Ms. Julie Laplante
Les Entreprises Corbeil
830, 12 ime Avenue
Laurentides (Qubec) J5M 2V9
Dear Ms. Laplante:
This responds to your faxed letter asking how wheelchair weights are taken into consideration in calculating the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of a school bus manufactured in two or more stages. You ask several questions as a manufacturer of such a school bus. Our responses are based on our understanding of your questions and the facts presented in your letter.
Some background information might be helpful. Under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act (49 U.S.C. 30101 et seq.) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSAs) regulations (49 CFR Part 567, Certification), each vehicle manufacturer must certify that each new vehicle complies with applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. As part of the certification, the manufacturer assigns a GVWR to the vehicle. GVWR is defined at 49 CFR Part 571.3, Definitions, as: the value specified by the manufacturer as the loaded weight of a single vehicle. The GVWR informs vehicle owners how heavily the vehicle may safely be loaded. NHTSA expects the GVWR to reflect a manufacturers good faith evaluation of the vehicles size, weight and load carrying capacity. The only express regulatory limitation on the assignment of GVWR is set forth in NHTSAs certification regulation, which states that the assigned GVWR shall not be less than the sum of the unloaded vehicle weight, rated cargo load, and 150 pounds times the vehicles designated seating capacity. However, for school buses the minimum occupant
weight allowance shall be 120 pounds. (49 CFR 567.5(c)(5), Requirements for
manufacturers of vehicles manufactured in two or more stages. An identical provision is set forth in 567.4(g)(3) for vehicles manufactured in a single stage.)
With this background information, I will now address your questions as we understand them.
Question No. 1. [Does] a wheelchair position ha[ve] the same weight [as] a designated seating capacity [sic]? We understand you to ask whether the weight of the wheelchair is included in the minimum occupant weight allowance specified in 49 CFR 567.5(c)(5). The answer is no. The weights of wheelchairs (because they are taken in and out of the school bus) would be considered part of the rated cargo load. When calculating the vehicles GVWR, the occupant weight allowance is a minimum of 120 pounds times the designated seating positions of the school bus, or 150 pounds times the designated seating positions of a bus. The weight of the wheelchair would be considered separate from the occupant weight allowance. Thus, when calculating the vehicles GVWR, the combined weight for occupants plus the unloaded vehicle weight plus the rated cargo load (which would include the weight of the wheelchairs) would be added together. (Unloaded vehicle weight means the weight of a vehicle with maximum capacity of all fluids necessary for operation of the vehicle, but without cargo, occupants, or accessories that are ordinarily removed from the vehicle when they are not in use. 49 CFR 571.3.)
Question No. 2. If the answer is yes on question #1, do I have to calculate 150 pounds for a bus and/or 120 pounds for a school bus or multifunction school activity bus? The answer to #1 above was no. The occupant weight allowances in 567.5(c)(5) pertain to the weights of the persons on the bus, not to the weights of the wheelchairs.
Question No. 3. If the answer is yes on question #1, do I have to add the weight of a passenger on top of the wheelchairs weight? See answers above.
Question No. 4. Since there exists many types of wheelchairs (manually operated and self-propelled models), do we have the responsibility, as a manufacturer, to know exactly which kind of wheelchair will be used in a specific bus in order to calculate the GVWR? The GVWR must not be less than the sum of the unloaded vehicle weight, rated cargo load, and a minimum of 120 pounds times the vehicles designated seating capacity. The weight of the wheelchairs would be considered part of the rated cargo load. The rated cargo load on which you base the GVWR rating should not be less than what you can reasonably expect the user to use on your vehicle. See also answers to #5 and #6 below.
Question No. 5. Do we have the choice between two wheelchair weights? (Example: 120 pounds for a wheelchair location in a school bus-manually operated/X [sic] pounds for a wheelchair location in a school bus self-propelled). If it is reasonable to expect that the user will load the school bus with certain types of wheelchairs, including self-propelled (motorized) ones that are more massive than manual wheelchairs, the GVWR should account for the weight of the motorized wheelchairs. That the bus would carry self-propelled wheelchairs during its service life does not seem an unreasonable expectation. It is your responsibility to select a chassis with sufficient load ratings that will accommodate the weight of the vehicle.
Question No. 6. If the answer is yes to question number 5, what would be the weight of a self-propelled wheelchair? We cannot answer this question for you. It is your responsibility as a manufacturer to evaluate the weights of the wheelchairs. The rated cargo load must not be less than what can reasonably be expected to be used on the school bus.
If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
cc:NCC-112, subj/chron, DN, NVS-100, NVS-200, Interps: 567, Redbooks (2)
 Because you ask about school buses, we also draw your attention to our regulation defining the term designated seating position (49 CFR 571.3). The regulation specifies that: For the sole purpose of determining the classification of any vehicle sold or introduced into interstate commerce for purposes that include carrying students to and from school or related events, any location in such vehicle intended for securement of an occupied wheelchair during vehicle operation is regarded as four (4) designated seating positions. This provision was adopted to ensure that smaller school buses remain classified as school buses, and thus subject to the school bus safety standards, when seats are removed to install wheelchair securement positions.