Tomoka Correctional Institution
3950 Tiger Bay Road
Daytona Beach, FL 32124
Dear Mr. Martin:
This responds to your letter to this agency's Public Affairs Office asking about the application of Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 301, Fuel System Integrity, to a van used by a correctional institution to transport inmates. Your letter has been referred to me for reply. I regret the delay in responding.
As you may know, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized by the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act to issue safety standards for new motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA issued Standard No. 301 to reduce deaths and injuries resulting from fuel spillage in crashes. The standard applies to new vans manufactured on or after September 1, 1976, that have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less.
Under the Vehicle Safety Act, each manufacturer of a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards. Thus, if the vans in your letter were manufactured on or after September 1, 1976, the van manufacturer was required to certify their compliance with Standard No. 301. However, even if the vans did not comply with that standard, the Act does not place any responsibility for that noncompliance on the first purchasers and subsequent owners of the vans. Since some states do require that vehicles used for certain purposes comply with our standards, you may wish to address your question to appropriate State authorities in Tallahassee.
We regret we cannot provide the testing you seek. NHTSA obtains and tests new vehicles for compliance with FMVSS No. 301. However, since the standard applies only to new vehicles, NHTSA does not conduct compliance tests on vehicles that have already been sold to a consumer. The agency also cannot test every new type or model of vehicle, since it would be impracticable to do so.
For your information, Safety Standard No. 217 specifies emergency exit requirements for vans designed to carry 11 or more persons. However, the standard excludes vans purchased for transporting prison inmates. This exclusion resulted from a determination that the standard's requirements were incompatible with the necessity that buses used for transporting inmates be able to confine their occupants in transit. I have enclosed a copy of Standard No. 217 for your information.
You also asked whether we require roll bars on vehicles used to transport 12, 13 or 14 passengers. The answer is no. However, NHTSA does have a standard for roof crush protection (Standard No. 216) which requires the roof over the front seating area of cars to meet certain strength requirements. NHTSA has proposed to extend the standard to light trucks and buses (GVWR of 10,000 pounds or less). I have enclosed a copy of that proposal for your information.
Stephen P. Wood Acting Chief Counsel
Enclosure /ref:301#217 d:5/l7/90