Manager, Regulatory Compliance
and Environmental Affairs
Volvo Cars of North America
Rockleigh, NJ 07647-0913
Dear Mr. Shapiro:
This responds to your letter asking whether "belt positioning seats" as defined in Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems may be either the booster seat cushion (base) by itself or the base with a fixed or removable back. After asking a number of questions about belt positioning seats, you ask what requirements would be applicable to a removable slip cover for a belt positioning seat. The responses set forth below are based on our understanding of the facts set forth in your letter and related attachments.
You state that Volvo currently markets a two piece, cushion (base) and backrest belt positioning booster seat for children over 50 pounds. You further state that this restraint positions a child on a vehicle seat to improve the fit of the vehicle's Type 2 belt system. The restraint lacks any component, such as a belt system or a structural element, to restrain the forward movement of the child's torso in a forward impact. According to your letter, Volvo is contemplating marketing this device in the United States as a belt positioning booster for children 33 pounds and higher. You further state that Volvo markets a backrest which, without tools, may be easily attached and removed from the booster cushion. You state that as a child grows, first the backrest and then the base will no longer be needed.
You ask nine questions about Standard No. 213. You also request that we confirm what you refer to as three "interpretations" of the Standard. Your questions and "interpretations" are restated below, followed by our answers.
You initially ask whether your device meets the definition of a belt positioning booster seat, if it is sold for use by children 33 pounds and higher.
Yes. "Belt positioning seat" is defined in a July 21, 1994 final rule as
A child restraint system that positions a child on a vehicle seat to improve the fit of a vehicle Type II belt system on the child and that lacks any component, such as a belt system or a structural element, designed to restrain forward movement of the child's torso in a forward impact. (59 FR 37167)
The system you describe is consistent with the definition of "belt positioning seat." Moreover, the agency adopted labeling requirements that state that "booster seats shall not be recommended for children of masses of less than 13.6 kg" (30 pounds). Accordingly, it would be permissible for you to market your belt positioning booster seat for use by children weighing 33 pounds or more.
Question 1. Must a belt positioning booster seat that lacks any component to restrain forward movement have a backrest?
No. A belt positioning seat may be either the base by itself or the base with a backrest. In either case, the belt positioning seat must comply with all the performance requirements when tested.
Question 2. If a belt positioning booster must have a backrest may the back be detachable from the base cushion?
As stated in our answer to question 1, a belt positioning booster seat is not required to have a backrest.
Question 3. If the belt positioning booster has a detachable backrest, can it be sold separately from the base cushion?
Nothing in NHTSA's regulations would prohibit a manufacturer from selling a detachable backrest separately from the base cushion.
Question 4. If the belt positioning booster has a fixed or detachable backrest, does it need to meet any requirements such as surface area or side support?
Yes. A belt positioning booster seat with a fixed or detachable backrest is required to meet all requirements that would be applicable to a belt positioning seat with a back, including the surface area and side support requirements set forth in S5.2.2.
Question 5. Is the backrest considered a child restraint under the definition in this regulation?
A detachable backrest, by itself, would not be considered a child restraint under the definitions in Standard No. 213. Nevertheless, a detachable backrest used in combination with a base cushion would be a child restraint system. A "child restraint system" is defined as "any device except Type I or Type II seat belts, designed for use in a motor vehicle or aircraft to restrain, seat, or position children who weigh 50 pounds or less." As stated above, a "belt-positioning seat" is defined as "a child restraint system that positions a child on a vehicle seat..."
Question 6: Must the detachable backrest be labeled in the same way as the cushion base?
No. A detachable backrest would not be required to be labeled in the same way as the cushion base, provided that the cushion base is labeled with all the information required by Standard No. 213.
Question 7: If a belt positioning booster seat with a detachable backrest is tested by NHTSA for compliance to FMVSS 213, will NHTSA test with or without the backrest attached?
If the seat is recommended for use both with and without the backrest, then NHTSA would test the belt positioning seat in both use modes: as a cushion alone and with the backrest attached. The agency believes that it is necessary to test the seat both ways in order to replicate fully the actual anticipated use of the child restraint system.
You conclude this section by stating that:
It is our interpretation that the booster seat cushion (base), by itself, constitutes a belt positioning booster seat that may be labeled as being suitable for children weighing not less than 30 pounds. Further, we believe that a belt positioning booster seat that lacks any component, such as a belt or a structural element like a shield, may have a back that is either fixed or removable.
We agree with both of your statements: A seat cushion (base) by itself may be a belt positioning booster seat, and a belt positioning booster seat may have a back that is either fixed or removable.
You state that Volvo is considering marketing a removable slip cover for the belt positioning booster seat that would either be one piece that covers both the base and the attached back or two pieces that would separately cover each piece. You anticipate selling the slip cover either with the booster seat or as an accessory separately. You state that the slip cover may cover labels on the booster seat required by Standard No. 213.
8. Volvo would like to know if a slip cover as described above would be permitted to be sold with the booster or separately as an accessory?
A slip cover would be permitted to be sold either with the booster or separately as an accessory.
The applicable requirements differ depending on whether a slip cover is sold with the booster seat or as an accessory. A slip cover sold with the booster seat would be considered part of the child restraint system, and therefore would be subject to all applicable requirements in FMVSS No. 213, including the labeling requirements in S5.5 and the flammability resistance requirements in S5.7. A slip cover sold separately as an accessory would not be subject to these requirements. While it is unlikely that the slip cover would be installed by a motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or repair business, 49 U.S.C. 30122 prohibits those businesses from installing the device if the installation "makes inoperative" compliance with any safety standard. No commercial business listed in 30122 can install a slip cover if the product undermines the vehicle's compliance with a safety standard, including FMVSS 213's labeling requirements.
The prohibition of 30122 does not apply to individual owners who install equipment on their own child restraint systems. Thus, individual owners may install any item of motor vehicle equipment regardless of its effect on compliance with Federal motor vehicle safety standards. However, NHTSA encourages owners not to degrade the safety of their child restraint systems.
In addition, as a manufacturer of motor vehicle equipment, you are subject to the requirements of 49 United States Code 30118-30121 concerning the recall and remedy of products with safety related defects. In the event that you or NHTSA determines that your product contains a safety-related defect, you would be responsible for notifying purchasers of the defective equipment and remedying the problem free of charge.
9. Must the required warning labels or other information, such as the date and location of manufacture on the booster seat, be visible with the slip cover installed?
Under S5.5.3, information specified in S5.5.2(g) through (k) must be visible with the slip cover installed. The agency notes that it is important for this information to remain visible, given that child restraint systems may be used by people other than the initial purchaser such as grandparents and child care providers who would not know about a warning label that was covered by a slip cover. Nevertheless, information specified in S5.5.2(a) through (f) (such as the date and location of manufacture) need not be visible when a system is installed, and thus may be obscured by a slip cover.
With respect to a slip cover sold as an accessory, the agency cannot require labeling information to be visible when the slip cover is installed. Nevertheless, NHTSA strongly urges you to either label the slip cover with this important safety information or not obstruct this information already labeled on the child restraint system.
You conclude your letter by asking us to confirm the following statement:
It is our interpretation that FMVSS 213 does not apply to either the backrest or the slip cover. As we understand, the standard applies to new child restraint systems that are designed to restrain, seat or position children. Both the backrest and the slip cover, by themselves, were not designed to restrain, seat, or position the child and thus would not be subject to the standard. Since the backrest would not be considered a child restraint system, it would not have to be labeled nor would it have to meet the surface area or side support requirements of the standard. Also, since the slip cover is installed over the child restraint by the consumer after the initial sale we believe that labeling the child restraint appropriately is sufficient to meet the requirements of the standard and that it is not required to label the slip cover in any way.
As explained above, we cannot fully agree with your interpretation. If it is sold with a child restraint system, a slip cover would have to comply with the flammability resistance requirements. In addition, the slip cover must either be labeled or not obstruct the safety information on the child restraint system.
While a backrest sold alone would not be a child restraint system, a backrest in connection with a bottom cushion would be a child restraint system and therefore would be subject to all applicable requirements in Standard No. 213.
If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact Mr. Marvin Shaw at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel