P.O. Box 237
Middlesex, NJ 08846-0237
Dear Mr. Anderson:
This responds to your letter of May 19, 1994, requesting an interpretation of the requirements of S5.5.3(c) of Standard No. 217, Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release. Section S5.5.3(c) reads:
Each opening for a required emergency exit shall be outlined around its outside perimeter with a minimum 3 centimeters wide retroreflective tape, either red, white or yellow in color ...
Your letter states that you are unable to continuously outline the perimeter of the rear emergency doors on your school buses due to the proximity of door hinges, tail light lenses, and a rubber gasket between the bottom edge of the door and the bumper. You ask:
Would we be in compliance with Reflective Tape requirements of FMVSS 217 if we put a continuous strip of tape across the top of both Emergency Rear Doors on the roof cap above the doors and down the left and right side of the double door opening with breaks in the tape for door hinges & tail light lenses. This would outline the Emergency Rear Doors on three sides. No tape would be put across the bottom?
As an alternative, if the above is not acceptable, could we put tape across the bottom on the doors?
As explained below, your planned placement for the top and sides of the door, and your alternative placement for the bottom of the door would be acceptable. In a July 7, 1993 letter to the Blue Bird Body Company, NHTSA stated:
NHTSA interprets S5.5.3(c) to allow interruptions in the tape necessary to avoid and/or accommodate curved surfaces and functional components, such as rivets,
rubrails, hinges and handles, provided, however, that the following requisites are met. In the November 2, 1992, final rule, NHTSA indicated that the purpose of the retroreflective tape would be to identify the location of emergency exits to rescuers and increase the on-the-road conspicuity of the bus. Accordingly, the retroreflective tape may have interruptions if they satisfy both of these purposes. The occasional breaks in the tape you described would not appear to negatively affect a rescuer's ability to locate the exits, or reduce the conspicuity of the bus. However, the tape should be applied as near as possible to the exit perimeter... When rivets are present, NHTSA will defer to a manufacturer's decision to apply the retroreflective tape immediately adjacent to the rivets, rather than over the rivets, if the manufacturer decides that this will increase the durability of the tape.
According to this July 1993 letter, interruptions in the retroreflective tape to avoid and/or accommodate hinges (such as the hinge on the side of the rear emergency door) and other functional components are permitted if the interruption does not negatively affect a rescuer's ability to locate the exits, or does not reduce the conspicuity of the bus. NHTSA considers tail light lenses to be "functional components" which do not have to be covered by the retroreflective tape. (Indeed, placement of the tape on the tail light lense could affect the efficacy of the light.) The interruptions in the tape for these components would not appear to negatively affect a rescuer's ability to locate the exits, or reduce the conspicuity of the bus. Thus, the interruptions are permitted for the tape along the sides of your door.
With regard to the bottom of your door, based on the pictures provided with your letter, it appears that there is no location available for the placement of retroreflective tape outside of the door's bottom edge. Since not outlining an entire side of an exit might affect a rescuer's ability to locate the exit and would reduce the conspicuity of the exit, the bottom side of the door must be marked with the retroreflective tape. In this situation, NHTSA interprets S5.5.3(c) as allowing placement of the retroreflective tape on the door itself, as near as possible to the lower edge of the door.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Mary Versailles of my staff at this address or by phone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel