Mr. Richard Kreutziger Executive Director New York School Bus Distributors Association 102 Grace Street Penn Yan, NY 14527
Dear Mr. Kreutziger:
This responds to your facsimile transmittal letter to me of July 19, 1994.
Your letter referred to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 217, Bus Emergency Exits and Window Retention and Release (49 CFR 571.217), and asked whether emergency exits on school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 4,536 kilograms (10,000 pounds) and a passenger capacity of 2 to 16 seated and/or wheelchair positions, are required to be outlined with retroreflective tape as specified in paragraph S5.5.3(c) of the standard.
In 49 CFR 571.3, this agency defines a bus as a motor vehicle, except a trailer, designed to carry more than 10 persons, and further defines a school bus as
[A] bus that is sold, or introduced in interstate commerce, for purposes that include carrying students to and from school or related events, but does not include a bus designed and sold for operation as a common carrier in urban transportation.
Whether or not a vehicle is a school bus, therefore, depends on its use (transporting the specified students) and seating capacity (more than 10), and not GVWR. Accordingly, if the seating capacity of a vehicle is 10 or less, it is not a bus and likewise not a school bus, regardless of use or GVWR. Such a vehicle would not be required to comply with the requirements of FMVSS No. 217.
Vehicles meeting the definition of school bus would be subject to the requirements of FMVSS No. 217. Section S5.5 of the standard, Emergency Exit Identification, specifies the marking
requirements for emergency exits on all buses. Sections S5.5.1 and S5.5.2 apply to non-school buses, while section S5.5.3 applies to all school buses, without regard to GVWR.
Paragraph S5.5.3(c) provides:
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, that when tested under the conditions specified in S6.1 of 571.131, meets the criteria specified in Table 1.
We would like to emphasize two points with regard to your letter. The first is that only those emergency exits that are required by the standard are subject to this provision. Extra emergency exits added as options are encouraged, but not required, to be outlined with the tape. The other point is one that I made in a May 18, 1994 letter to you. A technical amendment is pending publication which will amend the size requirement for the width of the retroreflective tape, from a minimum of 3 centimeters (cm.) to a minimum of 2.5 cm. That amendment is necessary because retroreflective tape is not commercially available in 3 cm. widths. Until the correction is issued, NHTSA will not take enforcement measures regarding tape width size against a manufacturer who uses one inch wide (minimum 2.5 cm.) retroreflective tape.
In closing, bear in mind that all school buses are required to have a specified number of emergency exits, the number and location of which depend on the seating capacity of the vehicle, regardless of the GVWR, and all required emergency exits must be outlined with the retroreflective tape.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions or need any additional information, please feel free to contact Walter Myers of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel ref:217 d:8/26/94