HomeSpecial NeedsThe History of the CamWrap (a.k.a Seat Mount for School Buses)

The History of the CamWrap (a.k.a Seat Mount for School Buses)

Editor’s note — The following was provided to us by Constance Murray, the president and owner of E-Z-ON PRODUCTS of Florida, Inc., as she recalled how her idea for the CamWrap child securement product first came to be. Read more on the history of the CamWrap in our March magazine edition.

In July, 1981, my employer was C & J Associates, a Division of Rupert Industries, Inc. of Wheeling, IL. Rupert was established at the beginning of WW11. The company was contracted by the U.S. Military to make parachutes, parachute harnesses, and later the Rubber Dummy Soldiers and the Paradummy.

After WW11, Rupert continued manufacturing parachutes and seat belts for military aircraft, but eventually branched out into seatbelts for General Aviation, competition racing, and the automobile manufacturers, who I the 1960’s offered a seatbelt as an option in their luxury cars.

In 1974, Public Law (PL94-142) was proposed. The law stated that all children should be educated to the best of their ability. The law was specifically designed for children with disabilities, and stated that School Bus Transportation was a part of the new law. The next year, Rupert designed the first product for transporting disabled kids on school buses: The E-Z-ON VEST (similar to the harness system of a parachute).

In 1978, the VEST was 1st tested at the University of Minnesota as a wheelchair passenger restraint. Of the products tested, it was the only restraint to pass the test. 1980, the VEST was patented. The Floor Mount was the only securement available.

In 1982, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) changed the seatbelt regulation for aircraft (C22f). Rupert was a major supplier of seatbelts for General Aviation and homemade Ultralights, which meant they had a large inventory of buckles, webbing, and hardware for the aircraft industry.

Prior to the FAA changing the seatbelt regulation, all types of aircraft used the same buckle and webbing for their belts. At that time, the belts had a buckle sewn on one end of the webbing. The other end had nothing. It was simple, but apparently effective. The top of the buckle was lifted up and the webbing would slide between the top & bottom of the metal buckle where there was a slot with teeth-like protrusions. The webbing was pulled until it fit the passenger’s size, and then the top of the buckle would be pushed down to keep the webbing in place.

Today, the webbing is different and the metal buckle has an adjustable connector. So what does a company do with approximately 4,000 obsolete buckles and 1000’s of yards of gnarly stiff webbing?

During this same period of time, there were numerous complaints about how difficult it was to install the Floor Mount and VEST in school buses. Big eyebolts were put into the bus floor for the Floor Mount straps to hook into. Some schools were having policy changes and wouldn’t allow anything to be drilled into the bus floor. No eye bolts!

Suddenly, the idea came to me. I measured the back of a bus seat, cut a piece of the obsolete webbing, sewed one of the old aircraft buckles on one end, and put the other end between the seat cushions and had a strap that wrapped around the entire seat back. Using the same type of criss-cross as the Floor Mount used, the two pieces of the obsolete aircraft webbing were sewn near the top of the belt and one near the bottom. Snap hooks were put on the criss-crossed pieces and the old r-60 bar slide was used to keep the hooks in place, plus they allowed some adjustment in length.

How do you name a new product? It wrapped around the bus seat back and was secure with an old “Cam” Buckle. Thus, the original CamWrap was designed and named. Of course there were problems and issues that had to solved, but the school bus industry fell in love with the CamWrap.

By 1996, there had been significant changes were made so that it was easier to adjust, and fit the seat better. The old Cam buckle was replaced with an automotive buckle & connector. Great product – Time to get a patent.

The 103Z Vest and CamWrap a.k.a. Seat Mount had been through numerous sled tests for FMVSS213, and passed. These tests included school bus accidents and even a roll over. No fatalities, no claims!

Then in 2001, during the NAPT conference in Nashville, TN, a representative from NHTSA was speaking to the General assembly. The E-Z-ON VEST was held up in front of the attendees and these words were delivered: “This product is illegal, I wouldn’t want my grandchild or child to wear one of these.”

A little later my office phone was ringing off the hook with call after call telling me what NHTSA had announced. What could I do or say? This was NHTSA degrading the VEST and CamWrap, calling them illegal and unsafe.

After the initial sickening shock, I went from being angry to sad. I thought about the 1000’s of kids who were using the product, the bus accidents in which not one child was hurt. I thought about having to pull all these products out of the industry, and I wondered about the schools’ ability to afford acceptable and safe replacements. I thought about my employees not having jobs because the business would certainly crumble. As time went on, I went to different attorneys, but they weren’t too interested in going against an agency of the Federal Government. The saving grace was NHTSA hadn’t put out a recall notice yet.

By early 2002, with the help of my ad & PR agency, we had collected a number of testimonials and bus accident reports, posted a survey on the web, and was put in contact with a former District Attorney who knew and had worked with the Federal government. I had appointments with senators and state representatives asking for their assistance.

By October, 2002, I filed a petition with NHTSA to change and or revise section 5.3.1 of FMVSS213. The wording in that section was the culprit that classified the products as illegal. What I couldn’t understand was why NHTSA didn’t issue a recall notice. I knew NHTSA purchased 13 Vests with CamWraps to test every year from 1999 until 2003. By 2004, a preliminary ruling was issued regarding my petition. It was then that the School Transportation Industry started pushing for answers and a decision. People like Bill Paul writing articles; NASDPTS, NAPT, making their voices heard.

Finally, in 2005, NHTSA issued the Final Rule, which allowed CamWraps to be “legal” on school buses. The s.5.3.1 called it CamWrap Technology, which rescinded the patent so any child restraint manufacturer for school transportation could utilize the CamWrap. That was okay with me. At least I knew the doubt was gone and the children who had been on buses without my products would be protected again.

Why did I name it a CamWrap? It was made from a Cam buckle and the webbing wrapped around the bus seat back. Why did I write it as one word, because the system was completely different so it needed a special way of presenting the name: CamWrap.

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