August 21, 2023

NHTSA denies Mack Trucks’ turn-signal lamp exemption


WASHINGTON — Federal regulators are taking aim at rule-exemption requests in the trucking sector that fail to provide the safety justifications required by law.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday denied such a request by Mack Trucks that involved 27,544 of the company’s Class 8 Granite work truck models built between 2014 and 2022 (for model years 2015-2023) that did not comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) for turn-signal lamps. Approving the exemption would have allowed Mack Trucks to avoid recalling the defective models.

However, “Mack Trucks did not provide any data, views, or arguments supporting its belief that this noncompliance is inconsequential to safety” according to Otto Matheke, NHTSA’s acting associate administrator for enforcement.

Matheke noted that NHTSA is not required to consider an invalid petition that fails to justify that a specific noncompliance is inconsequential to vehicle safety, and that the agency’s decision should serve as a warning to other petitioners.

“Mack Trucks and other petitioners are on notice that the agency may reject incomplete petitions without further consideration and they must carry out their statutory recall obligations without delay.”

NHTSA, which oversees safety as it relates to manufacturer vehicle equipment compliance, is following a recent trend by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which deals with carrier and driver safety.

FMCSA has been rejecting petitions filed by drivers and carriers over the past two years seeking work-rule exemptions but providing little if any evidence that granting the exemption would not increase safety risks.

For example, Flat Top Transport, a small trucking company specializing in food-grade dry bulk cargo, sought a temporary four-month exemption from hours-of-service rules, citing limited railroad capacity and a shortage of truck drivers.

However, FMCSA Administrator Robin Hutcheson, in denying the company’s request earlier this year, pointed out that applicants are required to explain how they would achieve a level of safety that is equivalent to or greater than the level that would be obtained by complying with the regulations.

“In its application, Flat Top did not identify any alternative compliance measures that it would undertake to achieve an equivalent level of safety as complying with the existing HOS regulations,” Hutcheson stated.

Mack Trucks, a Volvo Group subsidiary, petitioned NHTSA for its exemption in November 2022.

 It stated in its exemption application that its trucks are equipped with turn signal lamps that do not meet the visibility requirement at all angles specified by FMVSS No. 108. “Based upon different axle positions and frame extension configurations, the forward turn signals on specific vehicles are not compliant with the 45 degree inboard and/or 15 degree downward angle visibility requirement,” the petition explained.

But because the petition had “not met its burden of persuasion,” Mack Trucks “is consequently obligated to provide notification of and free remedy” for its noncompliance through a recall.

NHTSA can rescind a denial of exemption, however, “any time after the receipt of new data and notice and opportunity for comment thereon,” according to federal regulations.

The company was not immediately available to comment on whether it plans to submit an updated exemption request.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.

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