[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 152 (Tuesday, August 6, 1996)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 40781-40784]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-19917]


49 CFR PART 393

[FHWA Docket No. MC-94-1]
RIN 2125-AD27

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; Lighting 
Devices, Reflectors, and Electrical Equipment

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of intent.


SUMMARY: This document announces the FHWA's intent to issue a notice of 
proposed rulemaking to establish requirements for the use of 
retroreflective sheeting or reflex reflectors for certain trailers 
manufactured prior to December 1, 1993, the effective date of the 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's final rule on 
conspicuity for newly manufactured trailers.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Larry W. Minor or Mr. Richard H. 
Singer, Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards, HCS-10, (202) 
366-4009; or Mr. Charles E. Medalen, Office of the Chief Counsel, HCC-
20, (202) 366-1354, Federal Highway Administration, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, D.C. 20590. Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 
p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.



    On January 19, 1994 (59 FR 2811), the FHWA published an advance 
notice of

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proposed rulemaking to solicit comments concerning measures for 
reducing the incidence and severity of collisions during periods of 
darkness or reduced visibility. The FHWA requested that commenters 
address the specific questions listed below.
    1. Many motor carriers have been using retroreflective sheeting or 
reflex reflectors which are not of the colors, retroreflective 
intensity, width, or configuration of the conspicuity treatment in the 
NHTSA's final rule. The FHWA seeks information on the type of 
conspicuity treatments in use and quantitative data on the cost and 
effectiveness of those treatments in preventing and/or mitigating 
    2. What types of technical problems (e.g., tape not adhering to the 
surface of the trailer) have motor carriers encountered when applying 
conspicuity materials to in-service trailers? Are any problems unique 
to certain types of trailers, or to certain types of paints, coatings, 
or surfaces?
    3. What is the approximate cost (parts and labor) to apply 
conspicuity treatments to trailers? Is special training required for 
employees performing this task? What cost differences may exist between 
having this task performed by the motor carrier's own maintenance 
department or by third parties?
    4. How long must a trailer be taken out of service to have the 
conspicuity material applied to its surfaces?
    5. With regard to conspicuity treatments that differ from those in 
the NHTSA final rule, a retrofitting requirement would result in many 
motor carriers having to replace their current conspicuity treatments 
with one that is consistent with the requirements of FMVSS No. 108. The 
FHWA believes that some form of conspicuity treatment (even certain 
forms which may be less effective than that covered in the NHTSA's 
final rule) is better than no conspicuity treatment. What different 
types of conspicuity treatment are currently being used by motor 
carriers? What results have been experienced by motor carriers using 
conspicuity treatments?
    6. If this rulemaking proceeds, should the FHWA propose requiring 
the same red/white color combination, retroreflective intensity, width 
and configuration as the NHTSA's final rule, or should alternative 
requirements be considered? If alternatives are considered, do 
commenters foresee problems in the enforcement of a retrofitting 
    7. If this rulemaking proceeds, should the FHWA consider an 
effective date which is several (2, 3, 4, or 5) years after the date of 
publication of the final rule?
    Commenters were also encouraged to include a discussion of any 
other issues that the commenters believe are relevant to the 

Analysis of Docket Comments

    The FHWA received more than 900 comments in response to the ANPRM. 
The FHWA is not providing a detailed discussion of the docket comments 
at this time. However, an in-depth discussion of the comments will be 
presented in the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). Therefore, the 
following is only a summary of the comments intended to provide 
interested parties with an indication of the type of responses the FHWA 

Support for a Retrofitting Requirement

    The rulemaking has its strongest support from concerned citizens on 
behalf of friends and relatives who suffered fatal injuries as a result 
of passenger car side or rear impacts with semitrailers. The FHWA 
received 321 responses on behalf of Mr. Carl Hall, who was killed in a 
collision with a tractor-semitrailer that blocked the road as the truck 
driver backed the vehicle into a driveway. Another 285 responses were 
on behalf of Mr. Guy Crawford, a 16-year old boy who was killed in an 
underride accident with a coal truck. In addition, the agency received 
223 responses from other concerned citizens, many of whom lost family 
members or friends in accidents involving commercial motor vehicles 
    The rulemaking was also supported by the Advocates for Highway and 
Auto Safety, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways, and the Insurance 
Institute for Highway Safety.
    Two members of the House of Representatives submitted letters in 
support of the rulemaking: James Greenwood (Eighth district of 
Pennsylvania) and Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (then representing the 
Thirteenth Congressional district of Pennsylvania). The FHWA has also 
received correspondence from Senator Frank Lautenberg (NJ) expressing 
support for a retrofitting requirement.
    As for industry support, the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers 
Association stated that better conspicuity would significantly reduce 
the likelihood of side and rear collisions. Schneider National 
(Schneider), one of the larger motor carriers in the United States, 
Contract Freighters, Inc., a motor carrier with 3,500 trailers, and 
Ryder Commercial Leasing and Services also support a retrofitting 
requirement. Schneider indicated that it has been using conspicuity 
treatments on all of its trailers since 1988 while Contract Freighters 
has been using conspicuity treatments since 1986.

Opposition to a Retrofitting Requirement

    The American Trucking Associations (ATA), National Private Truck 
Council (NPTC) and numerous fleets indicated that retrofitting 
reflective material is not feasible for older trailers because the 
surfaces on those vehicles may require preparation (removal of 
oxidation, rust, etc.) to ensure that the conspicuity material adheres 
to the trailer. Further, the ATA and numerous fleets expressed concern 
about the loss in revenues that will be incurred while the trailer is 
being retrofitted. The ATA believes it could cost as much as $1,400 to 
retrofit some trailers. Other commenters provided estimates that were 
significant on a cost-per-trailer basis but generally lower than the 
ATA estimate.
    The NPTC stated that a retrofitting requirement would pose a 
significant cost burden with very little evidence of benefit in terms 
of reduced accidents. The NPTC also indicated that many private fleets 
have a considerable financial investment in specially developed 
graphics packages and that it would be inappropriate for the FHWA to 
propose a retrofitting standard that would require fleets to replace 
their existing reflective designs or logos with a mandated conspicuity 

FHWA Intent

    The FHWA has determined that a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) 
should be issued to propose requiring that each trailer with an overall 
width of 2,032 millimeters (80 inches) or more and with a gross vehicle 
weight rating greater than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds), 
manufactured prior to December 1, 1993, be equipped with 
retroreflective material. The FHWA recognizes the technical and 
economic concerns of commenters opposed to a retrofitting requirement. 
However, the Agency believes that based upon the information currently 
available, retrofitting of trailers with conspicuity treatments will 
provide significant safety benefits. Further, this action appears to be 
cost-effective and technically feasible.
    The FHWA has completed a preliminary benefit/cost analysis to 
compare the projected safety benefits of a retrofitting requirement to 
the potential economic impact on the motor carrier industry. Three key 
issues were considered in determining whether to issue a notice of 
proposed rulemaking.

[[Page 40783]]

    The first issue is the time and labor required to install 
retroreflective material to older vehicles. The surfaces of many of the 
older trailers will require preparation (e.g., removal of oxidation, 
pre-treating surfaces, etc.) to ensure that the retroreflective tape 
adheres to the surface of the trailer. In many cases the trailer will 
have to be removed from revenue service to complete the retrofit. A 
retrofitting requirement should allow carriers sufficient time--a 
phase-in period--to complete the retrofit at routine maintenance 
intervals. The FHWA believes the total cost (conspicuity material, 
labor, and loss in revenues while the trailer is being retrofitted) for 
retrofitting a 45-53 foot trailer is only a fraction of the ATA's 
    The second issue is the voluntary use of retroreflective material 
on older trailers by certain fleets. A large number of fleets have been 
using conspicuity treatments on their trailers since the mid-1980's. 
Unfortunately many of the color schemes, as well as the levels of 
reflectivity of the tape used on the older trailers are not consistent 
with the NHTSA requirements for trailers manufactured on or after 
December 1, 1993. If these motor carriers are required to replace the 
retroreflective materials that they voluntarily installed to improve 
safety, it could be perceived as penalizing motor carriers that 
demonstrated an extra level of safety consciousness. This could have 
the unintended effect of discouraging motor carriers from exploring 
innovative approaches to improving safety.
    The third issue concerns the projected safety benefits of trailer 
conspicuity material that meets the NHTSA requirement. The NHTSA 
estimates that retroreflective tape could lead to a 25 percent 
reduction in rear end collisions and a 15 percent reduction in side 
impact collisions. From data available at the time of the NHTSA's final 
rule implementing conspicuity enhancements, tractor-trailer 
combinations were involved annually in about 11,000 accidents in which 
they were struck at the side or rear at night. Within this group of 
accidents, about 8,700 injuries and about 540 fatalities occurred. The 
NHTSA indicated that the conspicuity treatments, when fully 
implemented, is expected to prevent, annually, 2,113 of these 
accidents. The NHTSA estimated 1,315 fewer injuries and about 80 fewer 
fatalities would occur.
    In 1994 there were an estimated 96,938 accidents in which one 
commercial motor vehicle and one passenger car were involved. All of 
these accidents resulted in a fatality, injury, or one of the vehicles 
incurring damage severe enough to require that the vehicle be towed 
from the accident scene. In 51,319 (52.9 percent) of these accidents 
the CMV was a combination vehicle--a truck or truck-tractor, towing one 
or more trailers.
    Of the 51,319 collisions between a passenger car and a combination 
vehicle, 11,176 cases involved the passenger car rear-ending the 
trailer (daytime and nighttime accidents). It is estimated that there 
were more than 4,100 injuries. Collisions between passenger cars and 
the side of the trailer accounted for 27,764 accidents (daytime and 
    With regard to fatalities, the NHTSA's Fatal Accident Reporting 
System data for 1994 indicate there were 2,785 fatal accidents 
involving one commercial motor vehicle and one passenger car. In 1,885 
of these fatal accidents, the commercial motor vehicle was a 
combination vehicle. Of the 1,885 fatal accidents between a passenger 
car and a combination vehicle, 314 cases involved the passenger car 
rear-ending the trailer. The result was 369 fatalities (compared to 171 
fatalities for 161 cases in which a passenger car rear-ended a single-
unit commercial motor vehicle). Collisions in which the passenger car 
struck the side of a trailer at an angle accounted for 816 incidents 
resulting in a total of 982 fatalities. Fatal accidents in which the 
passenger car struck the side of a single-unit commercial motor vehicle 
occurred 382 times resulting in a total of 474 fatalities. All of these 
are a combination of day and night occurrences.
    Considering the magnitude of the problem of passenger cars 
colliding with tractor-trailer combination vehicles, the FHWA believes 
that a retrofitting requirement will result in a major improvement in 
safety by reducing both the incidence and severity of a significant 
percentage of these accidents.
    The FHWA has carefully examined a variety of issues, such as those 
mentioned, and determined that the projected safety benefits in terms 
of accidents prevented and lives saved, outweigh the economic burden on 
the motor carrier industry.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

Executive Order 12866 (Regulatory Planning and Review) and DOT 
Regulatory Policies and Procedures.

    The FHWA has determined that this action is a significant 
regulatory action within the meaning of Executive Order 12866 or 
significant within the meaning of Department of Transportation 
regulatory policies and procedures. The FHWA has prepared a preliminary 
evaluation of the economic impact of the regulatory changes being 
considered in this rulemaking and will present that information in the 
NPRM to be published at a later date. Based upon the information 
received in response to the NPRM, the FHWA will carefully consider the 
costs and benefits associated with establishing a conspicuity 
retrofitting requirement. Comments, information, and data will be 
solicited on the economic impact of establishing retrofitting 

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The FHWA will evaluate the effects of the regulatory changes on 
small entities. Based upon the information received in response to the 
NPRM, the FHWA will, in compliance with the Regulatory Flexibility Act 
(Pub. L. 96-354; 5 U.S.C. 601-612), consider the economic impacts of 
these potential changes on small entities. The FHWA will solicit 
comments, information, and data on these impacts.

Executive Order 12612 (Federalism Assessment)

    This action has been analyzed in accordance with the principles and 
criteria contained in Executive Order 12612, and it has been determined 
that this rulemaking does not have sufficient Federalism implications 
to warrant the preparation of a Federalism assessment. Nothing in this 
document directly preempts any State law or regulation.

Executive Order 12372 (Intergovernmental Review)

    Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Program Number 20.217, Motor 
Carrier Safety. The regulations implementing Executive Order 12372 
regarding intergovernmental consultation on Federal programs and 
activities do not apply to this program.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    This action does not contain a collection of information 
requirement for the purposes of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, 44 
U.S.C. 3501 et seq.

National Environmental Policy Act

    The agency has analyzed this rulemaking for the purpose of the 
National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq.) and 
has determined that this action would not have any effect on the 
quality of the environment.

[[Page 40784]]

Regulation Identification Number

    A regulation identification number (RIN) is assigned to each 
regulatory action listed in the Unified Agenda of Federal Regulations. 
The Regulatory Information Service Center publishes the Unified Agenda 
in April and October of each year. The RIN contained in the heading of 
this document can be used to cross reference this action with the 
Unified Agenda.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 393

    Highway safety, Motor carriers, Motor vehicle safety.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 31136, 31502; 49 CFR 1.48

    Issued on: July 26, 1996.
Rodney E. Slater,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. 96-19917 Filed 8-5-96; 8:45 am]