Jean Marc Girardin, President
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312
Dear Mr. Girardin:
This responds to your letter concerning the Q-Vest, a vest for use on school buses. I apologize for the delay in responding. You state that Athe Q-Vest incorporates a y-belt that is secured around the seats loading bar, at the base of the seat." You ask how we interpret S5.3.1 of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 213, Child Restraint Systems, as applied to your product.
By way of background, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) does not provide approvals of motor vehicles or motor vehicle equipment. Under 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, manufacturers are required to ensure that their vehicles and equipment meet applicable requirements. The following represents our opinion based on the facts you provided in your letter, and addresses some or all of the specific issues you raised as necessary to render this interpretation. If we have not addressed an issue, you should not assume that we have concurred with a position you have expressed on that issue. Likewise, this interpretation may not discuss every requirement of the Federal motor vehicle safety standards that might apply to your product. It is your responsibility as a manufacturer to determine the requirements that apply and certify the compliance of your product with those requirements. NHTSA determines the compliance of products with the safety standards in the context of an agency enforcement proceeding.
The QStraint is a device that is designed to restrain children in school buses. It is thus a "child restraint system" subject to the requirements of Standard No. 213. (See definition of "child restraint system" in S4 of Standard No. 213.)
As you know from telephone conversations with Deirdre Fujita of my staff, the agency recently amended S5.3.1 of Standard No. 213 (October 22, 2002, 67 FR 64818). Effective October 22, 2002, S5.3.1 states, in pertinent part:
S5.3.1 Add-on child restraints shall meet either (a) or (b), as appropriate.
(a) Except for components designed to attach to a child restraint anchorage system, each add-on child restraint system must not have any means designed for attaching the system to a vehicle seat cushion or vehicle seat back and any component (except belts) that is designed to be inserted between the vehicle seat cushion and vehicle seat back. Harnesses manufactured before February 1, 2003, that are manufactured for use on school bus seats are excluded from S5.3.1(a).
(b) Harnesses manufactured on or after February 1, 2003, but before December 1, 2003, for use on school bus seats must meet S5.3.1(a) of this standard, unless a label that conforms in content to Figure 12 and to the requirements of S5.3.1(b)(1) through S5.3.1(b)(3) of this standard is permanently affixed to the part of the harness that attaches the system to a vehicle seat back. Harnesses that are not labeled as required by this paragraph must meet S5.3.1(a).
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The issue posed by your letter is whether the QStraint vest![endif]>![if> has a "means designed for attaching the system to a vehicle seat back." If it does, the vest cannot be manufactured after January 31, 2003, unless it has the label specified in S5.3.1(b) of the standard.
We believe that it does. The instructions you provided for the QStraint indicate that the y-belt is routed over and around the seat back to attach to a bar at the bottom of the seat cushion. From your instructions, it appears that routing the y-belt this way attaches the restraint system to the vehicle seat and provides upper torso restraint to the child.
In our view, routing the y-belt in this manner constitutes attaching the system to the vehicle seat back. We interpret S5.3.1 to include any means that uses the vehicle seat back in whole or in part to attach the child restraint to the vehicle. The y-belt attaches to a bar that is part of the seat structure and wraps around the seat back to hold the system to the vehicle seat. Because the y-belt uses the vehicle seat back to attach the system to the vehicle seat, it is a means designed for attaching to a vehicle seat back.
The enclosed copy of the agencys October 22, 2002, Interim Final Rule explains that NHTSA has determined that a need exists to permit the limited manufacture and sale of vests that attach to school bus seats. However, such vests manufactured on or after February 1, 2003, must bear a specific warning label informing users that the vest must be used only on school bus seats and that the seats directly behind the child wearing the seat-mounted vest must be either unoccupied or occupied by restrained passengers. After reviewing the public comments on the Interim Final Rule, NHTSA will decide whether to issue a final rule amending the standard on a permanent basis.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact Ms. Fujita at (202) 366-2992.
![endif]>![if> We consider the terms "vest" and "harness" to be interchangeable.