[Federal Register Volume 62, Number 219 (Thursday, November 13, 1997)]
[Proposed Rules]
[Pages 60817-60818]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 97-29832]



Federal Highway Administration

49 CFR Part 350

Public Meeting To Discuss the Development of Functional 
Specifications for Performance-Based Brake Testers Used To Inspect 
Commercial Motor Vehicles

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of public meeting.


SUMMARY: The FHWA is announcing a public meeting to discuss the 
development of functional specifications for performance-based brake 
testing machines purchased with Federal funds through the FHWA's Motor 
Carrier Safety Assistance Program (MCSAP). The FHWA is nearing the 
completion of a multi-year research program to evaluate prototype 
performance-based brake testing technologies, including roller 
dynamometers, flat-plate brake testers, and breakaway torque brake 
testers. The agency has determined that certain performance-based brake 
testing machines are eligible for funding under MCSAP but only as 
screening and sorting devices in commercial vehicle inspections. The 
purpose of the public meeting is to discuss the establishment of 
generic functional specifications that would be applicable to a range 
of brake testing technologies. The functional specifications would 
serve as guidelines for the States to use in determining whether the 
purchase of a specific brake tester would be an eligible expense under 
the MCSAP.

DATES: The meeting will be held on December 8, 1997. The meeting will 
begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m. The meeting will include a 
presentation of the results to date from the brake tester evaluation 
program and a review of preliminary functional specifications.

ADDRESSES: The meeting will be held at the National Highway Traffic 
Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Vehicle Research and Test Center in 
East Liberty, Ohio.

Operations Division, Office of Motor Carrier Research and Standards, 
(202) 366-4009; Mr. Steve Keppler, Intelligent Transportation Systems--
Commercial Vehicle Operations Division, Office of Motor Carrier Safety 
and Technology, (202) 366-0950; or Mr. Paul Alexander, State Programs 
Division, Office of Motor Carrier Safety and Technology (202) 366-9579, 
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.



    In 1993, the FHWA initiated a research program to evaluate various 
performance-based brake testing technologies for use on commercial 
motor vehicles. The purpose of the program was to determine, through 
field-test data collection, if performance-based brake inspection 
technologies could improve or assist with the throughput and accuracy 
of the current inspection techniques which involve visual examination 
of components, measurement of push-rod travel on air-braked vehicles, 
and listening for air leaks. Following the completion of the first task 
of the program, in which various performance-based technologies were 
analyzed, several of the systems were selected for evaluation in a 
roadside field-test inspection program.
    During the field tests, inspections were performed using both 
visual and performance-based methods to compare their ability to detect 
vehicle brake defects. In particular, a Commercial Vehicle Safety 
Alliance Level 4 inspection (consisting of the brake and tire portion 
of a Level 1 inspection) was conducted in addition to a performance-
based brake test. The dual inspections were performed by State 
officials in each of eight States that volunteered to participate in 
the field test program.
    The data collected from these dual inspections were tabulated and

[[Page 60818]]

correlations were sought between Federal Motor Carrier Safety 
Regulations (FMCSRs) violations, the North American Uniform Vehicle 
Out-of-Service Criteria used by officials in the United States, Canada, 
and Mexico, and various pass/fail criteria used by manufacturers of 
performance-based technology. In addition to the performance-based 
brake ``failure'' information, data relating to the operational 
characteristics of each prototype machine were also collected and 
evaluated. These data included setup and tear down times, vehicle 
inspection times, maintenance requirements, user friendliness, 
calibration procedures and results, operator skill-level requirements 
and information to generate a cost-benefit analysis. A key source of 
data was the interviews with State inspectors.
    The preliminary findings from the first phase of the prototype 
brake testing program are documented in an interim report, ``Evaluation 
of Performance-Based Brake Testing Technologies,'' December 1995, FHWA-
MC-96-004. A copy of this report may be obtained by contacting one of 
the individuals listed at the beginning of this notice. The interim 
report presents findings based upon approximately one year of data from 
roller dynamometers used in Colorado and Ohio, and a flat plate tester 
in Minnesota.
    West Virginia is currently participating in the field test 
evaluation of a roller dynamometer, Wisconsin is collecting data on a 
flat-plate tester, and Maryland and Nevada are collecting data on 
breakaway torque testers. Connecticut participated in the testing of a 
roller dynamometer for several months but elected to discontinue its 
involvement in the research program. The final report on the research 
program will be published in 1998.

Determination of Eligibility for MCSAP Funding

    On April 1, 1996, the FHWA issued a memorandum advising agency 
staff that two specific performance-based brake testing machines are 
eligible for funding under MCSAP. The memorandum indicated that the 
devices are prototypes, and are approved for screening and sorting 
purposes only. This means that States may request MCSAP funding to 
purchase one of the approved brake testers for use in screening or 
sorting vehicles at inspection cites. Vehicles that fail the 
performance test would be inspected to determine the reason for the 
poor test results. Generally, motor carriers cannot be cited for brake-
related violations of the FMCSRs solely on the basis of the results 
from a performance-based brake tester. Citations are based upon the 
specific defects or deficiencies found during the in-depth inspection.
    The FHWA is considering the development of pass/fail criteria for 
braking force that could be enforced by Federal and State officials 
using performance-based brake testing technologies. As inspection 
criteria or regulations are developed through the rulemaking process, 
the use of the performance-based brake testing machines could be 
expanded to include enforcement of the new Federal brake performance 
standards. The new standards would be an alternative to the stopping 
distances from 32.2 kilometers per hour (20 miles per hour) currently 
specified in 49 CFR 393.52 but rarely enforced by Federal and State 
officials because of difficulties in performing such tests at roadside. 
If brake force standards are developed through the rulemaking process, 
the States would be able to issue citations based upon the output from 
the brake testers.
    The development of pass/fail criteria for braking force in 
commercial motor vehicles will be considered for rulemaking but will 
not be a topic of discussion at the meeting. The meeting will focus 
only on the development of functional specifications for the brake 
testing technologies to ensure that the equipment accepted as eligible 
expenses under the MCSAP are capable of accurately measuring brake 

Meeting Information

    The meeting will be held on December 8, 1997, at the NHTSA's 
Vehicle Research and Test Center, located near the intersection of 
State Routes 33 and 347, East Liberty, Ohio. This location is 
approximately 55 miles northwest of Columbus, Ohio. The meeting is 
scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The NHTSA's Vehicle Research and 
Test Center is located on the grounds of the Transportation Research 
Center, a privately owned facility with controlled access. All visitors 
to the Transportation Research Center must be registered with the 
security office and wear a visitor's badge at all times while on the 
premises. Therefore, the FHWA requests that all interested parties 
contact one of the individuals listed at the beginning of this notice 
by December 1 to provide their name and company affiliation so that 
security personnel at TRC can be notified in advance. This will prevent 
delays in gaining access to the facility.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 350

    Highway safety, Motor carriers, motor vehicle safety.

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

    Issued on: November 5, 1997.
George L. Reagle,
Associate Administrator for Motor Carriers.
[FR Doc. 97-29832 Filed 11-12-97; 8:45 am]