficient federalism implications to 
warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment. Nevertheless, NHTSA 
notes that the laws of various local jurisdictions and four States 
(Alaska, New Mexico, Washington, and West Virginia) require stop signal 
arms to be equipped with strobe lamps and thus would have been 
preempted without this amendment.

D. Environmental Impacts

    In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 
NHTSA has considered the environmental impacts of this rule. The agency 
has determined that this rule will not have a significant effect on the 
quality of the human environment.

E. Civil Justice Reform

    This final rule does not have any retroactive effect. Under section 
103(d) of the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (15 U.S.C. 
1392(d)), 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. Section 105 of the Act (15 U.S.C. 1394) 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 suit in court.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 571

    Imports, Incorporation by reference, Motor vehicle safety, Motor 
vehicles, Rubber and rubber products, Tires.

    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR part 571 is amended as 
follows:

PART 571--FEDERAL MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY STANDARDS

    1. The authority citation for part 571 continues to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 15 U.S.C. 1392, 1401, 1403, 1407; delegation of 
authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

    2. Section 571.131 is amended by revising S6.2.2 and adding 
S6.2.2.1 and S6.2.2.2 to read as follows:


Sec. 571.131  Standard No. 131, school bus pedestrian safety devices.

* * * * *
    S6.2.2.  Flash rate. The lamps on each side of the stop signal arm, 
when operated at the manufacturer's design load, shall flash 
alternately at a rate of 60 to 120 flashes per minute.
    S6.2.2.1  Filament type lamps shall have a current ``on'' time of 
30 to 75 percent of the total flash cycle. The total current ``on'' 
time for the two terminals shall be between 90 and 110 percent of the 
total flash cycle.
    S6.2.2.2  Gaseous discharge lamps shall have an ``off'' time before 
each flash of at least 50 percent of the total flash cycle.
* * * * *
    Issued on: May 18, 1994.
Christopher A. Hart,
Deputy Administrator.
[FR Doc. 94-12535 Filed 5-23-94; 8:45 am]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P

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