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NEW SAFETY RULES FOR LIGHT TRUCKS

The federal highway safety agency has ruled that light trucks, minivans and sport-utility vehicles by September 1993 must meet side-impact rules now in effect for cars.

The ruling Wednesday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was another step in making safety regulations more common for cars and light trucks. The truck side-impact ruling goes into effect for 1994 model vehicles.Light trucks manufactured after Sept. 1, which will be 1992 models, must have head restraints and lap and shoulder seat belts, both regulations now in effect for cars.

"Since they (light trucks) are being used in place of the family station wagon, they should provide the same protection as a station wagon," NHTSA Administrator Jerry Curry said.

Thomas J. Carr, vice president for the Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association industry group, said companies would comply, but the regulations would add little safety benefit to the vehicles.

Many light trucks now are able to meet the requirement, he said.

Curry estimated that meeting the requirement, which usually involves the installation of a beam in vehicle doors, would cost $50 to $70 per vehicle.