[Federal Register: November 5, 2002 (Volume 67, Number 214)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 67491-67494]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr05no02-10]                         



[[Page 67491]]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

49 CFR Part 575

[Docket No. NHTSA-02-10053]
RIN 2127-AI65

 
Consumer Information; Safety Rating Program for Child Restraint 
Systems

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

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: Section 14(g) of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, 
Accountability, and Documentation (TREAD) Act requires that, by 
November 1, 2002, a final rule be issued to establish a child restraint 
safety rating consumer information program to provide practicable, 
readily understandable, and timely information to consumers for use in 
making informed decisions in the purchase of child restraint systems 
(CRS). In response to this mandate, NHTSA is establishing such a 
program. The program will not impose any binding legal obligations on 
any child restraint manufacturer regarding the generation or 
distribution of information.
    The details of the new program are set forth in a companion 
document being published today in the Federal Register. The agency is 
establishing an ease of use rating program at this time. This rating 
program will enhance the safety of children by informing consumers 
about the features of child restraints that make child restraints 
easier to use, and evaluating each child restraint on those features. 
The agency anticipates that the program will result in more child 
restraints being used correctly. NHTSA is also evaluating whether to 
establish two complementary consumer information programs. The first 
would be based on child restraint dynamic performance. The second would 
involve expanding the agency's New Car Assessment Program to include 
consumer information on how vehicles do in protecting child occupants. 
The agency will be conducting two pilot programs in these areas to 
assess how to proceed in these programs.

DATES: The amendments made in this rule are effective January 6, 2003. 
If you wish to petition for reconsideration of this rule, your petition 
must be received by December 20, 2002.

ADDRESSES: If you wish to petition for reconsideration of this rule, 
you should refer in your petition to the docket number of this document 
and submit your petition to: Administrator, Room 5220, National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh Street SW., Washington, DC, 
20590.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: For issues related to the ease of use 
rating program, you may call Lori Miller of the Office of Planning and 
Consumer Standards, at (202) 366-2191. For issues related to the pilot 
programs for the dynamic performance of child restraints or for the New 
Car Assessment Program, call Nathaniel Beuse or Brian Park, 
respectively, of the Office of Crashworthiness Standards, at (202) 366-
1740. For legal issues, call Deirdre Fujita of the Office of Chief 
Counsel, at (202) 366-2992. You may send mail to these officials at the 
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 400 Seventh St., SW., 
Washington, DC 20590.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: Congress has directed the National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to establish a child restraint 
safety rating system that is practicable and understandable (Section 14 
(g) of the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and 
Documentation (TREAD) Act, November 1, 2000, Pub. L. 106-414, 114 Stat. 
1800) and that will help consumers to make informed decisions when 
purchasing child restraints. Section 14(g) reads as follows:

(g) Child restraint safety rating program. No later than 12 months 
after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of 
Transportation shall issue a notice of proposed rulemaking to 
establish a child restraint safety rating consumer information 
program to provide practicable, readily understandable, and timely 
information to consumers for use in making informed decisions in the 
purchase of child restraints. No later than 24 months after the date 
of the enactment of this Act the Secretary shall issue a final rule 
establishing a child restraint safety rating program and providing 
other consumer information which the Secretary determines would be 
useful [to] consumers who purchase child restraint systems.

    NHTSA issued an NPRM (66 FR 56048; November 6, 2001) and a 
companion request for comments on the details of the new program (66 FR 
56146; November 6, 2001). Nineteen comments were submitted in response.
    Pursuant to the TREAD Act, the agency is issuing this final rule. 
In this final rule, the agency establishes a program for rating the 
ease-of-use of child restraints. This final rule accompanies the 
agency's Response to Comments, Notice of Final Decision published 
elsewhere in today's Federal Register. That document addresses the 
comments we received on the ratings program, and sets forth the 
complete details of the program established today.
    The program furthers the agency's efforts to harmonize its 
regulations internationally where possible. The program is modeled 
after the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia's (ICBC's) ease of 
use program, which evaluates all child restraints sold in Canada. 
NHTSA's program uses similar ratings categories as those of the ICBC, 
and the features that are rated and the criteria for rating the 
restraints are based on ICBC's features and criteria.
    The ratings program established today is just a first step towards 
providing consumers more information about child occupant protection 
for use in making informed purchasing decisions. NHTSA believes that 
the most effective consumer information system would be one that gives 
the consumer a combination of information about child restraints' ease 
of use and dynamic performance, and vehicle performance in crash tests. 
The ease of use program is sufficiently developed at this time to 
proceed, whereas programs evaluating the dynamic performance of child 
restraints and vehicles are not ready for implementation at this time.
    The Notice of Final Decision explains that NHTSA will conduct a 
pilot test program of child restraints using new test devices and 
procedures incorporated into the Federal motor vehicle safety standard 
for child restraint systems. We will also conduct a pilot test program 
involving the placement of child restraints in vehicles tested in the 
agency's New Car Assessment Program in MY 2003 and 2004. The pilot 
programs will evaluate the performance of child restraints and the 
ability of vehicles to provide child occupant protection. The agency 
will evaluate the results of the two pilot programs to decide how the 
ratings programs on the dynamic performance of child restraints and 
vehicles should proceed.
    In comments to the Request for Comments, the Juvenile Products 
Manufacturers Association (JPMA) suggested that Congress wanted NHTSA 
to establish the ratings program ``by rulemaking in order to ensure 
that public notice and an opportunity to comment would be provided not 
only for the initial establishment of the program, but also when 
subsequent changes to the program are contemplated.'' JPMA also stated 
that, to fulfill the mandate of section 14(g) of the TREAD Act, NHTSA 
must assure the public that it will not make changes to the ratings 
program without providing the public an opportunity to comment

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and providing the industry time to change their products.
    It is our current policy, and one generally followed in the past, 
to seek public input when establishing new consumer information ratings 
programs. Public comment on the performance criteria and test protocols 
to be used in the programs assists the agency in developing consumer 
information programs that are readily understandable to consumers and 
helpful to their purchasing decisions. Generally, the agency has sought 
comment through issuing a Request for Comments or by holding public 
meetings on possible consumer information programs under consideration, 
rather than issuing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). The agency 
has not deemed it necessary formally to propose particular performance 
criteria and procedures through an NPRM because the purpose of the 
consumer information programs is to rate products. There is no minimum 
level of performance specified as in the FMVSS, and the performance 
criteria and test protocols impose no legally binding obligations on 
manufacturers and are not published in the Code of Federal Regulations. 
However, the Request for Comments we have issued and the meetings we 
have held have included descriptions of the performance criteria and 
test protocols under consideration. In our view, there is no 
substantive difference between providing for that notice and comment 
through these procedures or through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking.
    The TREAD Act requires that we initially establish this consumer 
information program through a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and a Final 
Rule. It is silent as to the process contemplated for any substantive 
changes to the program in the future. Although the agency often seeks 
public comment on significant substantive changes in consumer 
information programs, the agency does not believe a formal process is 
required. The agency may determine, based on experience or testing, 
that changes in the program are necessary to provide more descriptive 
or more accurate information to the public. The agency is concerned 
that a prolonged comment period during the course of a program could 
unduly delay the public's access to the best information available with 
which to make purchase decisions. While Congress acted to ensure that 
this consumer information program was developed with public comment, we 
do not believe that Congress intended for there to be delays in 
providing ``timely information'' by requiring a full rulemaking process 
when experience has shown that the quality of the information available 
could be markedly enhanced.
    Nor do we agree that the TREAD Act provision mandates that we 
provide leadtime for the industry to change their products in order to 
enhance performance in our consumer information program. Unlike the 
issuance or amending of a Federal motor vehicle safety standard, our 
consumer information programs impose no binding legal obligations on 
child restraint or vehicle manufacturers, and are therefore not 
constrained by the practicability concerns addressed through the 
statutory mandates applicable to the FMVSSs. Manufacturers may sell 
motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment regardless of how well or 
poorly the product performs in our consumer information program, as 
long as it meets the requirements of any applicable FMVSS.
    This issue illustrates the difference between making changes to our 
consumer information programs and making changes to the Federal motor 
vehicle safety standards. The consumer information programs are 
intended to identify distinctions between products and provide the 
public with useful and timely information about products currently 
available to them to assist their purchase decisions. The programs 
don't require product manufacturers to make any changes to their 
products. If the manufacturers decide nevertheless to make changes, 
they can make their own decisions about the timing, nature and extent 
of any changes. Delaying the implementation of new procedures and the 
dissemination of timely and useful information about currently 
available products would undermine, rather than further, the intent of 
the consumer information programs. The FMVSSs, on the other hand, are 
intended to ensure that all products subject to them meet minimum 
performance criteria in accordance with a uniform schedule set by the 
agency. Accordingly, sufficient leadtime is necessary to allow 
manufacturers to change their products in response to the new FMVSS 
requirements.

Rulemaking Analyses and Notices

A. Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures

    Executive Order 12866, ``Regulatory Planning and Review'' (58 FR 
51735, October 4, 1993), provides for making determinations whether a 
regulatory action is ``significant'' and therefore subject to Office of 
Management and Budget (OMB) review and to the requirements of the 
Executive Order. The Order defines a ``significant regulatory action'' 
as one that is likely to result in a rule that may:
    (1) Have an annual effect on the economy of $ 100 million or more 
or adversely affect in a material way the economy, a sector of the 
economy, productivity, competition, jobs, the environment, public 
health or safety, or State, local, or Tribal Governments or 
communities;
    (2) Create a serious inconsistency or otherwise interfere with an 
action taken or planned by another agency;
    (3) Materially alter the budgetary impact of entitlements, grants, 
user fees, or loan programs or the rights and obligations of recipients 
thereof; or
    (4) Raise novel legal or policy issues arising out of legal 
mandates, the President's priorities, or the principles set forth in 
the Executive Order.
    This document was not reviewed under Executive Order 12866. Since 
this final rule will not establish a rule imposing binding legal 
obligations on any party, it does not involve a significant rule within 
the meaning of that Executive Order or the Department of 
Transportation's Regulatory Policies and Procedures. Further, 
preparation of a full regulatory evaluation is not required under these 
circumstances. NHTSA is issuing this final rule and a companion 
response to comments, instead of a response to comments alone, because 
section 14(g) of the TREAD Act expressly requires the issuance of a 
final rule.

B. Regulatory Flexibility Act

    Pursuant to the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq., 
as amended by the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act 
(SBREFA) of 1996), whenever an agency is required to publish a notice 
of rulemaking for any proposed or final rule, it must prepare and make 
available for public comment a regulatory flexibility analysis that 
describes the effect of the rule on small entities (i.e., small 
businesses, small organizations, and small governmental jurisdictions). 
The Small Business Administration's regulations at 13 CFR part 121 
define a small business, in part, as a business entity ``which operates 
primarily within the United States.'' (13 CFR 121.105(a)). No 
regulatory flexibility analysis is required if the head of an agency 
certifies the rule will not have a significant economic impact on a 
substantial number of small entities. SBREFA amended the Regulatory 
Flexibility Act to require Federal agencies to provide a statement of 
the factual basis for certifying that a rule

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will not have a significant economic impact on a substantial number of 
small entities.
    NHTSA has considered the effects of this final rule under the 
Regulatory Flexibility Act. For the reasons noted above in the section 
on Executive Order 12866 and DOT Regulatory Policies and Procedures, I 
certify that this final rule will not have a significant economic 
impact on a substantial number of small entities.

C. National Environmental Policy Act

    NHTSA has analyzed this rulemaking action for the purposes of the 
National Environmental Policy Act. The agency has determined that 
implementation of this final rule does not involve a rule that will 
have any significant impact on the quality of the human environment.

D. Executive Order 13132 (Federalism)

    Executive Order 13132 requires NHTSA to develop an accountable 
process to ensure ``meaningful and timely input by State and local 
officials in the development of regulatory policies that have 
federalism implications.'' ``Policies that have federalism 
implications'' is defined in the Executive Order to include regulations 
that have ``substantial direct effects on the States, on the 
relationship between the national government and the States, or on the 
distribution of power and responsibilities among the various levels of 
government.'' Under Executive Order 13132, the agency may not issue a 
regulation with federalism implications, that imposes substantial 
direct compliance costs, and that is not required by statute, unless 
the Federal government provides the funds necessary to pay the direct 
compliance costs incurred by State and local governments, the agency 
consults with State and local governments, or the agency consults with 
State and local officials early in the process of developing the 
regulation. NHTSA also may not issue a regulation with federalism 
implications and that preempts State law unless the agency consults 
with State and local officials early in the process of developing the 
regulation.
    The agency has analyzed this final rule in accordance with the 
principles and criteria set forth in Executive Order 13132 and has 
determined that it does not involve a rule that would have sufficient 
federalism implications to warrant consultation with State and local 
officials or the preparation of a federalism summary impact statement. 
The final rule will not have any substantial effects on the States, or 
on the current Federal-State relationship, or on the current 
distribution of power and responsibilities among the various local 
officials.

E. Civil Justice Reform

    This final rule does not involve a rule that would 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.

F. Paperwork Reduction Act

    Under the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 (PRA), a person is not 
required to respond to a collection of information by a Federal agency 
unless the collection displays a valid OMB control number. This final 
rule does not require any collection of information.

G. National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act

    Section 12(d) of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement 
Act of 1995 (NTTAA), Public Law 104-113, section 12(d) (15 U.S.C. 272), 
directs NHTSA to use voluntary consensus standards in its regulatory 
activities unless doing so would be inconsistent with applicable law or 
otherwise impractical. Voluntary consensus standards are technical 
standards (e.g., materials specifications, test methods, sampling 
procedures, and business practices) that are developed or adopted by 
voluntary consensus standards bodies, such as the International 
Organization for Standardization (ISO), a worldwide voluntary 
federation of ISO member bodies. The NTTAA directs NHTSA to provide 
Congress, through OMB, explanations when the agency decides not to use 
available and applicable voluntary consensus standards.
    The NTTAA does not apply to this final rule since it does not 
involve regulatory activities. The final rule will not impose binding 
legal obligations on any party. Nonetheless, NHTSA looked for but did 
not find voluntary consensus standards for an ease of use ratings 
program developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standards bodies. 
We did find and consider work being done by the ISO Usability Task 
Force on the ease of use of child restraints using ISOFIX systems. 
(ISOFIX refers to a child restraint anchorage system consisting of two 
lower anchor bars at the intersection of a vehicle seat cushion and 
vehicle seat back. A related anchorage system is what is commonly 
referred to as the LATCH system in the U.S.\1\) The ISO task force is 
in the early stages of exploring a possible ISOFIX ease of use ratings 
program.
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    \1\ ``LATCH'' stands for ``Lower Anchors and Tethers for 
Children,'' a term that was developed by child restraint 
manufacturers and retailers to refer to the standardized child 
restraint anchorage system required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety 
Standard No. 225, Child Restraint Anchorage Systems (49 CFR Sec.  
571.225). This system has two lower anchorages and one tether 
anchorage. Each lower anchorage includes a rigid round rod or bar 
onto which the connector of a child restraint system can be snapped. 
The bars will be located at the intersection of the vehicle seat 
cushion and seat back. The upper anchorage is a fixture to which the 
tether of a child restraint system can be hooked. The draft ISOFIX 
system would not include the upper tether anchorage.
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H. Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

    Section 202 of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 (UMRA) 
requires Federal agencies to prepare a written assessment of the costs, 
benefits, and other effects of proposed or final rules that include a 
Federal mandate likely to result in the expenditure by State, local, or 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of more 
than $ 100 million in any one year (adjusted for inflation with base 
year of 1995). Before promulgating a rule for which a written statement 
is needed, section 205 of the UMRA generally requires NHTSA to identify 
and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and adopt 
the least costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome alternative 
that achieves the objectives of the rule. The provisions of section 205 
do not apply when they are inconsistent with applicable law. Moreover, 
section 205 allows NHTSA to adopt an alternative other than the least 
costly, most cost-effective, or least burdensome alternative if the 
agency publishes with the final rule an explanation why that 
alternative was not adopted.
    This final rule will not require any expenditures by State, local, 
or tribal governments, or by private parties.

List of Subjects in 49 CFR Part 575

    Consumer information, Labeling, Motor vehicle safety, Motor 
vehicles, Rubber and rubber products, Tires.

    In consideration of the foregoing, 49 CFR part 575 is amended as 
follows:

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PART 575--CONSUMER INFORMATION

    1. The heading for part 575 is revised to read as set forth above.

    2. The authority citation for part 575 is revised to read as 
follows:

    Authority: 49 U.S.C. 32302, 30111, 30115, 30117, 30166, and 
30168, and Pub.L. 106-414, 114 Stat. 1800; delegation of authority 
at 49 CFR 1.50.


    3. The heading for subpart A is revised to read as follows:

Subpart A--Regulations; General

    4. The heading for subpart B is revised to read as follows:

Subpart B--Regulations; Consumer Information Items

    5. Subpart C is added to read as follows:

Subpart C--Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability, and 
Documentation Act; Consumer Information


Sec.  575.201  Child restraint performance.

    The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has established 
a program for rating the performance of child restraints. The agency 
makes the information developed under this rating program available 
through a variety of means, including postings on its Web site, http://
www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

    Issued on October 29, 2002.
Jeffrey W. Runge,
Administrator.
[FR Doc. 02-27998 Filed 10-31-02; 2:00 pm]
BILLING CODE 4910-59-P