[Federal Register: July 24, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 142)]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
49 CFR Part 393
[Docket No. FMCSA-1997-2278 (Formerly Docket No. MC-96-5]
RIN 2126-AA19 (formerly RIN 2125-AD76)
Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation: Television
Receivers and Data Display Units; Withdrawal
AGENCY: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), DOT.
ACTION: Notice of withdrawal of proposed rulemaking.
SUMMARY: The FMCSA withdraws its April 3, 1996, Notice of Proposed
Rulemaking (NPRM) to rescind restrictions on the locations at which
television receivers may be positioned within commercial motor vehicles
(CMVs). After reviewing the public comments received in response to the
NPRM, the agency no longer considers the restrictions to be obsolete
and redundant. The agency believes that it is necessary to retain the
rule to prohibit unsafe driver behavior, and that doing so is not
likely to discourage the use of
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)-related technologies such as
collision-avoidance and traveler information systems which could be
used to improve safety and efficiency, or other communications systems
that employ display screens.
DATES: The notice of proposed rulemaking published on April 3, 1996, at
61 FR 14733 is withdrawn as of July 24, 2003.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Larry Minor, Chief, Vehicle and
Roadside Operations Division, (202) 366-8842, Federal Motor Carrier
Safety Administration, Department of Transportation, 400 Seventh
Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590.
On April 3, 1996, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) (now
FMCSA) published an NPRM (61 FR 14733) to rescind 49 CFR 393.88. That
regulation requires motor carriers to place television viewers or
screens in the rear of the back of the driver's seat, if such viewer or
screen is in the same compartment as the driver. Section 393.88 also
requires the carrier to place the viewer or screen in a location that
is not visible to the driver, while he/she is driving the CMV, with the
operating controls for the television receiver also located in the back
of the driver's seat so that the driver cannot operate them without
leaving his/her seat.
As part of the President's Regulatory Reinvention Initiative, the
agency reviewed Sec. 393.88 and made a preliminary determination that
the rule was obsolete and redundant. The agency stated that its
approach differed from that of the former Interstate Commerce
Commission (ICC). When the rule was originally adopted in 1951, the ICC
believed that the absence of a Federal requirement would tempt people
to install television receivers in commercial motor vehicles so that
drivers could watch them while driving. This concern has not been borne
out. The agency indicated that motor carriers recognize the inherent
safety risks of allowing drivers to watch television while driving. In
addition, the agency stated that the behavior that Sec. 393.88 is
intended to address, driver inattentiveness, is effectively covered by
State laws and regulations.
With regard to the issue of whether the rule could potentially
discourage the use of ITS-related technologies, the agency explained
that some of the systems in question permit the use of in-vehicle
display screens, which provide drivers with real-time map displays of
areas of traffic congestion, construction, and accidents. Some
satellite communications systems enable motor carriers to track CMVs en
route to a destination, and to transmit written messages to drivers
that appear on video terminals in the cab. Also, some collision-
avoidance or warning systems display video images of traffic around the
The agency described how it relied on regulatory guidance to
clarify the applicability of Sec. 393.88, and intended the rescission
to eliminate the potential need for a case-by-case interpretation on
the various configurations of in-cab video display systems. The agency
was concerned that such an interpretation or regulatory guidance
process would become a de facto design approval program.
Discussion of Comments
The FMCSA received six comments in response to the NPRM. The
commenters were: Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), the
American Trucking Association (ATA), Federal Express Corporation
(Federal Express), the Flxible Corporation (Flxible), Lancer Insurance
Company (Lancer), and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA).
Advocates, Lancer, and Federal Express generally opposed the agency's
proposal, while ATA, Flxible, and TMA supported the removal of the
current rule, primarily because of the potential for discouraging
certain technologies. ATA suggested a revision of the rule to address
the overall issue of devices that may distract a driver's attention
from the roadway.
Advocates does not believe that State laws are an appropriate
substitute for a Federal regulation applicable to interstate motor
carriers. Advocates contends that an explicit Federal requirement is
needed because it would be difficult to prove that a driver viewing a
television screen caused an accident. Lancer also expressed concern
about the proposed removal of Sec. 393.88. Lancer indicated that the
intercity bus industry, particularly charter and tour operators,
already provide on-board video programming to passengers. Typically,
the equipment used is a VCR located behind the driver's seat. None of
the monitors are positioned so that the driver can view the images. The
current restriction ensures that drivers do not divide their attention
between driving and operating the video programming. Lacer agrees with
the agency's efforts to be flexible in the use of ITS-related
technology, but argues that there are potential safety problems with
systems that would have drivers split their attention between driving
and reading computer-generated messages.
Federal Express believes that rescinding Sec. 393.88 could result
in numerous States adopting different requirements. Federal Express
recommends that the agency propose a new regulation that allows for new
technologies, but prohibits devices that decrease the safety of
operation of the commercial motor vehicles on which they used.
TMA and Flxible support the removal of Sec. 393.88. TMA indicated
that although the benefits provided by certain ITS-related technologies
are not fully quantifiable because their cost-effectiveness and
acceptance by drivers have not been documented, the usage of such
devices should not be restricted by an outdated, obsolete regulation.
Flexible explained that closed-circuit video surveillance equipment is
sometimes installed on transit buses as a crime-fighting tool. The
driver is able to observe passenger activity at all times, with the
most advanced systems allowing the driver to lock-in on potential
problem situations for continuous monitoring.
The ATA also support removal of Sec. 393.88, but encourages
government and the private sector (ITS America, Society of Automotive
Engineers, equipment manufacturers, and motor carriers to work together
to study the issue of driver workload, and develop new rules, if
necessary, to respond to any safety issues identified by such research.
FMCSA Response to Comments
After reviewing the comments submitted in response to the NPRM, the
FMCSA agrees with the commenters concerned with not having an explicit
prohibition against positioning television receiver screens in a
location that enables drivers to see the screen. Although the agency
continues to believe that current State laws or regulations could be
used to cite drivers who watch television while operating a commercial
motor vehicle, we acknowledge that it is much easier for enforcement
personnel to enforce an explicit prohibition rather than an agency's
interpretation of the applicability of a general law or regulation
concerning driver distraction of inattention. The FMCSA believes a more
effective strategy for ensuring highway safety is to retain Sec.
393.88 in its current form, at this time.
In response to commenters that support a rulemaking to respond to
safety concerns about equipment and devices, other than television
receivers, that may distract drivers' attention from
driving tasks, the agency does not believe it is necessary to take such
action at this time. Currently, the safety benefits of such a
rulemaking cannot be quantified, and there is no practicable means of
estimating the potential costs in the event that such a rulemaking
would necessitate equipment manufacturers to design systems now being
sold. The agency will, however, certainly work with the private sector
if specific safety problems are identified that they require Federal
rules to effectively address the issue.
The FMCSA continues to consider Sec. 393.88 to be applicable only
to television receivers, and believes that the rule should not be
construed as being applicable to any other device or technology unless
such technology is capable of receiving a television broadcast signal.
The agency believes that Sec. 393.3 provides adequate guidance
concerning other technology in that it prohibits equipment and
accessories that decrease the safety of operation of the CMV on which
it is used. The agency will continue to provide general regulatory
guidance, as necessary, to clarify the applicability of Sec. 393.3 to
devices other than television receivers, while ensuring to the greatest
extent practicable, that the regulatory guidance process does not
become a de facto design approval or product endorsement process.
In consideration of the comments and for the reasons given above,
the FMCSA will retain Sec. 393.88. The agency no longer believes that
the regulation could discourage the use of certain technologies
intended to improve the safety or efficiency of motor carrier
operations, at least to the extent that action must be taken at this
time. Furthermore, the safety benefits of retaining the rule, while
admittedly undocumented, outweigh the potential safety risks that would
result from motor carriers or drivers concluding that there are no
regulatory obstacles to the watching of television while a CMV is being
operated on public roads.
For these reasons, the NPRM of April 3, 1996 (61 FR 14733), is
Issued on: July 11, 2003.
Annette M. Sandberg,
[FR Doc. 03-18598 Filed 7-23-03; 8:45 am]