WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has revised parts of its final rule on two wheelchair lift standards that will take effect on Dec. 27, 2004.
The first standard, FMVSS 403, deals with wheelchair lifts, while FMVSS 404 deals with the vehicle in which the lift is installed. The standards differentiate between lifts used for public transportation and those used for private purposes.
The section relating to use for public transportation applies to school buses, transit buses and multipurpose vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds. Because these vehicles will generally be subject to more stress and cycles, there are more requirements as to platform size, control and handrails.
The final rule was published on Dec. 27, 2002. In response, NHTSA received six petitions for reconsideration from wheelchair lift manufacturers, vehicle manufacturers and a transportation safety research organization.
After considering the petitions, NHTSA amended several parts of the final rule and published the revised rule on Oct. 1. (The amended rule takes effect on Dec. 27, 2004, the same as the original final rule.)
One of the key changes was to interlock requirements. In the original version, NHTSA determined that compliance responsibility for the interlock system, which keeps the vehicle from accidentally moving while the lift is deployed, should rest with the lift manufacturer.
One wheelchair lift manufacturer argued that it was unreasonable for them to be expected to design door, lift and brake interlocks. NHTSA agreed and changed the final rule to allow lift manufacturers to rely on interlock components provided by the bus manufacturers.
Another notable change was made to lighting requirements. The final rule held that it’s the responsibility of the lift manufacturer to provide lighting for its equipment. Two lift companies argued that lighting should be the vehicle manufacturer’s responsibility. NHTSA concurred, shifting the responsibility to the vehicle maker.