Mr. Todd W. Loescher
Sales/Marketing Manager
Cliff Keyes Mfg. & Supply Co.
2015 West First
Newton, KS 67114

Dear Mr. Loescher:

This responds to your letter regarding aisle facing or side facing seats in commercial buses and multipurpose vehicles. Specifically, you ask whether there is a code of federal regulations for such seats, whether a seating manufacturer can provide attachment points on a seat or seat pedestal for seat belts intended for use on such vehicles and whether a seating manufacturer can attach seat belts on a seat or a seat pedestal for intended for use on such vehicles. In the latter two instances, you ask what code of federal regulations, if any, applies.

By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized under Title 49, Chapter 301 of the U.S. Code to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to the manufacture and sale of new motor vehicles and new items of motor vehicle equipment. Chapter 301 prohibits any person from manufacturing, introducing into commerce, selling, or importing any new motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment unless the vehicle or equipment item is in conformity with all applicable safety standards. The Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) are published as separate subsections within section 571 of volume 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR).

NHTSA has exercised its authority to establish five safety standards that may be relevant to your questions. The first is Standard No. 207, Seating Systems, which sets forth strength requirements for all "occupant seats". The second is Standard No. 208, Occupant Crash Protection, which sets forth requirements for occupant protection at the various seating positions in vehicles. The third is Standard No. 209, Seat Belt Assemblies, which sets forth strength, elongation, webbing width, durability, and other requirements for seat belt assemblies. The fourth is Standard No. 210, Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages, which establishes strength and location requirements for seat belt anchorages. The final relevant safety standard is Standard No. 302, Flammability of Interior Materials. This standard specifies burn resistance requirements for materials used in the occupant compartment of motor vehicles.

Your first question relates to regulations applicable to side facing seats in buses and multipurpose vehicles. Standard No. 207, Seating systems, establishes performance requirements for "occupant seats" in passenger cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses. In particular, S4.1 requires vehicles to have an occupant seat for the driver, S4.2 specifies general performance requirements relating to strength, S4.3 specifies requirements for restraining devices for hinged or folding seats or seat backs, and S4.4 specifies labeling requirements for seats not designated for occupancy while the vehicle is in motion. I note, however, that the seats you ask about are excluded from some, but not all, of the standard's requirements. The requirements of S4.2 do not apply to side-facing seats and the requirements of S4.2 and S4.3 do not apply to passenger seats in buses.

Your second and third questions concern whether a seat manufacturer can provide attachment points for seat belts, and seat belts, on seats and seat pedestals intended for use on side facing seats in buses and multipurpose vehicles and, if so, which regulations apply.

A seat manufacturer may provide seat belt attachment points on seats or seat pedestals and attach seat belts to those attachment points. I note that it would be the vehicle manufacturer, rather than the seat manufacturer, that would be required to certify the vehicle (with the seat installed) to the applicable safety standards.

Standard No. 208 establishes requirements for safety belts in cars, multipurpose passenger vehicles, trucks and buses. The type of belt required depends on the class of vehicle and location of the seating position within the vehicle. Buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds are not required to have safety belts at any location other than the driver's seat.

Standard No. 210 requires the installation of anchorages at any location where a safety belt is required by Standard No. 208.

Standard No. 210 excludes side-facing seats from its strength requirements specified in S4.2, but all other requirements of the standard apply to side-facing seats. We strongly recommend that belt anchorages for side-facing seats be of at least equivalent strength to anchorages for forward and rearward facing seats, since the strength specifications are only minimum performance requirements.

In addition to meeting the requirements of Standard No. 209, any fabric or trim provided with the seat belts themselves would have to meet the requirements of Standard No. 302, Flammability of interior materials.

I hope that this is responsive to your inquiry. If you have any further questions, please feel free to call Otto Matheke at (202) 366-5263.

Sincerely,
John Womack
Acting Chief Counsel
ref:208
d.3/13/98