1318 N.W. 11th Place
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311
Dear Mr. Snyder:
This is in response to your letter regarding requirements for seat belts on buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of over 10,000 pounds. I apologize for the delay in providing you with a response.
You ask if moving a seat belt receptacle for the operator's seating position from an inside position to an outside position would violate Federal motor vehicle safety standards, particularly Federal motor vehicle safety standards No.208, "Occupant Crash Protection" (Standard 208) and Federal motor vehicle safety standard 209, "Seat Belt Assemblies" (Standard 209).
The requirements for buses with a GVWR of over 10,000 pounds are found in S4.4 of Standard No.208. Most manufacturers meet this requirement by installing seat belts at the driver's position. Section S7.2(a)of Standard 208 requires that a seat belt assembly, other than an automatic belt, shall have a latch mechanism that is accessible to seated occupants in both the operational and stowed positions. However, Standard 208 does not require that the receptacle, which we assume is the female end or latch assembly, be positioned to the inside of the driver's seat.
Your letter also makes reference to the applicability of Federal motor vehicle safety standard 209, "Seat Belt Assemblies" (Standard 209) to your question. Standard 209 does not require that a bus have a seat belt assembly with the latch mounted to the inside of the driver's seat.
In sum, neither Standard 208 or Standard 209 require that a seat belt assembly for a bus over 10,000 pounds have the latch assembly mounted to the inside of the driver's seat. Provided that such a seat belt assembly complies in all other respects with applicable requirements, a seat belt assembly provided for the driver of such a vehicle may have the receptacle mounted in a position outside of the driver's seat.
If your question relates to modifying an existing design, you should be aware that after the first retail sale of a vehicle, there is a limit on the modifications that can be made by certain businesses to vehicles. Manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and repair businesses may not "knowingly make inoperative" any device or element of design installed on or in a motor vehicle or equipment in compliance with an applicable safety standard. Therefore, any modifications to the existing seat belt system made by a business such as those listed above must be made in such a way so that the vehicle continues to conform to existing standards.
Federal law does not prohibit owners of vehicles from making modifications that may impact on the vehicle's compliance with applicable standards. However, we urge any owner contemplating such modifications to take reasonable steps to ensure that essential safety systems, such as seat belts, are not compromised by any modifications. If you are considering any alterations to the seat belts, NHTSA urges you to contact the manufacturer of the bus to determine if such modifications can be made safely.
I hope that you find this information helpful. If you have any other questions, please contact Otto Matheke of my staff at this address or by telephone at (202) 366-5253.
Acting Chief Counsel