198 Holly Circle
Gulfport, MS 39501
Dear Mr. Holmes:
This responds to your letter asking about Federal requirements for door locks and handles on a 1989 truck with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 33,000 pounds. You state that you rented the truck from a rental company.
In your letter, you described an accident you had with the rented truck. You stated that your son fell out of the vehicle when one of its doors opened as you rounded a curve. You are sure that you had locked the door. (You also said you buckled your son in a seat belt, but believe that he had unbuckled the belt.) After the accident, your son told you he had his hand "over the door handle...[and] was tring [sic] to hold on and the door came open."
You ask several questions relating to requirements for "a safety lock" for the door of the truck. As explained below, our safety standards do not require trucks to have "safety locks."
Let me begin with some background information about our safety requirements. Federal law authorizes the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. One such standard is Safety Standard No. 206, Door Locks and Door Retention Components (copy attached). Standard No. 206 establishes certain requirements for door latches, hinges, and locks for new passenger cars and multipurpose passenger vehicles, and new trucks of all weight ratings. Each new truck must meet Standard No. 206 when the vehicle is first sold at retail. With regard to the truck in question, this means that the truck had to meet the applicable door lock requirements of Standard No. 206 when it was sold "new" to the rental company.
Your first question asks whether we required the truck to have a "safety lock." Standard No. 206 requires each door on a new truck to be equipped with a lock, but without the features we believe you have in mind. When engaged, the lock has to
disable the outside door handle, but not the inside handle. Some manufacturers of passenger vehicles voluntarily install "child safety locks" on some doors, which when engaged, makes the inside door handle inoperative even when the lock is in the "unlocked" position. Child safety locks are not required by NHTSA.
Your next question asked whether the truck in question would be considered a passenger vehicle, since it is a "rental vehicle." The answer is no. A vehicle that is designed primarily for transporting property is a "truck" under our regulations, regardless of whether it is a rental vehicle.
Your third question asked what Federal case laws reverse or overrule our regulations. Although some of our regulations have been overruled or modified pursuant to court order, FMVSS No. 206 has not been affected by court action.
Your final question asked for the names and addresses of people injured in accidents similar to yours. We are unable to provide that information. Our data do not include instances in which occupants fall out of moving vehicles where there was no accident and where there were no fatalities or injuries.
I hope the above information is helpful to you. Should you have any further questions of need additional information, please feel free to contact Walter Myers of my staff at this address or at (202) 366-2992, or FAX (202) 366-3820.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel