Hobbs, NM 88240
Dear Mr. Choate:
This responds to your letter asking which Federal vehicle safety regulations you must comply with in producing your police patrol vehicle, a converted full size pickup truck. The bed of the pickup truck has been enclosed with a shell and outfitted along one side with bench seats that face sideways toward the centerline of the vehicle. These seats are outfitted with lap belts for two seating positions.
Along with general questions about Federal standards, you asked specifically about requirements for roof crush testing of the shell and installation of seat belts for the bench seats. The short answer to your question is that your altered vehicle would have to meet all Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSSs) applicable to pickup trucks, including those for roof crush testing and occupant restraints in the bench seats.
Before addressing your specific questions, I will provide a summary of our regulatory system. This agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority under 49 USC Chapter 301 to issue FMVSSs and related regulations applicable to new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not approve or endorse products. Vehicle and equipment manufacturers are responsible for "self-certifying" that their products comply with all applicable standards. They must also ensure that their products are free of safety-related defects.
When sold to the first purchaser (in this case, a police department), a vehicle must meet all standards applicable to pickup trucks. A vehicle manufacturer must submit certain identifying information to NHTSA in accordance with 49 CFR Part
566, Manufacturer Identification. The manufacturer must also meet the requirements of 49 CFR Part 567, Certification, and place on the truck a label with information specified in 49 CFR 567.4, including the vehicle's gross axle and gross vehicle weight ratings.
A person or business modifying a new pickup truck according to your plans would be considered an "alterer" of the truck, and therefore would have certain certification responsibilities. An alterer is a person who modifies a previously certified, new motor vehicle (i.e., before the first purchase of the vehicle in good faith for purposes other than resale). Since the modifications you are planning involve the addition of components that would not be considered "readily attachable," under 49 CFR 567.7 (copy enclosed) the alterer must affix to the vehicle an additional label with the following statement: "This vehicle was altered by (individual or corporate name) in (month and year in which alterations were completed) and as altered it conforms to all applicable Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards affected by the alteration and in effect in (month, year.)" If the modifications alter the vehicle in such a manner that its original weight ratings are no longer valid, the new weight rating information must be provided.
In addition, if the alterer or NHTSA determines that the product contains a safety related defect caused by the conversion of the pickup, the alterer would be required to notify all owners of the defect and to provide a remedy without charge. (See sections 30118-30122 of Title 49 of the U.S. Code concerning recall and remedy requirements).
Regarding your specific question on roof crush testing of the shell over the bed of the pickup, we believe that it would not have to be tested. The test procedures in FMVSS No. 216, Roof crush resistance, are designed to test the vehicle's roof crush strength at the front corners of the roof, in the area at the top of the A-pillars (the structural members on either side of the windshield). The test device (a rigid flat plate) is inclined forward at an angle of 5 degrees and outward at an angle of 25 degrees, so a relatively low profile shell would probably not be contacted during the test, and in any case would not be providing most of the resistance. However, you should be aware that modifications to the back of the pickup cab (for example, to create a passage to the bed area) may affect the strength of the roof over the front occupant compartment. Any decrease in strength could degrade performance in the roof crush test. In this case, the alterer would not be able to rely on the original manufacturer's basis for certification that the vehicle meets FMVSS No 216.
Concerning requirements for installing seat belts for the side facing bench seat, each seat would be considered a "designated seating position" within the meaning of 571.3 since your design envisions bed mounted seats that would be used as a seating position while the vehicle is in motion. As the seats are to be installed as an item of original equipment before the first sale of the vehicle to a retail purchaser, the designated seating positions on your product would have to comply with the requirements of Standard No. 207, Seating Systems; Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection; Standard No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, and Standard No. 210, Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages.
Your letter indicates that you plan to install lap-only (Type 1) safety belts at these seating positions to comply with Standard No. 208. This would be consistent with the requirements of Standard No. 208, which permits these designated seating positions to be equipped with either Type 1 or Type 2 (lap/shoulder) safety belts.
There are a few other standards to which I would like to draw your attention. If the shell you are going to add slides into place on the back of the truck, another standard that you should pay particular attention to is FMVSS No. 126, Truck-camper loading, because the shell that you will add would be considered a "camper." This standard has requirements for the provision of information about weight and loading. If you will be increasing the weight of the vehicle, you should consider FMVSS No. 119, New pneumatic tires for vehicles other than passenger cars, and FMVSS No. 120, concerning tire selection and loading. Since you may be obstructing the view of the inside rearview mirror by adding the shell, you should ensure that the correct mirrors are installed pursuant to S6 of FMVSS No. 111, Rearview mirrors.
I hope this information is helpful. I am also enclosing a copy of a fact sheet titled "Information for New Manufacturers of Motor Vehicles and Motor Vehicle Equipment." It outlines other laws and regulations that you should be aware of. If you have any further questions about NHTSA's safety standards, please feel free to contact Mr. Paul Atelsek of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel