Commercial Vehicle Section; Location 062
California Highway Patrol
P.O. Box 942898
Sacramento, CA 94298-0001
Dear Mr. Sisskind:
This letter responds to an email from Clint Hightower of the California Highway Patrol to Louis Molino requesting a written interpretation concerning the definition of the term “occupant,” as used in Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 110. Specifically, you would like to know whether the driver is considered an “occupant” for the purpose of the vehicle placard required by S4.3. To respond to your question, we would consider the driver to be an “occupant” of a vehicle for the purpose of stating the vehicle’s seating capacity on the placard required by FMVSS No. 110.
FMVSS No. 110 requires that a placard bearing information about vehicle capacity weight, designated seating capacity, and information regarding the tires and loading be permanently affixed to each new motor vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 10,000 pounds or less . For the purpose of determining designated seating capacity, S4.3(b) of FMVSS No. 110 requires that the capacity of a vehicle be expressed “in terms of the total number of occupants.” The term “designated seating capacity” is defined in 49 CFR 571.3 for the purposes of the FMVSSs as “the number of designated seating positions provided.” Section 571.3 also defines the term “driver” as “the occupant of a motor vehicle seated immediately behind the steering control system.”
Thus, by definition, the driver is considered an “occupant” of a motor vehicle. Because the driver’s seating position is considered a “designated seating position,” it follows directly from the definition of the “designated seating capacity” that the driver’s seating position is included in the calculation of a vehicle’s seating capacity.
I hope this information is helpful. If you have any further questions about this issue, please feel free to contact David Jasinski of my office at (202) 366-2992.
O. Kevin Vincent
Ref: Standard No. 110
 Alternatively, the tire and loading information may be displayed on a separate label.