Link Manufacturing Ltd.
223 15th St., N.E.
Sioux Center, IA 51250-4876
Dear Mr. Knapp:
This responds to your May 12, 1997, letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asking about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials, as it applies to "an air mattress and cover that will be used in large class 8 truck sleeper cabs." You ask three questions about the standard which we have restated below, followed by our answers.
By way of background, NHTSA is authorized to issue Federal 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, the Safety Act establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. The following is a discussion based on our understanding of your letter.
Question: Must this product comply with MVSS 302 for that application or is the normal class "C" coil spring mattress, cigarette burn standard acceptable?
Section S4.1 of Standard 302 lists the components that are covered by the standard, and includes "mattress covers" among them. However, the answer depends in part on whether the product will be sold as part of a new vehicle or as replacement equipment. Standard 302 applies to new trucks and other new motor vehicles, but not to items of replacement equipment that are separately sold to a vehicle owner. Thus, if your product will be sold in the aftermarket, NHTSA does not require its compliance to Standard 302. Nevertheless, our statute prohibits a manufacturer, repair business, dealer or distributor from making inoperative the compliance of a vehicle with the safety standards. Accordingly, those entities may not install a noncomplying mattress cover in any vehicle, because that would vitiate the vehicle's compliance with Standard 302.
In addition, the States have the authority to regulate aspects of vehicle use in their jurisdictions. A State may have its own flammability resistance requirements where Standard 302 does not apply.
Question: Does the standard apply only to the outer cover material or must the quilted foam liner and air bladder also comply?
We have previously defined "mattress cover" as including both a cover that is used generally to enclose a mattress for cleanliness or sanitary purposes as well as the ticking permanently attached to the mattress to enclose the mattress filling or core. While the configuration of your mattress is hard to visualize, at the very least, it would seem that both the outer cover material and the quilted foam liner must comply, the latter being similar to ticking material. As for the air bladder, we have said in interpretations of Standard 302 (e.g., December 15, 1972), that a component that is "incorporated into" a component that is listed in S4.1 is subject to the standard. Thus, if the bladder is incorporated into (attached to) the quilted foam liner, the bladder must meet the standard. Conversely, if the bladder is not part of the liner, it would be excluded from the standard.
Question: If it [our product] must comply, are there any exceptions based on market size, distribution channel, sales volumes, etc.?
Under one of our regulations (49 CFR Part 555), vehicle manufacturers may apply for a temporary exemption from Standard 302. Under Sec. 555.6(a), a manufacturer whose yearly production is not more than 10,000 units may ask for an exemption of up to three years on the basis that compliance would cause it substantial economic hardship and that it has attempted in good faith to comply with the standard from which it has asked to be excused. I have enclosed a copy of Part 555 for your information. There is no comparable provision in our statute allowing for applications for exemptions from manufacturers of motor vehicle equipment.
You also ask for a summary of Standard 302's test procedure. I have enclosed a copy of the standard for your information.
If you have other questions, please contact Deirdre Fujita of my staff at (202) 366-2992.
Acting Chief Counsel