DOT Action Links New Safety Rules To Contract Date Of Fire Apparatus

DOT Action Links New Safety Rules To Contract Date Of Fire Apparatus

A change in highway safety standards, effective September 1, gives fire apparatus manufacturers two years to comply with rules and regulations promulgated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the Department of Transportation after that date.

For practical purposes, this means that after signing a contract to build apparatus that conforms to highway safety standards, a manufacturer will not have to incorporate in the apparatus any changes or additional features required by the NHTSA after the contract date, provided the apparatus is completed within two years. In making the change in regulations, Douglas W. Toms, NHTSA acting administrator, recognized the fact that the apparatus purchaser, “typically a unit of municipal government, is often not in a position to renegotiate the contract and appropriate additional funds” for compliance with rules and regulations that become effective after the signing of a contract.

Two-year ruling

The change, made in Part 571, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, added section 571.8, which states that “any standard or amendment of a standard issued after September 1, 1971, to which firefighting vehicles must conform shall be, with respect to such vehicles, either two years after the date on which such standard or amendment is published in the rules and regulations section of the Federal Register, or the effective date specified in the notice, whichever is later, except as such standard or amendment may otherwise specifically provide with respect to firefighting vehicles.”

At the same time, Toms included in the regulations a definition of fire apparatus as “a vehicle designed exclusively for the purpose of fighting fires.” This represents a breakthrough for fire apparatus manufacturers, who have long fought the NHTSA position that for highway safety purposes, fire apparatus were no different from commercial trucks. From this viewpoint, the NHTSA had regarded a tractortrailer aerial apparatus as no different from a tractor-trailer truck for hauling cargo.

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