Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and the rule implementing those provisions at 49 CFR Part 556, Morgan Olson 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. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a notice of receipt of the petition, with a 30-day public comment period, on March 29, 2012, in the
A "primary door latch" is defined in FMVSS No. 206 paragraph S3 as "a latch equipped with both a fully latched position and a secondary latch position and is designated as a `primary door latch' by the manufacturer." A "secondary latched position" refers to "the coupling condition of the latch that retains the door in a partially closed position." FMVSS No. 206 paragraph S3.
A "door closure warning system" is defined in FMVSS No. 206 paragraph S3 as "a system that will activate a visual signal when a door latch system is not in its fully latched position and the vehicle ignition system is activated."
As set forth in Morgan Olson's noncompliance report, as a result of an erroneous interpretation as to the scope of FMVSS No. 206's application, Morgan Olson mistakenly believed that the requirement for either a primary door latch system or door closure warning system applied only to its vehicles having a GVWR under 4,536 kg.
In describing the operation of the affected doors Morgan Olson explains that when the sliding door is closed but not latched, there is a
In addition, Morgan Olson argues that this noncompliance in walk-in van type vehicles is distinguishable from the primary focus of FMVSS No. 206 sliding door standards. Morgan Olson states that in adopting the standards, NHTSA noted a particular concern with sliding door failures in passenger vans, which often contain children in the back seat(s).
In summary, Morgan Olson contends that the noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and that its petition, to exempt it from providing notification of noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the noncompliance as required by 49 U.S.C. 30120, should be granted.
There have been instances in the past where NHTSA has determined that a manufacturer has met its burden of demonstrating that a noncompliance is inconsequential to safety, such as noncompliances concerning labeling where the discrepancy with the safety standard was determined not to lead to any misunderstanding, especially where sources of the correct information were available (e.g. in the vehicle owner's manual).
The burden of establishing the inconsequentiality of a failure to comply with a performance requirement in a standard is substantially higher and more difficult to meet. Consequently, the Agency has determined that only a few such noncompliances are truly inconsequential.
In their petition, Morgan Olson argues that when the sliding doors are closed but not latched, there is a small (
FMVSS No. 206 requires that a sliding door system be equipped with either (a) at least one primary door latch system, or (b) a door latch system with a fully latched position and a door closure warning system. Since the noncompliant vehicles are equipped with a door latch system with a fully latched position (but not a primary door latch system), in order to comply with FMVSS No. 206 the vehicles would also need to have a door closure warning system. Such a system is automatic and does not require the driver to make observations of the door. The subject vehicles do not have such a system. Without a warning system, the driver would have to look away from driving to see a door gap. The Agency does not consider a door gap to be a sufficient alert to the driver that the door is not fully latched. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for the 2007 amendments to FMVSS No. 206 explained the scope of the safety risks associated with the ejection of vehicle occupants through vehicle doors.
Morgan Olson's arguments in support of its petition do not allay these safety concerns. Morgan Olson's petition acknowledges that the vehicle driver may not notice the small gap in the door before the vehicle begins to move. Moreover, having the door unexpectedly slide open while the vehicle is driven can create a potential distraction to the driver, especially considering any attempts by the driver to close the door while the vehicle is in motion. In addition, accidents can occur even at low speeds when a vehicle is
Morgan Olson also asserts that the sliding door standards were "particularly concerned with children riding in the rear seats of passenger vans." Although the Agency did note in the NPRM that it was "[a]dditionally * * * concerned that the individuals with the greatest exposure to sliding door failures are children," 69 FR 75025, the Agency never indicated that child passenger safety was the only safety concern addressed by the standard. In short, the Agency believes that there are valid concerns that occupants other than children of the subject vehicles are exposed to an increased risk of accidents and injuries, particularly those associated with occupant ejection, compared to occupants of compliant vehicles.
In addition, the Agency is aware of at least one occupant ejection through an open sliding side door of a commercial vehicle similar to those that are the subject of this petition. A walk-in van-type delivery truck was involved in an accident in 2009 at an intersection in Florida in which the driver of the delivery truck was ejected through an open sliding side door and sustained injuries. The delivery truck, after being stopped at a stop sign, entered the intersection and struck the side of a crossing vehicle causing the vehicles to become engaged and spin together. The delivery truck driver, who was not wearing a safety belt, was ejected into the roadway.
As noted earlier, the subject noncompliance was the result of Morgan Olson's previous misunderstanding that the requirement for either a primary door latch system or door closure warning system applied only to its vehicles having a GVWR under 4,536 kg. Applicability of the standard to vehicles Over 4,536 kg GVWR was addressed by the Agency in response to the Final Rule, Petitions for Reconsideration (see 75 FR 7370). In response to a question from TriMark Corporation dealing with applicability of the standard to Class
If Morgan Olson believes that vehicles it will produce in the future should not be subject to any currently applicable FMVSS No. 206 requirements, Morgan Olson may consider petitioning the Agency for rulemaking. The appropriate type of petition to request a change in a rule is one filed under 49 CFR Part 552