Chief of Police
City of South Portland
30 Anthoine Street
South Portland, ME 04106
Dear Chief Googins:
This responds to your question whether passenger seat belts must be installed on a 1982 school bus with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 20,200 pounds. The answer is no; NHTSA's regulations do not call for the belt systems.
In a telephone conversation with Dorothy Nakama of my staff, you stated that the subject of your letter, a 1982 International - Model #S1700 bus with a GVWR of 20,200 pounds, was manufactured as a school bus.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 222, School bus passenger seating and crash protection, establishes occupant protection requirements for school bus passenger seating and restraining barriers. Standard No. 222 did not in 1982, and does not now, specify that newly manufactured school buses with a GVWR of 20,200 pounds have passenger seat belt assemblies. Thus, under Standard No. 222, your 1982 school bus need not have seat belt assemblies for passengers.
However, please note that the States are free to require seat belts in large school buses used to transport students. Enclosed is a February 14, 1992 letter to Mr. Michael A. Martin of the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety, addressing the relationship between Federal school bus safety standards and state law. Note that on page two, NHTSA explains that a State may require seat belt installation for school buses procured by the State, as long as Federal compartmentalization requirements are not compromised.
I hope this information is helpful. If you need any further information, please contact Dorothy Nakama of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Samuel J. Dubbin Chief Counsel ref:222 d:12/8/95