Assistant Chief Maintenance Officer
New York City Transit Authority
25 Jamaica Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11207
Dear Mr. Smith:
This responds to your inquiry about whether Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials (49 CFR ' 571.302), applies to air conditioning return air filters. You state that these filters are placed on top of the air conditioning evaporator coil and are separated from the bus interior by a louvered panel. You were concerned that the filters may be subject to Standard No. 302 because they may be considered located in the "occupant compartment air space." As explained below, Standard No. 302 does not apply to air conditioning return filters.
By way of background information, NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not, however, approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, Congress has established a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. Since Standard No. 302 is a vehicle standard, the manufacturer of the vehicle, and not the manufacturer of the individual component, is responsible for certifying compliance with Standard No. 302. The agency periodically tests new vehicles and items of equipment for compliance with the standards.
Standard No. 302 specifies burn resistance requirements for materials used in the occupant compartment of new motor vehicles. Section S4.1 lists the components in vehicle occupant compartments that the vehicle manufacturer must certify as complying with the flammability resistance requirements of paragraph S4.3. The components listed include seat cushions, seat backs, seat belts headlining, convertible tops, arm rests, all trim panels including door, front, rear, and side panels, compartment shelves, head restraints, floor coverings, sun visors, curtains, shades, wheel housing covers, engine compartment covers, and any other interior materials, including padding and crash deployed elements, that are designed to absorb energy on contact by occupants in the event of a crash. Section S4.1 represents a complete listing of all components in new vehicles that must comply with the flammability resistance requirements. Any component not identified in section S4.1 is not subject to those requirements. Therefore, an air conditioning return filter is not subject to those requirements.
Please note that there are other NHTSA requirements that could affect the manufacture and sale of products related to motor vehicles. A motor vehicle or equipment manufacturer incorporating air conditioning filters in its vehicles or equipment would be subject to 49 U.S.C. ''30118-30121 to ensure that its vehicles or equipment do not contain any safety related defect. If the manufacturer or NHTSA determines that a safety related defect exists, the manufacturer would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective vehicle or equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Marvin Shaw of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-2992.
John Womack Acting Chief Counsel