Search Interpretations

08-005240drn

George Carl Pezold, Esq.

Pezold, Smith, Hirschmann & Selvaggio, LLC

120 Main Street

Huntington, NY 11743-6936

Dear Mr. Pezold:

This responds to your request for an interpretation asking whether the COBUS 2700 is a motor vehicle subject to the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. As explained below, our answer is yes.

By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Instead, manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards. They must also ensure that their vehicles and equipment are free of safety-related defects.

In your letter, you explained that your client, COBUS Industries, LP, would like to sell the COBUS 2700 Airport bus to the Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) which intends to use it as a free shuttle bus for shoppers along the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver. You state that the bus is virtually identical to the COBUS 3000 model, which this office had determined in 1999 was not subject to the FMVSSs as an airfield bus.[1] That is, the Cobus 3000 in that letter was built specifically for airfield use, to transport passengers between a remotely parked aircraft and the terminal or from terminal to terminal. Id. You believe that the substantial similarity in the use and application of the COBUS 2700 to the COBUS 3000 should justify a similar conclusion.

In your letter, you describe the 16th Street Mall as follows:

The Mall is a 1.3-mile-long portion of the 16th Street from Broadway to Wewatta Street. It has wide sidewalks with shops and restaurants lining both sides of the street. The center path was designed for the free mall shuttle bus fleet, which connects with the RTDs regional and express lines at either end of the Mall.

You further write that the Mall is closed to all vehicular traffic except for the mall shuttle buses and authorized emergency and service vehicles. You note that the intersections with cross streets to the Mall are open to regular cross vehicular traffic and are controlled by traffic lights timed for the mall bus operating cycles.[2] You also state that from a stop at each intersection, the mall bus accelerates to about 15 miles per hour, then decelerates to a complete stop at the next intersection, opens all doors to discharge and board passengers, closes all doors and accelerates again to the next stop. The buses serve an average of over 50,000 commuters and tourists a day. You further state that each day, the vehicles will be driven on a regular city public street two miles to and from the RTDs bus storage and maintenance facility at a governed speed of 20 miles per hour.

Agency Analysis

We have considered the views you have expressed in your letter but disagree with the suggestion that the COBUS 2700 bus is not a motor vehicle. Motor vehicle is defined at 49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(6) in pertinent part as: a vehicle driven or drawn by mechanical power and manufactured primarily for use on public streets, roads, and highways. The question to answer is whether the vehicle is manufactured primarily for use on the public streets, roads, and highways.

Our answer is yes, for several reasons. First, your letter states that the COBUS 2700 would run daily on a regular city public street to and from RTDs bus storage and maintenance facility. This is a regular and expected use of the public roads by the COBUS 2700. Second, we do not agree that the closure of 16th Street to most vehicular traffic between Broadway and Wewatta Street renders 16th Street no longer a public road. Between Broadway and Wewatta Street, there are signal lights and numerous public roads crossing 16th Street. There is also a significant pedestrian presence in the shopping area. This close interface with motor vehicle and pedestrian traffic leads us to conclude that the bus will be operating on a public road. On a final note, NHTSA has previously considered pedestrian mall buses to be motor vehicles.[3]

The COBUS 2700 differs from the airport bus that was the subject of the agencys 1999 letter on the COBUS 3000. Airfields on which the COBUS 3000 was designed to be used differ significantly from shopping areas in downtown Denver. Airfields are closed, isolated areas where vehicular traffic is restricted and pedestrian traffic nonexistent. In


contrast, the 16th Street Mall is open to substantial vehicular cross-street and pedestrian traffic. It is important for the bus to meet the FMVSSs for crashworthiness and crash avoidance protection.

Because it is intended to travel on public roads, the COBUS 2700 is a motor vehicle, more specifically, a bus. Therefore, before it is sold for use in the United States, the COBUS 2700 must be certified as meeting all applicable FMVSSs.

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

Sincerely yours,

Stephen P. Wood

Acting Chief Counsel

ref:VSA102(4)

d.2/3/09



[1] Letter to Ms. Debra Taylor from former Chief Counsel Frank Seales, Jr., September 9, 1999.

[2] According to a web-based map, but not specifically mentioned in your letter, it appears that between Broadway and Wewatta, there are approximately 16 streets open to vehicular traffic, and a set of railroad tracks, crossing 16th St.

[3] See letter to Mr. Keely Brunner, June 6, 1999.