Hugo De Roo, Area Export Manager
B & C Export USA
Van Hool NV
Bernard Van Hoolstraat 58
B-2500 Lier Koningshooikt
Dear Mr. De Roo:
This responds to your letter asking about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release, in connection with a double decker bus, the TD925 Series, that Van Hool intends to sell in the United States. From the information you provided, we understand that the upper deck of the TD925 bus is fully enclosed. You provided blueprints and photographs of the bus, and a technical note discussing how you plan to meet the emergency exit requirements in FMVSS 217 and the counterpart European regulations.
You did not ask any particular question about those plans. Accordingly, as your bus exceeds 10,000 lb., gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), we focused on paragraph S5.2.2 of the standard, which sets for the requirements for the amount of unobstructed emergency opening in those buses. As explained below, the standard does not contemplate your particular kind of bus and, therefore, does not presently specify any requirements concerning a means by which lower deck occupants can gain access to a roof exit in the upper deck of such a bus.
I wish to emphasize that under the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act, it is your responsibility as a manufacturer of motor vehicles to ensure compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides interpretations of the Safety Act and the requirements of the safety standards issued under the Safety Act, but our interpretations are based on the information provided in interpretation requests.
The standard at S5.2.1 provides manufacturers with some options as to how they provide emergency exits. It appears that you intend to provide the exits by way of meeting S5.2.2.
As noted above, S5.2.2 specifies requirements for the amount of unobstructed opening for buses with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds. Since the materials you provided state that the GVWR of the TD925 is 56,500 lbs, S220.127.116.11 would apply. S18.104.22.168 states:
S22.214.171.124 Buses with GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds. Buses with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds shall meet the unobstructed openings requirements in S126.96.36.199 by providing side exits and at least one rear exit that conforms to S5.3 through S5.5. The rear exit shall meet the requirements of S5.3 through S5.5 when the bus is upright and when the bus is overturned on either side, with the occupant standing facing the exit. When the bus configuration precludes installation of an accessible rear exit, a roof exit that meets the requirements of S5.3 through S5.5 when the bus is overturned on either side, with the occupant standing facing the exit, shall be provided in the rear half of the bus.
You state that the lower deck has two emergency exit windows on the left side, two emergency exits on the right side, and two emergency doors on the right side. On the upper deck, there are four emergency exit windows on the left side, four emergency exit windows on the right side, and two roof emergency exits.
Judging from photographs of the rear of the TD925 and the schematic, there is no rear exit (door or window) on the bus. Accordingly, a roof exit must be provided. The question is whether two exits in the roof satisfy that requirement, given that access to the upper deck is provided by two stairways on the right side of the bus. We note that these staircases might be difficult for lower deck occupants to use in order to reach the roof exits if the bus overturned on its left side.
After careful consideration of the standard and its history, our conclusion is that S188.8.131.52 does not contemplate this particular kind of bus (a double decker bus whose upper deck is enclosed) and, therefore, does not presently specify any requirements concerning a means by which lower deck occupants can gain access to the roof exit of such a bus if it falls on either side. However, we note that the overall purpose of FMVSS 217 is to provide a means of readily accessible emergency egress. To the extent that manufacturers design their buses to ensure that lower deck occupants have adequate access in all situations, there is no need for changed regulatory language to implement the expressed purpose of the standard.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke