Mr. Stephen Vasatko
Vice President of Operations and Business Development
180 Industrial Drive
Burlington, WI 53105
Dear Mr. Vasatko:
This responds to your question asking about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217, Bus emergency exits and window retention and release. You ask about the standards application to buses that are designed to seat 48 passengers and that offer an entertainment experience that unfolds outside the vehicle throughout the tour of New York, particularly with regard to the provision of emergency exits. The buses have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds. The passenger seats are side-facing, arranged in three aisles running the length of the bus. As explained below, it appears the bus does not provide a sufficient number of emergency exits.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 to issue and enforce safety standards applicable to new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. Manufacturers are required to certify that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable standards. NHTSA does not approve motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment, nor do we endorse any commercial products. With regard to a statement in your letter concerning your use of DOT-approved roof exits, please note that we have not approved the exits described in your letter.
FMVSS No. 217 Requirements for the Provision of Bus Emergency Exits
Requirements for the provision of emergency exits on buses are specified at S5.2 of FMVSS No. 217. S5.2 specifies that buses other than school buses (non-school buses) with a GVWR greater than 10,000 pounds must meet the requirements of S5.2.2, or S5.2.3. Apparently you have chosen to certify the buses to S5.2.2. S126.96.36.199 specifies that non-school buses must provide unobstructed openings for emergency exit which collectively amount, in total square centimeters, to at least 432 times the number of designated seating positions on the bus. Under S188.8.131.52, at least 40 percent of the total
required area of unobstructed openings must be provided on each side of a bus. Further, S184.108.40.206 specifies that, in determining the total unobstructed openings provided by a bus, no emergency exit, regardless of its area, shall be credited with more than 3,458 square centimeters of the total area requirement.
FMVSS No. 217 further states at S220.127.116.11 that buses with a GVWR of more than 10,000 pounds must meet the unobstructed opening requirements in S18.104.22.168 by providing side exits and at least one rear exit that conforms to S5.3 though S5.5. Under S22.214.171.124, the rear exit must meet the requirements of S5.3 though S5.5 when the bus is upright and when the bus is overturned on either side, with the occupant standing facing the exit. Further, S126.96.36.199 specifies that 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, must be provided in the rear half of the bus.
Description of Emergency Exits in Your Vehicle
In your letter, you state that each bus will be built on a MY 2008 Prevost H3-45 bus chassis and will have 48 passenger positions. Your bus will thus have 49 designated seating positions (48 plus the drivers seating position).
According to your letter, you will be providing emergency exits on the bus as follows:
- Two emergency roof exits, one in the front half of the bus, the other in the rear half of the bus. Each roof emergency exit accounts for 3,266 square centimeters (sq cm).
- On the curb side (right side) of the bus, you will have the front door (14,000 sq cm).
- On the right side, there is an emergency exit window (16,129 sq cm) near the front.
- On the street side (left side) of the bus, you will have one emergency exit window near the front and another emergency exit window towards the rear. Each of these windows accounts for 22,826 sq cm (each).
- You state that the bus provides 75,781 sq cm of emergency egress area.
Under S188.8.131.52 of FMVSS No. 217, a bus with 49 designated seating positions must provide at least 21,168 sq cm of unobstructed openings for emergency exit (49 x 432). Under S184.108.40.206, at least 40 percent of the total required area of unobstructed openings must be provided on each side of a bus, with no emergency exit credited with more than 3,458 square centimeters of the total area requirement. (Because the emergency roof exits are not on the sides of a bus, they do not count towards 40 percent of the total required area of unobstructed openings on each side of the bus.) Accordingly, for your bus, 8,467.2 sq cm must be provided on each side of the bus (40 percent of 21,168 = 8,467.2 sq cm).
Right side - In your letter, you have informed us that on the curb side (right side) of the bus, emergency exits will consist of the front door and an emergency exit window near the front. Since each of these emergency exits cannot account for more than 3,458 sq cm of the total area requirement, on the right side, your bus provides a total of only 6,916 sq cm (3,458 sq cm x 2) of the total area. This figure is less than the 8,467.2 sq cm required on each side of the bus. Therefore, if your bus is to meet S220.127.116.11, one more emergency exit of at least 1,551.2 (8,467.2 minus 6,916) sq cm must be provided on the right side of your bus.
Left side - You further state that on the street side (left side) of the bus, emergency exits will consist of two emergency exit windows, one near the front of the bus and one towards the rear. Since each of these emergency exits cannot account for more than 3,458 sq cm of the total area requirement, on the left side your bus provides a total of 6,916 sq cm (3,458 sq cm x 2) of the total area. This figure is less than the 8,467.2 sq cm required on each side of the bus. Therefore, if your bus is to meet S18.104.22.168, one more emergency exit of at least 1,551.2 (8,467.2 minus 6,916) sq cm must be provided on the left of your bus.
Window Retention Requirements Since no information on this issue was presented, we are unable to comment on the window retention requirements at S5.1. Window retention requirements apply to windows whose minimum surface dimension measured through the center of the area is 8 inches or more. You should review S5.1 to determine whether your buses will meet the requirements of that section.
Labeling and Other Requirements No labels are depicted in the photographs. Each emergency exit must meet labeling requirements specified at S5.5.1 and S5.5.2. You should review S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 to determine your vehicles compliance with applicable labeling requirements. In addition, other emergency exit requirements must be met, such as those for emergency exit release (S5.3).
Other Requirements This letter mainly addresses FMVSS No. 217 issues. It is your responsibility to determine your vehicles compliance with all applicable FMVSSs and to certify that your vehicles comply. Please note that NHTSA does not regulate how your bus will be used or operated. Because it may be a commercial vehicle, requirements of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may apply. For further information about FMCSA, please contact FMCSA at 1-800-832-5660 or at www.fmcsa.dot.gov. Your bus must also meet all applicable State and local operational requirements.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
Anthony M. Cooke
 For purposes of this letter, it is assumed that the front door meets all applicable FMVSS No. 217 requirements for the door to be considered an emergency exit door, including emergency exit release requirements at S5.3 and emergency exit identification requirements at S5.5.