[Federal Register Volume 61, Number 174 (Friday, September 6, 1996)]
[Rules and Regulations]
[Pages 47086-47089]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 96-22762]



National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 571

[Docket No. 93-02; Notice 14]
RIN 2127-AF14

Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Compressed Natural Gas 
Fuel Container Integrity

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

ACTION: Final rule, petitions for reconsideration.


SUMMARY: In response to petitions for reconsideration, this document 
amends certain labeling requirements in Standard No. 304, Compressed 
Natural Gas Fuel Container Integrity. Specifically, this document 
modifies the labeling requirements with respect to the inspection 
interval and deletes reference to certain pamphlets. The amendments 
harmonize Standard No. 304 with voluntary industry and international 
standards, without any detriment to safety.

DATES: Effective date: The amendment in this document becomes effective 
December 2, 1996. Prior to December 2, 1996, a manufacturer is not 
required to comply with S7.4(g), which specifies a labeling requirement 
regarding container inspections and the appropriate interval between 
    Petitions for reconsideration: Any petition for reconsideration of 
this rule must be received by NHTSA no later than October 21, 1996.

ADDRESSES: Petitions for reconsideration of this rule should refer to 
the above mentioned docket number and be submitted to: Administrator, 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, 
SW., Washington, DC 20590.


    For non legal issues: Mr. Charles Hott, National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590 
(Telephone 202-366-0247).
    For legal issues: Mr. Marvin L. Shaw, NCC-20, Rulemaking Division, 
Office of Chief Counsel, National Highway Traffic Safety 
Administration, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590 (202-366-


I. Regulatory Background

    On September 26, 1994, NHTSA published a final rule establishing 
Standard No. 304, Compressed Natural Gas Fuel Container Integrity. (59 
FR 49021) In addition to container performance requirements, the 
Standard also specifies labeling requirements. Each CNG container 
manufacturer must permanently label each of its containers with the 
following information: (1) The statement that ``If there is a question 
about the proper use, installation, or maintenance of this container, 
contact [CNG fuel container manufacturer's name, address, and telephone 
number]''; (2) the month and year in which the container was 

[[Page 47087]]

(3) the maximum service pressure; and (4) the symbol ``DOT,'' which 
represents the manufacturer's certification that the container complies 
with all the standard's requirements. Manufacturers have been required 
to label each CNG container manufactured on and after March 26, 1995, 
with this information.
    On November 24, 1995, NHTSA published a final rule that amended 
S7.4 of Standard No. 304 to require CNG containers to be labeled with 
the following additional information:
    (1) The container designation (Type 1, 2, 3, or 4),
    (2) The statement ``CNG ONLY,''
    (3) The statement: ``This container should be visually inspected 
after a motor vehicle accident or fire and at least every 12 months for 
damage and deterioration in accordance with the Compressed Gas 
Association (CGA) guidelines C-6 and C-6.1 for Type 1 containers and C-
6.2 for Types 2, 3, and 4 containers.''
    (4) The statement: ``Do Not Use After ____________,'' inserting the 
year that is the 15th year beginning after the year in which the 
container is manufactured.

(60 FR 57943)
    In that final rule, NHTSA also amended the bonfire test 
requirements that evaluate pressure release and announced its decision 
to terminate rulemaking about additional performance requirements for 
CNG containers that the agency had proposed.
    NHTSA received petitions for reconsideration from the American 
Automobile Manufacturers Association (AAMA), Ford, Consumers Gas, 
Powertech (a research and development laboratory), and CNG container 
manufacturers, including NGV Systems, Pressed Steel Tank (PST), and 
Lincoln Composites (Lincoln).
    The petitioners requested changes to the labeling requirements and 
the bonfire test requirements in Standard No. 304. In today's final 
rule, the agency responds to issues associated with the labeling of CNG 
containers. The agency will respond to the petitions addressing the 
bonfire test at a later date. The agency believes that it is 
appropriate to respond to the petitions in two separate notices, given 
the need to provide guidance to manufacturers attempting to comply with 
the September 1, 1996 effective date for the labeling of new CNG 

II. Agency Decision on Container Labeling

A. Inspection Interval

    NHTSA stated that a one-year interval for visual inspection of a 
container's exterior reduces the possibility that damage caused by 
external factors would go undetected, a situation that could lead to 
container failure. Among the external factors that can damage a 
container are scratches and gouges and exposure to caustic substances 
and fluids such as acid, road salt, and gasoline. The agency based this 
earlier decision on a NGVC document recommending a one year inspection 

    \1\  NGVC is currently redrafting the voluntary industry 
standard to specify a 36 month inspection interval.

    NHTSA received several petitions for reconsideration requesting 
that the container inspection interval be every 36 months instead of 
every 12 months. Lincoln, Powertech, PST, AAMA, Consumers Gas, and Ford 
believed that a 12-month inspection period was inappropriate. Lincoln, 
Powertech, PST, and AAMA stated that the soon-to-be-issued updated NGV 
standard recommended a 36-month inspection interval. These petitioners 
further stated that a 36-month inspection interval is specified in the 
Canadian standard and the draft ISO standard.
    Consumers Gas stated that it has been operating natural gas powered 
vehicles for over ten years and have not had a problem with the 
integrity of vehicle containers. It visually inspects its containers 
every three years. The company believes that more frequent inspection 
would increase the possibility of damaging a container because the 
container must be removed from the vehicle for a thorough inspection. 
It also believed that an annual inspection would increase the risk of 
reducing the environmental coating on the outside of the container. 
Consumers Gas was also concerned about the costs associated with 
inspecting CNG fuel containers annually.
    Powertech stated that all international inspection standards 
specify a 36-month interval between inspections. Based on its review of 
in-service ruptures of CNG containers since 1974, that company stated 
these failures would not have been prevented had a one year visual 
inspection been used.
    Lincoln stated that its recently completed 12-month inspection 
program on 96 CNG vehicles in the Atlanta area showed no indication of 
unexpected damage 2 to the CNG fuel containers. Based on this 
field experience, Lincoln concluded that a 12-month inspection interval 
would provide little safety benefit. Lincoln favored the adoption of a 
36-month, 36,000 mile inspection requirement which would harmonize the 
U.S. requirement with the requirements of other standard-setting 
countries and organizations. Lincoln stated that a 12-month inspection 
requirement would not have prevented the two publicized container 
failures involving two different GM trucks because, in each case, the 
truck's container had sustained damage prior to installation.

    \2\ Lincoln did not explain what it meant by the phrase 
``unexpected damage.''

    AAMA stated that the 12-month interval for visual inspection 
requirement is inconsistent with other CNG container inspection 
requirements. That organization requested that the interval be revised 
to every 36 months or after an accident or fire for external damage and 
    PST stated that the inspection interval should be 36-months with 
the manufacturer having the option of specifying shorter intervals 
based on the design and construction of the container.
    Based on the available information, NHTSA has decided to amend S7.4 
to require that each CNG container be visually inspected for damage or 
deterioration after a motor vehicle accident or fire and at least every 
36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. Among the factors 
that can damage a container are scratches and gouges and exposure to 
caustic substances and fluids such as acid, road salt, and gasoline. 
The agency notes that the new inspection schedule is consistent with 
international and industry standards. Based on the comments, the agency 
believes that a 12-month, 12,000 mile inspection interval would provide 
little safety benefit to the vehicle owners. While visual inspection of 
a CNG container may detect some conditions that indicate a potential 
failure, the agency agrees with the petitioners that a 12 month, 12,000 
mile inspection interval would be excessive. The agency notes that a 
12-month inspection interval would not have prevented the two 
publicized GM container failures because they were caused by stress 
corrosion cracking which is internal to the container and therefore 
would not have been identifiable during a visual inspection of the 
container's exterior.

B. Inspection Pamphlets

    In the November 1995 final rule, NHTSA stated that the regulation 
must reference inspection information about the in-use safety of CNG 
containers. The agency further stated that the current CGA pamphlets 
provide valuable inspection information to help assure

[[Page 47088]]

fuel container safety for Type 1, 2, and 3 containers.
    PST and AAMA stated that referencing the CNG pamphlets on the 
container label is confusing and not beneficial. PST stated that a 
container's label should refer only to those CGA pamphlets that are 
relevant to that specific container. For example, a reference to 
pamphlet C-6.1 on a steel container could be confusing since that 
pamphlet is for aluminum containers. AAMA stated that the inspection 
procedures referenced in the pamphlets include inspections, such as 
interior and hydrostatic testing, that necessitate the removal of the 
CNG containers from the vehicle, and the use of specialized test 
equipment and personnel. AAMA stated that such testing is not needed to 
conduct a visual inspection, like the one specified by the CNG 
container label.
    After further analyzing the available information, NHTSA has 
decided that it is inappropriate at this time to require reference to 
any of the CGA pamphlets on the container's label. As AAMA stated, it 
would be difficult for users to comply with the requirements in these 
pamphlets which direct an inspector to remove a CNG container. The 
agency further agrees with AAMA that the inspection procedures 
referenced in the CGA pamphlets may be confusing to a mechanic because 
it specifies that the CNG container be inspected by a container tester 
registered with the U.S. Department of Transportation or Canadian 
Transport Commission. NHTSA notes that the CNG container industry is in 
the process of revising the inspection pamphlets to clarify the 
reinspection interval for CNG containers used as vehicle fuel tanks.

C. Other Issues

    PST stated that the minimum character size for the label should be 
reduced to \5/32\ inch because the added wording regarding the 
recommended periodic inspection of fuel containers would increase the 
label's size. PST stated that there is no functional need for the label 
to be legible for distances greater than a few feet. PST stated that 
larger labels are more costly and more difficult to apply on a CNG 
container, and that a smaller label can more easily conform to the 
surface for adhesion.
    Lincoln does not agree that the cost of this rulemaking is solely 
the cost of the label. That manufacturer stated that the rulemaking's 
true cost should reflect the costs of implementing the change from a 
36-month to 12-month inspection interval and that this would make this 
rulemaking significant.
    NHTSA notes that the letter height requirements were addressed in 
the final rule published July 24, 1995. In that rulemaking, the agency 
changed the letter height requirement from 12.7 mm (0.50 inch) to 6.35 
mm (0.25 inch) which was consistent with the comments from Chrysler and 
Structural Composite Industries. The agency stated in that rulemaking 
that it would be inappropriate to reduce the letter height even more 
because the lettering would be too small to be visible at various 
locations on CNG vehicles. The agency notes that these issues have 
already been addressed in both the July 24, 1995 final rule and in the 
November 24, 1995 final rule. Since PST did not provide any new 
information on label content or the letter height requirement to 
justify a change, NHTSA is not making any change.
    NHTSA notes that today's amendment of Standard No. 304 with respect 
to the labeling requirement render moot Lincoln's concerns about the 
added costs associated with an annual inspection interval.

III. Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

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

    NHTSA has considered the impact of this rulemaking action under 
Executive Order 12866 and the Department of Transportation's regulatory 
policies and procedures. This rulemaking document was not reviewed 
under E.O. 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review.'' Further, this 
action has been determined to be ``nonsignificant'' under the 
Department of Transportation's regulatory policies and procedures. The 
agency has not prepared a Final Regulatory Evaluation (FRE) because the 
impacts of these amendments are so minimal as not to warrant 
preparation of a full regulatory evaluation. The amendments made in 
today's final rule are requirements related to the labeling of CNG 
vehicles and containers, and as such do not result in significant 
increases in cost. In the FRE for Standard No. 304, the agency stated 
``The consumer cost for a label on each CNG fuel container certifying 
that the container meets the proposed equipment requirements is 
estimated to be in the range of $0.06 to $0.11 per label. This includes 
the cost of the label plus labor costs for attachment.'' The changes 
made by this final rule do not change that estimate.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    NHTSA has also considered the effects of this rulemaking action 
under the Regulatory Flexibility Act. Based upon the agency's 
evaluation, I certify that this rule will not have a significant 
economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. As noted 
above, the amendments will result in only a very nominal cost increase 
resulting from adding the additional labeling information. Further, 
information available to the agency indicates that businesses 
manufacturing CNG fuel containers are not small businesses.

C. Executive Order 12612 (Federalism)

    NHTSA has analyzed this rulemaking action in accordance with the 
principles and criteria contained in Executive Order 12612. NHTSA has 
determined that the rule will not have sufficient Federalism 
implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment.

D. National Environmental Policy Act

    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 have no adverse impact on the 
quality of the human environment.

E. Civil Justice Reform

    This rulemaking does not have any retroactive effect. Under 49 
U.S.C. 30103, 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, except to the extent that the State requirement imposes a 
higher level of performance and applies only to vehicles procured for 
the State's use. 49 U.S.C. 30161 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, Motor vehicle safety, Motor vehicles, Rubber and rubber 
products, Tires.

    In consideration of the foregoing, the agency is amending Standard 
No. 304; Compressed Natural Gas Fuel Container Integrity, part 571 at 
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations as follows:


    1. The authority citation for Part 571 continues to read as 

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 322, 30111, 30115, 30117 and 30166; 
delegation of authority at 49 CFR 1.50.

[[Page 47089]]

    2. Section 571.304 is amended by revising S7.4(g) to read as 

Sec. 571.304  Standard No. 304, Compressed Natural Gas Fuel Container 

* * * * *
    S7.4 * * *
    (g) The statement: ``This container should be visually inspected 
after a motor vehicle accident or fire and at least every 36 months or 
36,000 miles, whichever comes first, for damage and deterioration.
* * * * *
    Issued on: August 30, 1996.
Donald C. Bischoff,
Executive Director.
[FR Doc. 96-22762 Filed 9-5-96; 8:45 am]