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Interpretation ID: 002396.drn

    Robert Douglas, Chair
    School Bus Manufacturers Technical Council
    IC Corporation
    751 South Harkrider
    Conway, AR 72034

    Dear Mr. Douglas:

    This responds to your letter concerning Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 221, School Bus Body Joint Strength. You supplemented your letter with information provided in a December 12, 2002, meeting with agency staff and in telephone conversations with Dorothy Nakama of my staff. You asked four questions about a December 13, 2001, final rule [1] responding to petitions for reconsideration of a November 5, 1998, final rule. The effective date of the 2001 final rule is January 1, 2003.

    Question One Is the Cover to the "Fuel Sending Unit" a "Maintenance Access Panel?"

    Your first question is about Standard No. 221s exclusion of "maintenance access panels" (MAPs) from the performance requirements set out in S5.1 of the standard. Interior MAPs are excluded from the requirements of the standard if they lie forward of the passenger compartment or are within the passenger compartment but are limited in size (not exceeding 305 mm when measured across any two points diametrically on opposite sides of the opening)(See S5.2.1(b)). "Maintenance access panel" is defined as: "a body panel which must be moved or removed to provide access to one or more serviceable components." A "serviceable component" is defined in part as "any part of the bus, of either a mechanical or electrical nature, which is explicitly identified by the bus chassis and/or body manufacturer in the owners manual or factory service manual as requiring routine maintenance actions at intervals of one year or less ." (Emphasis added.)

    You ask whether an access panel (the cover to the "fuel sending unit") would be excluded if it were within the 305 mm size limit of S5.2.1(b) but covered a component that does not need routine maintenance at intervals of one year or less. The answer is no. The panel would not be considered a MAP because it does not provide access to a "serviceable component," i.e., a component that the owners manual or service manual identifies as one needing routine maintenance actions at intervals of one year or less.

    Question Two Provisions Applying to Exterior MAPs

    Your second question asks for confirmation that all exterior MAPs are exempt from S5, including S5.1 and S5.1.1. The answer is no. The December 13, 2001, final rule responding to petitions for reconsideration did not change the definition of "maintenance access panel" (provided in our response to the first question) that was specified in the final rule of November 5, 1998, (63 FR 59732). The definition of "MAP" does not exclude exterior MAPs from S5. However, some exterior MAPs may be excluded from S5.1 if they meet the exclusions specified in S5.2.1(c) for "trim and decorative parts which do not contribute to the strength of the joint, support members such as rub rails which are entirely outside of body panels, doors and windows, ventilation panels, and engine access covers."

    Question Three Relationship Between S5.1 and S5.1.1

    Your third question was whether joints excluded under S5.2 from the requirements of S5.1 are also excluded from the requirements of S5.1.1. The answer is yes.

    Question Four Test Specimens for Body Panel Joints Less than 203 MM and Joints Less Than 305 MM

    Your fourth question asks whether there is an error in S6.1.2 because it is inconsistent with S6.1.1. Both sections describe how test specimens are prepared for the tensile test. S6.1.1 describes preparation of a specimen from "a body panel joint [that] is 203 mm [8 inches] or longer." S6.1.2 describes preparation of a specimen from a joint "less than 305 mm [12 inches] long." You are correct that the reference to 305 mm in S6.1.2 is an error, and should instead be 203 mm. The agency did not intend to change the substantive meaning of S6.1.2, as that section existed prior to the November 1998 final rule. Prior to the rule, S6.1.2 had referred to joints "less than 8 inches long." The reference to 305 mm (12 inches) in S6.1.2 is therefore incorrect.

    Thank you for bringing the error to our attention. We plan to correct it in a technical amendment to the standard.

    If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.


    Jacqueline Glassman
    Chief Counsel


    [1] 66 FR 64358.