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Changes to PFD Type Classifications
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Are PFD Type classifications going away?For the last several years, the U.S. Coast Guard has been working to redesign the labeling for personal flotation devices to more effectively convey safety information. The current proposal removes type codes, aka Type I, II, III, IV and V, in regulations on the carriage and labeling of Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices.

PFD type codes are unique to Coast Guard approval and are not well understood by the public. Removing these type codes from the regulations would facilitate future incorporation by reference of new industry consensus standards for PFD labeling that will more effectively convey safety information and is a step toward harmonization of our regulations with PFD requirements in Canada and in other countries.

As of September 22, 2014, a final rule was issued to remove PFD Type codes in federal regulations. Under these amendments, the number and kind of PFDs required to be carried on a vessel will not change, but the terminology used to refer to approved PFDs will. This final rule is effective Oct. 22, 2014. 

  • Personal Flotation Devices Labeling & Standards (PDF / Online)

Type coding is being removed as a USCG requirement as of October 22nd. However, manufacturers will continue to use Type I-V coding until newer labels are designed and approved, and new standards are adopted.

Removing type coding is simply the first step in a multi-year process, which includes designing new labels and developing new, ‘harmonized’ standards. Once that is accomplished, manufacturers will then be able to get jackets approved under the new standards. It’s at that point that we’ll see life jackets without the current type coding on their labels.

Our friends in the life jacket manufacturing community further advise that 2017 is likely the earliest they could potentially see any new life jacket standards on production lines.

Current life jackets that have Type I-V coding on their labels will be legal to sell and wear for the useful life of the jacket.

What does this mean for the paddling community?

Over time, the terminology of Type I, II, III, IV and V will no longer appear on lifejacket labels and in literature. Once the new standard wording or icons for lifejackets are finalized, instructors and clubs will then need to share this updated information with the public.   

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