February 15, 2000

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

DOT/NHTSA Docket Management, Room PL-401,
400 Seventh Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20590.

INTERIOR TRUNK RELEASES ON VEHICLES

The purpose of this letter is to provide comment from the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) addressing the DOT/NHTSA 12/17/1999 Federal Register request for comments on 49 CFR Part 571, [Docket No. NHTSA 99-5063; Notice 1], RIN 2127-AH 83 titled: Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards; Interior Trunk Releases.

Introduction
The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), is the oldest and largest Society of Safety Professionals in the world. Founded in 1911, ASSE represents almost 33,000 dedicated safety professionals. Included in this membership are Certified Safety Professionals, Professional Engineers, agronomists, academicians, fire protection engineers, system safety experts, industrial hygienists, physicians, occupational nurses, and an impressive collection of other disciplines, skills, and backgrounds. We pride ourselves on our dedication to excellence, expertise, and commitment to the protection of people, property, and environment on a world?wide basis.

ASSE serves as Secretariat of seven (7) American National Standards Institute Committees (ANSI) developing safety and health standards which are used by private sector organizations as well as state/Federal governmental agencies such as MSHA, OSHA, etc... In addition, ASSE members sit on over forty (40) additional standards development committees and Society sponsorship of educational sessions on standards development. The Society also has twelve (12) technical divisions consisting of: Construction, Consultants, Engineering, Environmental, Health Care, Industrial Hygiene, International, Management, Public Sector, Risk Management and Insurance, Mining, and Transportation. We have also attached a fact sheet on the Society for your review.

Commentary Insights
The intent of ASSE is not to speak either for or against the proposal, but rather to make comments based upon our member views, existing data, and anecdotal information. However, our membership believes the deaths of children in vehicle trunks are horrible tragedies which can hopefully be prevented in the future. Based upon the collective insight of our members, we submit the following:

ASSE commends NHTSA on its approach to the issue which was instead of having government develop and mandate a solution on its own, the Agency realized that a more effective way of addressing and understanding the issue would be to bring business, government and civic leaders, medical and engineering researchers, and a broad coalition of concerned organizations together to prevent trunk entrapments. To accomplish this goal, NHTSA decided to convene an independent panel of experts which is an approach the Society strongly endorses. ASSE has consistently spoken in favor of such an approach to other agencies such as OSHA on its use of Negotiated Rulemaking Committees. Such an approach provides for both an efficient and effective approach to the regulatory process. We also see it as being in-line with Vice President Gore's Reinventing Government Initiative.

ASSE has reviewed the proposed regulatory language and shared it with our members in the transportation industry. The consensus was virtually unanimous that it was easy to understand and gave a variety of options to a manufacturer as to how the rule could be met. This view appears from the Federal Register announcement to be the response anticipated by the Expert Panel. For the purposes of this comment we note that in excess of forty (40) safety professionals agreed that the proposed language was performance-based, would not be a hardship on a manufacturer, and allowed for future technology and improvement.

ASSE commends DOT/NHTSA for recognizing the importance of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law 104-113) and its impact on safety and health. While we are aware there are no Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards addressing the issue, we would encourage SAE to begin developing recommended practices for the design and performance of trunk safety features, including internal trunk release mechanisms. It would make sense for DOT/NHTSA to review future voluntary national consensus standards and consider incorporating them by reference in future iterations of the rule. We also point out that OMB A-119 calls for the increased utilization of voluntary national consensus standards and participation of government agencies in such activities. It would make sense for NHTSA to have some type of plan to accommodate a voluntary national consensus standard if it should become available.

We also point out that not only could SAE develop such a standard, but could also process the document through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) since SAE is an ANSI accredited Standards Development Organization (SDO). Of significance is that if this issue is ever addressed on an international level, ANSI is the U.S. representative to the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Having a ready-to-go voluntary American National Standard could be of significance in the future if trunk releases are ever considered to be an international safety issue.

We thank you for your attention to this matter, and look forward to working with you in the future. If you should have any questions or issues please do not hesitate to contact the Society.

Regards,

Frank H. Perry, CSP, PE
Society President, 1999-2000

Copy To:  ASSE Board of Directors
                   ASSE Council on Professional Affairs
                   ASSE Governmental Affairs Committee
                   ASSE Contact List

     

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