[Federal Register Volume 64, Number 243 (Monday, December 20, 1999)]
[Pages 71186-71188]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 99-32913]



Office of Motor Carrier Safety
[OMCS Docket No. OMCS-99-6285]

Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation; General 
Motors Corporation's Exemption Application; Minimum Fuel Tank Fill Rate 
and Certification Labeling

AGENCY: Office of Motor Carrier Safety (OMCS), DOT.

ACTION: Notice of application for exemption and proposal to grant 
exemption; request for comments.


SUMMARY: The OMCS is announcing its proposal to grant the application 
of the General Motors Corporation (GM) for an exemption from certain 
fuel tank design and certification labeling requirements in the Federal 
Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs). The exemption would enable 
motor carriers to operate commercial motor vehicles (CMVs) manufactured 
by GM, and equipped with fuel tanks that do not meet the OMCS' 
requirements that fuel tanks be capable of receiving fuel at a rate of 
at least 20 gallons per minute, and be labeled or marked by the 
manufacturer to certify compliance with the design criteria. The OMCS 
believes the terms and conditions of the exemptions being considered 
achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to the level of safety 
that would be achieved by complying with the regulations and requests 
public comment on GM's application. The exemption, if granted, would 
preempt inconsistent State and local requirements applicable to 
interstate commerce.

DATES: Comments must be received on or before January 19, 2000.

ADDRESSES: Submit written, signed comments with the docket number 
appearing at the top of this document to the Docket Clerk, U.S. DOT 
Dockets, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-
0001. All comments received will be available for examination at the 
above address from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, 
except Federal holidays. Those desiring notification of receipt of 
comments must include a self-addressed, stamped envelope or postcard.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Mr. Larry W. Minor, Office of Motor 
Carrier Research and Standards, HMCS-10, (202) 366-4009, Office of 
Motor Carrier Safety, 400 Seventh Street, SW., Washington, D.C. 20590-
0001; 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. 20590-0001. Office hours are from 7:45 a.m. to 
4:15 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.


Electronic Access

    Internet users may access all comments submitted to the Docket 
Clerk, U.S. DOT Dockets, Room PL-401, 400 Seventh Street, SW., 
Washington, DC 20590-0001, in response to this notice by using the 
universal resource locator (URL): http://dms.dot.gov. It is available 
24 hours each day, 365 days each year. Please follow the instructions 
online for more information and help.
    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 
and suitable communications software from the Government Printing 
Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet 
users may reach the Office of the Federal Register's home page at 
http://www.nara.gov/fedreg and the Government Printing Office's 
database at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara.

Creation of New Agency

    Section 338 of the FY 2000 Department of Transportation and Related 
Agencies Appropriations Act prohibits the expenditure of any funds 
appropriated by that Act ``to carry out the functions and operations of 
the Office of Motor Carriers within the Federal Highway 
Administration'' (Pub. L. 106-69, October 9, 1999, 113 Stat. 986, at 
1022). Section 338 further provides that, if the authority of the 
Secretary of Transportation on which the functions and operations of 
the Office of Motor Carriers are based is redelegated outside the FHWA, 
the funds available to that Office under the Act may be transferred and 
expended to support its functions and operations.
    The Secretary has rescinded the authority previously delegated to 
the FHWA to perform motor carrier functions and operations. This 
authority has been redelegated to the Director, Office of Motor Carrier 
Safety (OMCS), a new office within the Department of Transportation (64 
FR 56270, October 19, 1999).
    The motor carrier functions of the FHWA's Resource Centers and 

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(i.e., State) Offices have been transferred to OMCS Resource Centers 
and OMCS Division Offices, respectively. Rulemaking, enforcement and 
other activities of the Office of Motor Carrier and Highway Safety 
while part of the FHWA will be continued by the OMCS. The redelegation 
will cause no changes in the motor carrier functions and operations 
previously handled by the FHWA. For the time being, all phone numbers 
and addresses are unchanged.


    On June 9, 1998, the President signed the Transportation Equity Act 
for the 21st Century (TEA-21) (Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107). Section 
4007 of the TEA-21 amended 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e) concerning the 
Secretary of Transportation's (the Secretary's) authority to grant 
exemptions from the FMCSRs. An exemption may be up to two years in 
duration, and may be renewed.
    Section 4007 of the TEA-21 requires the OMCS to publish a notice in 
the Federal Register for each exemption requested, explaining that the 
request has been filed, and providing the public an opportunity to 
inspect the safety analysis and any other relevant information known to 
the agency, and comment on the request. Prior to granting a request for 
an exemption, the agency must publish a notice in the Federal Register 
identifying the person or class of persons who will receive the 
exemption, the provisions from which the person will be exempt, the 
effective period, and all terms and conditions of the exemption. The 
terms and conditions established by the OMCS must ensure that the 
exemption will likely achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to, 
or greater than, the level that would be achieved by complying with the 
    On December 8, 1998, the FHWA published an interim final rule 
implementing section 4007 of the TEA-21 (63 FR 67600). The regulations 
(49 CFR part 381) established the procedures to be followed to request 
waivers and apply for exemptions from the FMCSRs, and the procedures 
that will be used to process them.
    As indicated earlier in this notice, the Secretary has rescinded 
the authority previously delegated to the FHWA to carry out motor 
carrier functions and operations. Therefore, the regulations issued by 
the FHWA are now regulations of the OMCS. On October 29, 1999 (64 FR 
58355), the OMCS issued a final rule amending the heading for chapter 
III of Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations to reflect the 
organizational changes.

GM's Application for an Exemption

    GM applied for an exemption from 49 CFR 393.67(c)(7)(ii), which 
requires that certain fuel tank systems on CMVs be designed to permit a 
fill rate of at least 20 gallons (75.7 liters) per minute, and 49 CFR 
393.67(f)(2) and (f)(3) which require that liquid fuel tanks be marked 
with the manufacturer's name, and a certification that the tank 
conforms to all applicable rules in Sec. 393.67, respectively. GM's 
application for an exemption was included in its response to the notice 
of intent to grant similar exemptions to the Ford Motor Company on 
behalf of motor carriers operating certain vehicles manufactured by 
Ford (64 FR 43417; August 10, 1999). A copy of GM's application is 
included in the docket referenced at the beginning of this notice. GM 
indicated that it ``fully supports the FHWA's preliminary determination 
to grant an exemption from the requirements of [Secs. ] 
393.67(c)(7)(ii), 393.67(f)(2) and 393.67(f)(3)(ii) to [the] Ford Motor 
Company'' and requested the exemption on behalf of motor carriers 
operating certain vehicles manufactured by GM.
    GM produces G-vans (Chevrolet Express and GMC Savanna) and full-
size C/K trucks (Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra) which may be 
equipped for numerous uses, including use as a CMV as defined in 49 CFR 
390.5. GM argues that exemptions are needed for the same reasons 
described in the Ford Motor Company's applications. GM stated:
    The basis for GM's exemption petition follows:
    1. GM agrees with Ford that it is not possible to accurately 
estimate the number of these vehicles that will be used as CMVs.
    2. GM's G and C/K vehicles, as is the Ford Econoline, are equipped 
with fuel tanks mounted between the frame rails, use a fill pipe system 
conforming to EPA fill requirements, and are designed for conformance 
to [Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 301] performance 
requirements. Although the vehicles over 10,000 pounds GVWR are not 
required to meet FMVSS 301, the fill system on these vehicles is based 
on the design for vehicles conforming to FMVSS 301.
    3. GM does not authorize or support the practice of retrofitting 
fuel tanks and/or fill systems that would be necessary to comply with 
the fuel fill and labeling requirements of [Sec. 393. 67]. We are 
concerned, as is Ford, that such modifications could undermine the fuel 
system integrity resulting in a decrease in the safety of the vehicle.
    4. GM agrees with Ford that the 20 gallon per minute fill 
requirement is a matter of convenience and further suggests that its 
applicability should be restricted to vehicles equipped with side 
mounted fuel tanks. These vehicles have fill openings directly on the 
fuel tank and are of a type that are likely to be fueled at a location 
where the fuel fill rate exceeds 10 gallons per minute.
    5. With industry-standard automatic shut-off nozzles at fuel 
stations, it is unlikely that significant fuel will be spilled in the 
event that a vehicle is fueled at a fill rate exceeding the fuel 
system's capacity.
    6. GM agrees that the marking requirements of Sec. 393.67(f)(2) and 
(f)(3)(ii) are only identification requirements and do not contribute 
to the safety of the fuel tank. Additionally, the design of GM's G and 
C/K fuel tanks makes it difficult to see any such identification on a 
completed vehicle.

Basis for Proposal to Grant Exemption

    The OMCS has reviewed its fill pipe design requirements. The agency 
concludes that the fill-pipe capacity criterion, when applied to 
gasoline-powered vehicles, is inconsistent with the U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations concerning gasoline fuel pumps. 
While the OMCS requirement may be appropriate for diesel fuel-powered 
commercial motor vehicles, it mandates that fill pipes on gasoline-
powered vehicles be capable of receiving fuel at twice the maximum rate 
gasoline fuel pumps are designed to dispense fuel.
    The EPA requires (40 CFR 80.22) that every retailer and wholesale 
purchaser-consumer must limit each nozzle from which gasoline or 
methanol is introduced into motor vehicles to a maximum fuel flow rate 
not to exceed 10 gallons per minute (37.9 liters per minute). Any 
dispensing pump that is dedicated exclusively to heavy-duty vehicles is 
exempt from the requirement.
    Since the EPA's regulation includes an exemption for dispensing 
pumps used exclusively for refueling heavy-duty vehicles, it is 
possible that some of the gasoline-powered vehicles that would be 
exempted could be refueled at a location (e.g., at a fleet terminal) 
where the dispensing equipment exceeds 10 gallons per minute. However, 
the OMCS does not believe this would present a safety problem. The OMCS 
agrees with GM's argument that the use of automatic shut-off valves on 
fuel dispensing pumps make it unlikely that a significant amount of 
fuel will be spilled if a vehicle is refueled using a pump that exceeds 
the vehicle's capacity for receiving fuel. The agency believes the 
combination of the

[[Page 71188]]

EPA regulation concerning dispensing pumps, and the use of automatic 
shut-off nozzles on these pumps ensures a level of safety that is 
equivalent to the level of safety that would be obtained by complying 
with Sec. 393.67(c)(7)(ii).
    The OMCS believes any operational problems experienced by motor 
carriers using certain fuel pumps to refill GM vehicles have already 
been resolved. The vehicles in questions have been in use for a number 
of years and are still being produced. Therefore, motor carriers using 
these vehicles have experience refueling them. The OMCS is not aware of 
any safety problems associated with the fill-pipe capacity for the fuel 
tanks on GM G and C/K vehicles. The agency requests comments on this 
    The OMCS also reviewed available information on the origin of the 
fill-pipe rule. The 20-gallon per minute rate in Sec. 393.67(c)(7)(ii) 
is based on the Society of Automotive Engineers' (SAE) recommended 
practice ``Side Mounted Gasoline Tanks'' as revised in 1949. The SAE 
later published fuel tank manufacturing practices in SAE J703, ``Fuel 
Systems,'' an information report which consisted of the former 
Interstate Commerce Commission's requirements for fuel systems and 
tanks (codified at 49 CFR 193.65 in the 1953 edition of the Code of 
Federal Regulations). The information report retained the 20-gallon-
per-minute rate. The SAE currently covers this subject under 
recommended practice SAE J703 ``Fuel Systems--Truck and Truck 
Tractors.'' The 1995 version of the recommended practice continues to 
use the 20-gallon-per-minute criterion for fill pipes.
    The OMCS does not have technical documentation explaining the 
rationale for the SAE's original use of the 20-gallon-per-minute rate 
in 1949 and believes the adoption of the criterion in Federal 
regulations may have resulted in its continued use in the current SAE 
recommended practice which references Secs. 393.65 and 393.67. As 
stated by the SAE, ``[t]he intent of this document is not only to 
clarify the procedures and reflect the best currently known practices, 
but also to prescribe requirements * * * that meet or exceed all 
corresponding performance requirements of FMCSR 393.65 and 393.67 that 
were in effect at the time of issue.''
    The OMCS believes the current requirement may need to be 
reconsidered in light of the EPA requirements. While the agency reviews 
this issue, motor carriers should not be penalized for operating 
vehicles with non-compliant fill pipes that they had no practical means 
of identifying. The agency has made a preliminary determination that it 
is appropriate to grant an exemption to Sec. 393.67(c)(7)(ii) for 
interstate motor carriers operating certain GM vehicles and requests 
public comment on GM's application.
    With regard to an exemption from the fuel tank marking and 
certification requirements (Secs. 393.67(f)(2) and (f)(3)(ii)), the 
OMCS does not believe there would be a readily apparent adverse impact 
on safety associated with the absence of the required markings. 
Although the OMCS considers marking and certification important for 
helping enforcement officials and motor carriers quickly distinguish 
between fuel tanks that are certified as meeting the agency's 
requirements and those that are not, the OMCS does not believe the 
operators of the GM vehicles should be penalized because the fuel tanks 
are not marked and certified in accordance with Sec. 393.67.
    As a vehicle manufacturer, GM is fully aware of all applicable 
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards issued and enforced by the 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency in the U.S. 
Department of Transportation responsible for regulating motor vehicle 
and equipment manufacturers. GM is less familiar with the equipment 
requirements of the OMCS, the agency responsible for regulating motor 
    GM has indicated that its tanks do not meet the fill pipe 
requirements, and do not have the necessary certification. An exemption 
to the certification is needed because GM cannot misrepresent its 
product by certifying compliance with all applicable provisions in 
Sec. 393.67 while its fill pipe designs allow approximately 10 gallons 
of gasoline fuel per minute to flow into the fuel tank. The agency 
believes granting exemptions for the affected motor carriers is the 
most effective way to resolve the problem while ensuring highway 

Terms and Conditions for the Exemption

    The OMCS would provide an exemption to Secs. 393.67(c)(7)(ii), 
393.67(f)(2), and 393.67(f)(3)(ii) for motor carriers operating certain 
GM vehicles. The exemption would be valid for two years from the date 
of approval, unless revoked earlier by the OMCS. GM, or any of the 
affected motor carriers, may apply to the OMCS for a renewal. The 
exemption would preempt inconsistent State or local requirements 
applicable to interstate commerce.
    The motor carriers operating these vehicles would not be required 
to maintain documentation concerning the exemption because the vehicles 
have markings that would enable enforcement officials to identify them. 
The vehicles covered by the exemptions can be identified by their 
vehicle identification numbers (VINs). The VINs contain ``J'' or ``K'' 
in the fourth position and a ``1'' in the seventh position. The OMCS 
believes this information is sufficient and requests public comment.

Request for Comments

    In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 31315 and 31136(e), the OMCS is 
requesting public comment from all interested persons on the exemption 
applications from GM. All comments received before the close of 
business on the comment closing date indicated at the beginning of this 
notice will be considered and will be available for examination in the 
docket at the location listed under the address section of this notice. 
Comments received after the comment closing date will be filed in the 
public docket and will be considered to the extent practicable, but the 
OMCS may grant the exemptions at any time after the close of the 
comment period. In addition to late comments, the OMCS will also 
continue to file, in the public docket, relevant information that 
becomes available after the comment closing date. Interested persons 
should continue to examine the public docket for new material.

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 31136 and 31315; and 49 CFR 1.73.

    Issued on: December 14, 1999.
Julie Anna Cirillo,
Acting Director, Office of Motor Carrier Safety.
[FR Doc. 99-32913 Filed 12-17-99; 8:45 am]