After five years of negotiations and discussions among safety experts, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finalized rules that effectively tell non-QVM/CMC coachbuilders where their responsibility lies for the vehicles they manufacture.
According to these new rules, coachbuilders are now legally responsible for whatever second-stage manufacturing or altering they do to a vehicle. They are responsible for certifying that their vehicles meet federal safety standards. And, in the event that someone sues for negligence or brings up safety concerns, it is the coachbuilder who is liable. The rules, which go into effect September 1, 2006, say many other things as well, but these points in particular most significantly affect the limousine industry.
Coachbuilders who abide by the guidelines set up by Ford’s QVM and Cadillac’s CMC programs are responsible for the changes they make to vehicles as well. These can include the seating, lighting, side door impact, flammability and other standards. However, because Cadillac and Ford have established specific safety guidelines, these companies are responsible for the components of their manufactured vehicles.
If you are a coachbuilder who ignores the guidelines created by Ford and Cadillac — who either stretches the limousine longer than is recommended or builds a vehicle that exceeds gross vehicle weight ratings — you may well be on your own in the event of a lawsuit.
Four regulations have been changed: §555, Temporary Exemption from FMVSS; §567, Certification; §568, Vehicles Manufactured in Two or More Stages; and §571, FMVSS. The regulations apply to all companies that manufacture vehicles in two or more stages, and to those that alter certified vehicles.
The following points directly target limousine coachbuilders: • NHTSA now recognizes that multi-stage vehicles are a separate vehicle type and in a category by themselves. • Manufacturers at each stage of the manufacturing process assume legal responsibility for the work they perform. • An additional year of lead-time beyond the date for the chassis manufacturer’s compliance may be allowed for multi-stage manufacturers and alterers. • A new process established that final-stage manufacturers and alterers can seek temporary exemptions from dynamic testing requirements, although certain specific factors must be shown.
Up until now, it has been unclear where the limits of responsibility have been drawn in the certification process. Now that the NHTSA has made definitive rules, with specifics that address those issues, this is no longer the case.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's mission is to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce traffic-related health care and other economic costs. The agency develops, promotes and implements effective educational, engineering and enforcement programs to end preventable tragedies and reduce economic costs associated with vehicle use and highway travel.