NTEA Awaits Court Decision On Lawsuit Over Multi-Stage Vehicles

The National Truck Equipment Association’s (NTEA) senior director of government activities said he expects a court decision within a year on the NTEA’s lawsuit involving the multi-stage vehicles provisions of FMVSS No. 216.

Michael Kastner said today’s entry in the Federal Register regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FMVSS No. 216 (Roof Crush Resistance) doesn’t “mean a whole lot” because it doesn’t materially change the final rule except for some technical corrections.

“Procedurally, after the 216 rule originally came out (May 2009), the NTEA made the decision to challenge the agency on multi-stage certification issues, not so much on 216 itself,” Kastner said. “In the process of the briefing schedule for the lawsuit, NHTSA asked if it could fill in the record on those issues first, then go to briefing if it was decided to continue on. This notice today is a step in that process, where NHTSA is filling in the record on 216 with regard to multi-stage certification issues such that the lawsuit can continue. What was issued today doesn’t change the final rule that was previously issued.”

From here, it goes to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. Kastner said the briefing schedule dates will be re-set. In a few months, both NTEA and NHTSA will submit briefs for the court to consider.

“Ultimately, I assume we’re probably a year away from any actual decision,” Kastner said.

The rule extends coverage of FMVSS 216 from the 6000 lbs gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) or less to vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs or less. This rule also provides a more stringent testing protocol. The amended regulation will not apply to multi-stage vehicles built on non-chassis-cabs (such as strip chassis or cutaways) that have a GVW of 6,001–10,000 lbs.

According to the Register, the NTEA recommended that all multi-stage vehicles be excluded from roof-crush-resistance requirements, stating that manufacturers of non-chassis-cab vehicles will not be able to conduct the tests or perform engineering analysis to ensure conformance to FMVSS No. 220. The NTEA also stated it is impractical for the agency to assume manufacturers of multi-stage vehicles built on chassis cabs will be able to rely on incomplete vehicle documents (IVDs) to provide pass-through certification for compliance as it relates to roof strength. It argued that the final-stage manufacturer would therefore be responsible for conducting costly analyses and testing to verify compliance with FMVSS No. 216.

“We had originally said that the way the rule was written didn’t provide final-stage manufacturers reasonable methods to comply with the rule in the expense of testing and the complexity of it,” Kastner said. “Not everybody would be able to pass-through certification, and if they couldn’t, you couldn’t afford in this industry to reasonably conduct tests, and as such it was not a reasonable rule. NHTSA effectively said, ‘No, we think the rule is reasonable.’ ”

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