The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge filed by the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) seeking to invalidate a motor vehicle safety standard adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in 2005. NTEA v. NHTSA, No. 09-3812 (6th Cir., decided March 28, 2013). Standard FMVSS No. 216a extended passenger compartment roof strength requirements to commercial vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 6,000 to 10,000 pounds. Representing companies that customize or alter commercial vehicles, the petitioner claimed that requiring its members to demonstrate compliance with the roof crush resistance standard by, for example, conducting crash tests, was impracticable and that the rule was arbitrary and capricious.

According to the court, “NHTSA promulgated the final rule at issue only after engaging in an exhaustive and well-considered decisionmaking process” that included repeated and ongoing challenges by the petitioner and thus fulfilled its obligations under the Administrative Procedure Act. The court also rejected the petitioner’s claim that NHTSA failed “to test multi-stage or altered vehicles” during rulemaking. In this regard, the court stated, “NTEA fails to identify statutory authority for the so-called testing requirement and similarly fails to explain adequately how testing might undermine the overwhelming record evidence supporting NHTSA’s decision to regulate heavier vehicles.”

The court further rejected NTEA’s substantive practicability objections, finding that allowing those who customize commercial vehicles to rely on the certification provided by the vehicle manufacturers is not, as NTEA argued, unworkable. Similarly, those companies that alter already complete vehicles “do their work on vehicles already certified under the Safety Act” and “need not certify independently so long as they do not make the kind of changes that affect roof strength, and most alterers work on the rear of a vehicle, away from the cab. … [T]he current regime reflects a status quo in which alterers have been successfully complying with existing FMVSS No. 216 for years. Thus, we have no reason to doubt that the upgraded standard offers alterers a similarly fair shot at demonstrating compliance.”