Alvaro Ughini Junior
Unidade Ana Rech
Av. Rio Branco, 4889
Caixa Postal 238
95060-650 Caxias do Sul - RS / Brazil
Dear Mr. Ughini:
This responds to your e-mail of May 10, 2002, in which you ask several questions about Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 302, "Flammability of Interior Materials." Your questions are addressed below.
By way of background information, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is authorized to issue Federal motor vehicle safety standards that set performance requirements for new motor vehicles and items of motor vehicle equipment. NHTSA does not, however, approve or certify any vehicles or items of equipment. Instead, the Safety Act establishes a "self-certification" process under which each manufacturer is responsible for certifying that its products meet all applicable safety standards.
Vehicle manufacturers certifying compliance with the safety standards are not required to follow the compliance test procedures set forth in the applicable standard. The standards specify the procedures NHTSA would use in compliance testing. However, vehicle manufacturers must exercise reasonable care in certifying that their products meet applicable standards. It may be simplest for a manufacturer to establish that it exercised "reasonable care" if the manufacturer has conducted testing that strictly followed the compliance test procedures set forth in the standard. However, "reasonable care" might also be shown using modified test procedures if the manufacturer could demonstrate that the modifications were not likely to have had a significant impact on the test results. In addition, it might be possible to show "reasonable care" using engineering analyses, computer simulations, and the like.
Standard No. 302, like other standards, specifies the procedure NHTSA would use in compliance testing. The agency may test any material subject to Standard No. 302 in any way specified by the standard.
If NHTSA testing shows that an apparent noncompliance exists with a vehicle or item of equipment, the agency asks the manufacturer to show the basis for its certification that the vehicle or item of equipment complies with Standard No. 302. If there is a noncompliance, the manufacturer must conduct a recall campaign to remedy the problem, without charge.
In addition, the manufacturer is subject to civil penalties unless it can establish that it exercised reasonable care in the design and manufacture of the product and in the checks (through actual testing, computer simulation, engineering analyses, or other means) to ensure compliance, but nevertheless did not have reason to know that the vehicle or item of equipment did not comply with Standard No. 302. Please note that, while the exercise of "reasonable care" may relieve a manufacturer of liability for civil penalties in connection with the manufacture and sale of noncomplying vehicles, it does not relieve a manufacturer of the responsibility to discontinue sales of vehicles or notify purchasers of the noncompliance and remedy the noncompliance without charge to the purchasers, if either the manufacturer or this agency determines that vehicles do not comply with all applicable safety standards.
I will now address your specific questions.
Should the test specimen be made by cutting the component itself in the dimensions required? If so, how can we proceed when dealing with a complex surface or "amorphous" solid, since the test specimen must be as flat as possible?
The test specimen is made by cutting the component itself into the specified dimensions. S5.2.2 of Standard No. 302 specifies: "The specimen is produced by cutting the material in the direction that provides the most adverse test results." S5.2.1 specifies that the test specimen be 102 mm wide by 356 mm long by 13 mm thick, wherever possible. S5.2.1 also specifies: "Where it is not possible to obtain a flat specimen because of surface curvature, the specimen is cut to not more than 13 mm in thickness at any point." Thus, when dealing with a "complex" surface, the specimen is cut, wherever possible, so that it is 102 mm wide, 356 mm long, and not more than 13 mm thick at any point.
Rubber, PVC, and PS Profiles
When dealing with rubber, PVC and PS profiles, how is the test specimen supposed to be made? If it is simply cutted (sic), in what position shall it be installed in the test equipment? If we must extrude a flat sample, what thickness should we consider, since the profile has a variable thickness along the transversal section?
As noted above, the test specimen is made by cutting the component itself into the required dimensions, wherever possible. The test specimen is then installed in the metal test cabinet according to the conditions and procedures specified in S5.1 through S5.3 of Standard No. 302. S5.1.3 specifies that the test specimen is inserted between two matching U-shaped frames of metal stock 25 mm wide and 10 mm high. S5.3(a) specifies that the test specimen is mounted so that both sides and one end are held up by the U-shaped frame, and one end is even with the open end of the frame. S5.3(b) specifies that the mounted test specimen is placed in a horizontal position, in the center of the test cabinet.
As noted above, if the material being tested has a variable thickness, the test specimen is cut so that it is not more than 13 mm thick at any point.
Same Material/Different Thickness and/or Same Material/Different Colors
In the case where we work with many flat (or almost flat) covers extruded from the same ABS resin but with different thickness, may we test the lower thick sample only?
You also asked:
Must we consider that components made from the same raw-material but with different colors (pigmented resin – not painted) need tests for each color, or can we test any one of the colors to certify that the resin complies with the requirements so this result will be applicable to every colors (sic).
As noted above, NHTSA may test in any way specified by Standard No. 302. The agency may test any sample of your flat covers that are extruded from ABS resin and/or any different colors of the same material.
I note that the agency has long stated that it is unable to judge what efforts would constitute reasonable care in advance of the actual circumstances in which a noncompliance occurs. Thus, we cannot provide an opinion of the number or types of tests that you would need to conduct to ensure that you exercised reasonable care in certifying that your product complies with Standard No. 302. What constitutes reasonable care in a particular case depends on all relevant facts, including such things as the limitations of current technology, the availability of test equipment, the size of the manufacturer, and, above all, the diligence exercised by the manufacturer.
I hope you find this information helpful. If you have any further questions on Standard No. 302, please contact Mr. Dion Casey of this office at (202) 366-2992.